carl-artIllustrated by Minji Reem

I graduated from Columbia Law School last spring and I now work for the City Law Department of my hometown. Although I take much pride in what I do, a new acquaintance has brazenly questioned my career decision: “You went to an Ivy League law school, and you work for the City? Why?!”

My immediate response was polite, as is my nature, but later in the day I became angry and resentful. Who are you to pass judgment, my dude? How dare you criticize the choices I make!  See here, good sir — Sorry I’m not sorry, but I did not go to law school simply to maximize my earning potential. I chose a job fresh out that will teach me a wide array of skills, give me lots of experience, and advance a cause I deeply believe in: thoughtful, diligent public service.

I did not go to law school to sacrifice my license to the altar of Big Law. I have absolutely no interest in working slavishly for an employer who thinks me near-useless and overtly regards me as replaceable. To me, that is degrading and insulting. That is not what I signed up for.

So to all of you still trudging along through casebooks, and to my fellow alums trying to plot out a meaningful career, my message is simple: Do you. Find work that is meaningful and interesting. Find coworkers you admire and respect. At the end of the day, your career decisions are personal. You do not need to justify yourself to anyone.

No apologies.