It is unbelievable to me how insecure I am about going to a fourth tier law school.  Mind you, I went to a very good fourth tier law school, but still.  I went to a conference yesterday with a whole bunch of women who go to or went to schools like Columbia and Stanford and Yale and then there was me.  Well, me and another girl from my school.  All these ladies were awesome and bound for BigLaw.  They were talking about flyouts for interviews, dropping the names of law firms that are acutally such a big deal that I’ve never heard of them.  Some of them were third or fifth year associates, or women who had put in five years at a big firm and then left the practice of law entirely. 

Here I am, a practicing lawyer, running my own office, taking my own cases, and going into court 3-6 times a week.  My win rate is relatively high, not that I’ve ever done the math, and my clients like me.  My boss leaves me to my own devices in a reassuring way, and backs me up when I need it.  I work hard to develop a good reputation with other attorneys, and I love my job.  I don’t even love my job because it’s personally fulfilling in a warm-fuzzy-public interest way.  I love my job beacuse I work for great people, I work regular hours, and I have a lot of responsibility.  I’m comfortable with that.  So why am I so insecure around people who went to elite law schools? 

Maybe it’s because it makes me feel small time.  Maybe because it’s a reminder of simply how many doors weren’t open to me as a graduate of a fourth tier school – federal clerkships weren’t open to me, fellowships weren’t open to me, teaching isn’t open to me, big time policy work isn’t open to me, moving across the country because I got a great job offer isn’t open to me.  Hell, negotiating for a salary wasn’t open to me at my current position.  Making 150k a year isn’t open to me (it never was, given my resume).  Making partner isn’t open to me.

So it’s helpful to take a deep breath, to remind myself that I made the choices I made for a reason, and there are a lot of things that are open to me.  The practice of law is open to me.  Starting my own firm is open to me (apparently nobody from Columbia hangs out a shingle after graduation, whereas at my school, a pretty decent percentage of my classmates have).   Running for office, or becoming a judge, is open to me.  (A huge percentage of our state legislature and judiciary went to my school.)  Policy work is open to me.  Networking my way to a better job is open to me.  Working reasonable hours for a reasonable wage is open to me. Spending time with my family is open to me.  Having children before I’m 30 without it completely derailing my partnership track is open to me. 

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough to remind myself why my life is great.  It’s a grass-is-always-greener type of situation, I suppose.  I don’t even want the big firm life.  I never have.  I did want the big time policy life, but I can still get there if I make a concerted effort towards it.  I remind myself that the doors that aren’t open to me aren’t necessarily closed, I just have to push my way through them instead of sailing through. 

Anyone else have job or school-ranking-related insecurity? How do you deal with it? 



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2 responses to “Insecurities

  1. Jo

    It’s funny because I have the insecurities both ways. I’m insecure about saying that I’m in grad school because I know a lot of people who have barely graduated high school. But I’m insecure about having gone to a state school for undergrad and a mediocre school for grad. It’s the weirdest.

  2. Way behind on reading blogs and trying to catch up now. Sorry!

    This is really interesting to think about. For grad school, I went to what is normally considered one of the best art schools in the country, but I didn’t go there because of its status or reputation (nor to study how to create art). In fact I was pretty ignorant about how good of a school it was until I got there. And it was weird because there were certainly people who went there because of its name and were caught up in reputations and such.

    And now, sometimes when I tell people where I went to school, I sense a bit of eye rolling. Some people probably assume I went there because of the name or that I think I’m better than other people who didn’t go to such a prestigious school. That’s awkward for me.

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