2005-09-13

I leaped into law. There is no other way to describe it. There were no serious ambitions in law for me; nothing in my youth that indicated a longing for a life in law. I was born and bred to be an engineer or a scientist. My family had three generations of engineers, farmers, fishermen, and sailors. Not a lawyer in the lot.


In my own life I had earlier personified the modern social disdain for lawyers, "land sharks", as some people called them, only more unscrupulous and remorseless. One of my first- year university roommates was pre-law. He was actually not a bad guy, nor did he seem so unscrupulous. The fact that his father was a lawyer also did not seem so intimidating. My
dislike of lawyers, so remote as being only attached by a thread of
comical misconception from bad television, quickly evaporated into
neutrality once I became acquainted with the legal profession.


My personal experience with law arrived when I did something else that I disdained, Management. My socialist upbringing always reminded me to be a man of the "people", to remain a "common man". I wanted to be an engineer, a worker, a grunt who built and fought with his bare hands. I wanted to live by my work, not direct others to do my work. I wanted to grow old knowing that the creations of my hands touched ordinary lives. But alas, I was promoted by a foolish manager in a drug-induced seizure of rational sense (literally). I
was told to direct men to do work for a company, and my manager was
soon to be terminated and charged with manufacturing Meth in his home. My logic asked, "if I love the people, how can I let them down?" Socialist or not, I had to do my best, lives were in my hands.


So
instead of building, I argued, I pleaded, I played gambits, made
terrible jokes, condescended, derided, reconciled, planned, directed,
supervisedů. Mostly, I felt as if I were not doing anything useful. A feeling of overwhelming helplessness lingered over me for a the best part of a bad year. I
suspected that I was getting a stomach ulcer from all the political
wrangling in the annual performance review sessions for the employees. More
than once, I was certain that I was in the wrong job and destined to
fail my own expectations of becoming a champion of the "people". What does a descendant of farmers, fishermen, sailors, and engineers know about management?


So to get to the main part of the story, I survived four years of management, but the feeling of that dread never went away. What's
worse, even after I got out of management, I continued to dread,
fearing the incompetence of foolish young engineers carelessly promoted
into positions of authority, knowing what I had not known before.


Extreme
dread of this kind is like a death of the mind and the soul, and in
facing each different kind of death, a person is reborn. We are forced to confront our own frailty, which we have sought to deny for the whole of our lives. We like to believe that we are in control of our lives, but something always come along to show us that we are not. Though
I was certain that I would be happy enough being a mere worker, that I
did not need managers, the truth is, I simply feared the
responsibility, and this dread came to force my reconciliation with my
responsibility in life. Management, like life, is
fundamentally a no-win situation, where one is made responsible for
things beyond one's ability to control. Every day in management, I dreaded and yet prepared for disasters, great and small. Knowing that no victory was forthcoming, I resolved NOT to have Death kill my soul, before it was my time.


I might die in my dread, but I can choose to live. I might fail in management, but I choose not to fear failure. So in this choice, I was reborn.


Alive again, I was more alive than I knew possible. I did not fear failure, but what's more, I welcomed challenges. If a descendant of engineers, farmers, fishermen, and sailors can be a manager and survive, what else is not possible?


I then did something else that I thought I would never do. I reached for my furthest ambition, law. Upon that realization after my rebirth, I recognized the possibilities. What I thought as impossible suddenly became closer to me.


All that came into my mind were the difficulties, and they compelled me even more strongly to do it. I told my wife that I was going to go to law school. I persuaded my employer to grant me tuition assistance as part of my continuing education. I took my LSAT test, and applied to several law schools with evening programs.


Fortunately
for me there was a law school in town that offered evening programs,
and no, it is not some school offering counterfeit law certificates for
money. The school is ranked in the top 100 in the US, and the evening program takes 4 years.


These are my advantages for the law school venture: My wife had just finished school and had started to work full-time; we have no children, so I don't have as many worries at home. As my employer was paying for my tuition and books, and I continued to work during the day, I had no financial concerns. I am still in my early thirties, not really late for law school.


My disadvantages: My day job and my law school studies could interfere with each other; and I may not get a job in law.


Throwing caution to the wind, I decided for law, without giving it too much thought. I jumped into law. Though
it seemed the most reckless decision I have ever made in my otherwise
prudent and careful life, the way I see it, the only risk to me is the
loss of four years of my life and the damage to my ego, if I should
fail. I faced no less risk, when I became a manager, but at least now I know the risks. The first was a responsibility thrust upon me, the second is by my own choice. I would take the choice any day.


August 8th, 2005, a Monday,was class registration day. I didn't know what to expect. I went early to law school, so that I could finish my registration early, before going to work. I lined up in the administration building along with kids, twenty something future lawyers. These are to be my future classmates and colleagues. My competitors? Or my allies? Or both? For
a moment, I know that these questions ran through my mind and probably
through their minds.Who is to be outclassed? Will I be the one, or will
they? I suppose we will find out.