Although I have struggled with whether or not I want to be a lawyer at all, something that has always been apparent to me is that if I were a lawyer, I would be doing either public interest law or family law. The idea of being something like a tax lawyer or a corporate lawyer, while I see the benefits, just does not appeal to me. And even though I have always known this, it is a pill that is, at times, hard to swallow when I think about it in terms of practicality. Public interest lawyers do grueling work, often work insane hours, and don’t make as much money as most attorneys working at private firms do. Going to Duke costs a small fortune, going to law school would cost an even bigger small fortune, and the fact that I wouldn’t be making much as a public interest lawyer definitely is a concern for me.
I’m not going to say that these concerns have completely gone away for me, but yesterday I was reminded of why I am so drawn to public interest law despite its disadvantages. An attorney from Dade Legal Aid, a public interest group, spoke to our group yesterday about his career and what it’s like working as an attorney who defends sexual assault victims. As he spoke, he discussed how fulfilled he feels when he gets to help clients through his work, and he told us how that helps him get through the mental challenges that doing this type of work can present. It was clear that he truly derives joy out of what he does, and that is what I hope to be able to say in the future.
I know that plenty of people out there don’t really enjoy what they do for a career, and I really want to be able to say the opposite. I want to do work that I find meaningful and fulfilling, and I think public interest law is just that. I’m not lost on the fact that it is a privilege to be able to do work that feels meaningful and doesn’t have as big a salary rather than having to find a job with a bigger paycheck attached to it. I’m also not lost on the fact that plenty of students have great intentions during undergrad and then end up “selling out” once they discover the draws of lucrative companies. So, anyone who reads this is now my witness – please hold me accountable for finding a job that I find fulfilling and meaningful despite the downsides that will come with it, because I know that is the type of work I truly want to be doing.