Career Day!

Next week, I get to go to a career day. This is very exciting. I get to tell them what I do, why I decided to follow this path, and what law school and my life is like. This is great, because I absolutely love my job. Except for the email I just got from a client who is being threatened, but otherwise, best job ever.

The big question I have is this: I come from a world of pretty heavy duty privilege. Growing up, all of my friends had at least one parent who was a lawyer. I’m third-generation-doctorate, meaning not only do both my parents have doctorates, my grandparents had doctorates. I’m not sure how far back in my family you have to go to get to somebody who didn’t go to college, but on my Mom’s side, I think it’s back to the early 1800s. I’m going to go talk to a bunch of kids, half of whom may very well not finish high school.

I could care less if these kids decide to become lawyers. What I want them to decide is that they have options. I want them to decide that school is good. I want them to feel like advocating for social justice and positive change is good. I want them to understand that they can go places. However, I do not understand how to get them there. I don’t know what options are viable for them. I don’t know how to connect. I recognize that thinking of them as different from me is not necessarily the right attitue, but I know if I go in there and act like they all already plan to go to college and grad school and are deciding between law school and a Ph.D in anthropology, they either won’t listen or they will think I’m just some "college educated pencil pusher".

I also don’t want to talk these kids into a mountain of debt. There is a very real concern there. I watch my friends struggle with debt. At the same time as I feel a paternalistic need to not tell them that if they go to law school, their lives will be great, I do not want to assume that they can’t handle the debt or the world might change in ten years.

I’m thinking some kind of interactive game or hypothetical to get started and break the ice. Or just, "I’m a lawyer, what does that mean to you?" and then challenge their ideas.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Career Day!

  1. Kristin

    Not sure how to answer your questions, because I’m also having them. Today, a high schooler is coming in to shadow me for the day, and while my parents were the first in our family (like, in any of our extended family at all) to go to college, and they did it when they were much older, I still recognize the massive amounts of privilege their hard work has brought me. That said, while I don’t plan on encouraging my student to go into major debt, I do plan on telling her the truth – you cannot work in my field without a bachelors degree, and if this is what she wants to do, she needs to figure out a way to get there. No easy answers on how, though.

  2. Lethe

    I really like your “I’m a lawyer, what does that mean to you?” idea. It will be eye-opening to go from the television idea of a lawyer to learning about public interest work.

    I think a “follow your dreams”-type message is always appropriate. Their dream may or may not be to become a lawyer, but growing to have greater faith in themselves, corny as it sounds, will be the most helpful asset when they confront all those inevitable challenges.

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