Lay Off the Law School Talk, Mom

by Vault Education Editors | April 28, 2011

Ah, mothers—they worry so. We know they just want the best for us and our futures. It’s just…get off our backs!

Here is the Dean of Stanford Law School, Larry Kramer, telling the readers of Real Simple to reign in that urge to tell recent grads that they should go to law school.

Many college graduates jump into law school because they don’t know what they actually want to do. Parents and friends suggest it because they think it’s a safe default. But a grad should choose his life’s path only once he knows himself well enough to be sure of what he wants. I think people should first spend a few years exploring to figure out what engages their passions. I ended up in law school because my mother pressured me to “do something already.” She wanted me to go to medical school but settled for law. I got lucky and stumbled into a field I love. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end up that way for everyone.

Kramer may have given in to his mother’s influence, but he did get to have a brief phase of youthful exploration. According to a 2004 profile in Stanford Lawyer, after graduating from Brown in 1980 with a degree in religious studies and psychology, a New Wave music-obsessed Kramer rented a loft in Soho with some friends where they “proceeded to have the kind of fun young people could be expected to have in New York.”

At the time, Kramer worked as a paralegal. Not because of any interest in the law, he explained, but because “it paid reasonably well and was a relatively easy job. I was going to be an artist or a writer. I was going to change the world somehow, but not with any of those bourgeois professions.” But Kramer’s mother continued to prod him to become a doctor, or at least a lawyer. During his freshman year at Brown, Kramer had tried, and rejected, pre-med. As for the law, “My sister went to law school before me. I held her in utter contempt for going.” But finally Kramer relented, and to satisfy his mother applied to law school. “I sort of agreed to go to law school, thinking in the back of my mind that if I hated it, as I expected to, I would drop out and then I could say to her, ‘I tried, now leave me alone. I’m going back to New York.’"

You can read the rest of Kramer’s story here (starts on pg.10).

[Real Simple, via TaxProf Blog]

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