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I Get to Do what I Love – that Makes me Special

I have been doing really well. Nope, I still don’t have a job. No, I have no idea what I’m doing after the end of next month. Heck, I don’t even have my own place, or half of my wardrobe with me – I’m returning to the States after five months abroad (one suitcase and no budget for new clothes), and I’m going to live at my Uncle’s place in Vegas for a few months while I figure out the next step. Still, I’m good.

In my blog about failing the bar exam, things were bad. They are still bad, but the truth is that I had forgotten something really important. I am special. I have a Masters that I earned at the same time as my Juris Doctorate. I also have an undergraduate degree in something rather unique to the law field – Marine Biology. More importantly, there are places where environmental law is still new and underdeveloped. So thank goodness I inundated myself with environmental law and policy, international environmental law, and a good background in marine and conservation biology. I am a unique well of environmental know-how. Did I mention I interned in environmental law firms and NGOs during law school? That means that I also have experience!

All things considered, I am special.

Even if I had passed the bar, people wait months to half a year to know whether they can sign legal documents and appear on a client’s behalf in court. You need a game plan during that waiting period. If you are lucky, you have a law job that is waiting along with you for your bar results. I planned an unpaid internship in a foreign country and calculated out my costs of living. Since my five month program in the Middle East would cost less than five months of unemployment on my parent’s couch, I estimated that it was worth the travels, the unknown, and any language barriers. I was right.

The NGO where I ended up working is one of extremely few NGOs in Israel that is working for environmental justice. When they received my resume (or “CV” everywhere else in the world), they couldn’t believe their luck. They NEEDED someone with an analytical mind and a really good grasp on U.S. and EU environmental law, as they made pitches to the legislature and regulators for basic or improved environmental regulation. I may not have my Bar license, but I have been doing EXACTLY what I went to law school to do. I am advocating for environmental justice in a place where there is none. I am influencing decision-makers through my work, and I am changing public awareness. I’m actually doing more good here than I would be doing in the U.S., where there is already a well-established environmental lobby. Amazing, but true, my supervisor and other members of the office, all attorneys or lead scientists, seek my advice. Not just my research input, but they ask me for what I think. Then, they thank me for all my work and remind me that I was an integral part of the project, and they can’t believe how lucky they are that my credentials are exactly what they needed. They are happy to chat with me about major projects because, you know, I know stuff. All my fancy degrees aren’t just ink on a CV.

This must be what post-law school heaven feels like, ’cause I’m on Cloud Nine.

You see, when I was in law school, I was surrounded by hundreds of people who were just like me. Lots of J.D. students and MELPS, and in my 2012 graduating class, many, many, many joint degree students. It makes you feel like you shouldn’t be singled out because there’s absolutely nothing special about your education. It may have cost you a quarter of a million to get it, but there’s nothing special about it. That’s not true. Not everywhere has joint degrees, especially not with Masters of Environmental Law and Policy with an emphasis in international and comparative law and policy and a focus on EU environmental law. Just because you are farmed as one unit of hundreds at law school doesn’t mean you aren’t rather unique. Somewhere out there, other professionals wish they knew what you do.

I forgot that. Now, after doing some pretty awesome work, and seeing that I have certainly made positive changes, I have a brighter outlook on my worth. I don’t have a bar license, but that hasn’t hurt my ability to make good judgment, research and analyze complicated law, or any of those things that lawyers are trained to do. I’m still stressed that I’m gaining hundreds of dollars in interest on students loans every month, and I have no income to begin paying my way in the world, but I have been doing what I love, and I am respected as a professional in my field. And isn’t that the reason why I went into public interest law in the first place?


One Comment

  1. Posted March 11, 2013 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    Hello and briefly. Thank you for your posting. I must be out of my mind. I was thinking of returning to school. I really thought I could make a difference. After reading your blog I can just remember all those old feelings of inadequacy. It’s like a weird club with a glass wall around it. I’m a lot happier with my smaller life right now. And then your honest assessment about the costs. Job hunting? Of course I’m a stranger I just walked in out of nowhere. But if I could say just one thing. Give you one bit of information to give. Use the 17 principles of whole systems design as the foundation of any future decisions going forward. If you are familiar excellent, if not reply and I’ll send you a copy.

    Thank you for sharing, Thank you for reading, all the best to you in your career. Go get’em. Go VLS!!!

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