So, anyone who reads here probably also either knows me on Facebook or follows me on Twitter or both, in which case, you know that earlier this week I got a job. (If this is news: hey, I got a job!) It's a permanent gig for after my current clerkship ends (which means that it starts about 9 months from now. Clearly I cannot avoid the academia-like practice of getting jobs months and months before they start), acquired through an elaborate drawn-out process partly described here. (It's Interview #1 job! the one I really really really wanted!) I'm very excited, LDH is excited, all is good.
But the funny thing is that for a long time, I would have said that I would never have taken this job. Partly that's because it's in a part of the country that gets really, really hot, where I said I'd never live. But partly that's because it involves criminal law, and I thought I didn't want to do criminal law. First, it seems like way too many people go to law school because they watched a lot of Law & Order and expect law to be dramatic moments in a courtroom, solving brutal (and yet entertaining) crimes, and I did not want to be that cliche. Second, the stakes in criminal law are REALLY high. I mean, sure, money (at stake in most civil litigation) is pretty important to most people, but in civil litigation no one goes to jail. Third, in case you hadn't noticed, our criminal justice system has a lot of problems. On the one hand, do I really want to help the government exercise its already considerable power to convict people who frequently have been dealt the crappiest of hands and have few legit life options? (see especially the WAR ON DRUGS!!!!) Shouldn't I be one of the people making sure the government can convict only if it can genuinely prove everything beyond a reasonable doubt, keeping the government honest? On the other hand, do I have the stomach to defend someone I know to be guilty? I saw someone write just recently that what they like about being a criminal defense lawyer is that it's very clear - they're not working to serve justice, they're working to serve their client. Can I do that, if I think those things conflict? Obviously that's not always the case. But what about when it is?
(To be clear: I think both prosecutors and defense attorneys perform incredibly important jobs. Without them the adversary system is impossible, etc. etc. They're just not easy jobs, neither of them.)
But you know, the thing is, since graduating and clerking, I've realizing: I find criminal cases way more interesting than civil cases. I mean, yes, the facts are often more dramatic in criminal cases than in civil (although a lot of times they're not: the fact of drug possession is not generally that exciting. The fact of illegal reentry is not generally that exciting. Violence is not, in and of itself, interesting). But it's more that I find criminal procedure really interesting, and the constitutional issues it implicates really interesting. (And civil procedure...not so much.)
So, long story short, I'm pretty sure I've said at some point that I would never work in criminal law. And that I would never live in this part of the world. Yet, here I go. And I'm thrilled. (And also a little terrified. But as LDH said, that's all the more reason to take the job.)
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I was actually lucky enough to get some interviews for positions in other areas of law that also interest me, but are totally different from the job I've taken. So there's just that little nagging part of me that thinks, What if you'd really prefer doing X instead?? The thing is, it's kind of like wanting to be a historian and being equally interested in colonial Quebec and modern South Africa - you can't really do both; ultimately, you have to pick something. But I didn't have offers anywhere else - at least, not yet; and wasn't going hear back before this job needed an answer (which was pretty much right away); and this isn't really an opportunity you pass up. It's really just as well, because it prevented me from agonizing over what would be the best choice. (Presuming I would have even been lucky enough to have to choose.) But setting out a new path often entails a little regret about all the other paths you can't take at the same time.