It’s been years since I graduated from law school, clerked, worked a few “real” attorney jobs, and yet I find myself now sitting at my workstation, pondering my situation. The world stream is passing me by and sometimes I wonder if I’ve missed it completely or whether I’m simply fishing in the wrong pond.
I am generally an optimistic person so it’s pretty difficult to get me down, but sometimes it’s not easy working as a contract attorney. The temp lifestyle is lucrative and stress free, but the uneasy instability can be hard to handle sometimes. It’s great to preach faith and resiliency, but sometimes reality can be rather harsh and unfeeling. Yes, I am a contract attorney. I bounce from position to position collecting a pretty stellar paycheck from week to week. Projects range from weeks to months to even years, but at the end of it all, I am still on my own. I don’t have my own legal practice and I don’t have a growing client roll to build off from. But therein lies the quandary I am faced with. With 3 years of legal education and the subsequent degree and job experience to show for it, why is it that I haven’t continued to chase my dreams then? The answer is – my goals and dreams in life have changed.
I entered law school with delusions of legal grandeur with the equivalent sense of reality enjoyed by the ostrich that chooses to plug its head into the ground. Upon acceptance of admission, I was immediately cocooned and safe for the next 3 years from working expectations and the real world. My goal was to study hard in law school, get good grades, join a journal team or moot court, and graduate with a perfect lawyer job all lined up.
Reality did not finally set in until my third year and second semester of law school, when one day I looked around and realized that I was in the wrong place. No I was not lost, but I came to the understanding that the practice of law wasn’t the lucrative and exciting profession I had naively envisioned. Gazing at my modest pile of student loans I wondered, was 3 years of expensive legal schooling really worth it? Perhaps my life would have taken a better turn if I had walked a different path.
Eventually, we all have to come to grips with reality and recognize the cards we’ve been dealt. Reality is reality, and things can only get better not worse if we’d only take the time to look at all of the positive skills and experiences we have accumulated since the beginning.
I know contract attorneys come from all backgrounds. Not all temps have come to such a realization that the traditional legal rat race isn’t really going to make them happy. Some, and in fact many are still striving for their original law school dreams. If you are one of those chasers, I encourage you to keep striving higher to meet them and not grow bitter with your temping situation. Contract work will cushion your financial transition and allow you to use the opportunity as a stepping stone to a situation better geared to suit your dreams.
As for myself, the goals and dreams I started law school with are no longer mine. I look at my life now and I have many things to be thankful for. My monthly bills are paid and I have an otherwise healthy and enjoyable life. I have the abundance of time and freedom to pursue my non-legal side businesses and investments. Contract attorney work pays very well and I am not even close to wanting. While I might be honed in the art, I know now that I was never cut out to be a legal hustler in the traditional sense. I have other side ventures that drive me now. Talking to other contract attorneys and listening to their stories about their real estate exploits, interior decorating businesses, and even presidential campaign team aspirations – it lets me know that I am not alone.