Continuing her series, Anna looks for happiness with a freshly-minted law degree and designer clothes…only to feel empty inside.

Anna* Spirals Out Of Control With Law School Debt and Materialism

Anna* Spirals Out Of Control With Law School Debt and Materialism

Law school is a special kind of hell. The entire premise is to assign more reading than one can possibly get through, then publicly humiliate you for not having committed thousands of pages to memory and knowing what it is all supposed to mean without any guidance whatsoever. The only things law school actually teaches is that connections are more important than hard work and that you can sound knowledgeable on almost any topic if you have two days to cram the research into your brain.

So this philosopher-poet hippie chick arrived at law school and found herself surrounded by political science majors and debate team captains; a special kind of hell, indeed.

They say that in law school they break you down and rebuild you as a lawyer. But they simply break you down, break your spirit. Many enter law school with idealistic plans of helping the world (or at least their clients), but leave law school shells of their former selves, with warped values and a cynical outlook. The intense competitiveness and individualism of law school naturally carries over to law firm life, so if you want to survive the eat-what-you-kill model of many firms, you have to become an apex predator. Even if one is an associate with a salary, billable hours hang over your head and any non-billable activities, such having human relationships with colleagues or loved ones or going out for lunch, simply cannot be justified.

When you find lawyers who have gone through the experience and maintained any sense of grounding, generosity, or volunteerism you have found a very endangered species, but we are out there. Once again I used student loans to pay all the expenses of school, this time three years at a pricey private university. Even with the maximum loans available and help from my father, the credit card debt I had fully paid off returned and grew. In addition to expensive books, one also has to build a wardrobe appropriate for moot court competition, job interviews at snooty firms, and working as a law clerk or summer associate in a legal office environment.

I went from being a funky, tattooed free spirit to a buttoned-up, Ferragamo-shod fashionista—with the credit card debt to prove it.

Shoes and handbags became my weakness as I drowned the sorrows of my law school career (and later life in the law) in today’s opiate of the masses: shopping. Women’s magazines seem to exist to tell us that happiness is just a new pair of shoes away, that the perfect lipstick or buttery leather handbag will magically transform me into a happy, beautiful, successful woman loved by the man of her dreams. The highly emotional impulse purchases of shoes, handbags, and make-up form a perimeter at the entrance to every department store and, alas, the closet full of Italian designer shoes and handbags never made me happy, successful, or loved, only empty inside and buried in debt. But I sure looked good for those law firm interviews.

* Name has been changed to protect privacy