‘YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THE READING’
Sometimes, magnifying your options means accepting that you can’t be a perfect student. “I talked to people who had done the process, so I realized that you don’t have to do the reading,” Charlie says. “As a matter of fact, it’s more reading than you can handle by design, so you learn shortcuts.” For example, many students come in thinking that cases are about the stories when in reality, they’re about the rulings. “Once I figured that out about midway through the first semester, all the stress was alleviated,” he says.
Charlie also recognizes that law school doesn’t teach people to think independently. “It teaches you how to follow along, and that’s why the field is filled with a lot of robots who suppress their emotional lives,” he says. “It rewards minimizing compassion and rewards following along.” He doesn’t let that style of instruction shape the way he sees the law, though. “When you let your emotions inform your construction of the rule applications, you end up being more creative, solving things in new ways,” he asserts. “Because you get out of your robotic box.”
‘PRETEND YOU’RE A 21-YEAR-OLD MILLIONAIRE’
Charlie does things on his own terms during interviews, too. He says that once he has researched a prospective employer and thought about how he can contribute, he makes sure to take a big step back. “For me, you recognize that [the interviewer] is no different than you,” he says. “They’re not better than you, they’re not smarter than you—they just happen to be more advanced than you at this moment. And if anything, you learn here in the Bay Area that there are a lot of 21-year-old millionaires walking around that that guy would bend over backwards for. So pretend you’re one of those 21-year-old millionaires.”
When it comes to the actual interviewing part, he outright avoids his school’s advice. “‘So, what’s a typical day like at your job? Do you support new hires?,’” he mocks, putting on a high-pitched voice. “This is what the career office is going to tell you—these weird, stupid questions. The real way to interview someone is to get to the heart of who they are and what they’re doing and ask them, ‘How do you feel about this?’ And part of your preparation, too, is to always Google the future of whatever industry you’re interviewing for, and ask them questions like, ‘How do you see yourself in this firm fitting into what I see as the future dynamic for your sector?’ And that way the student becomes the teacher—and you want to always be the teacher. Always change the game. Always take any dynamic handed to you and turn it around. Always.”
WHAT LAW SCHOOLS CAN DO
Though students like Charlie have managed to lessen law school’s death grip on their lives, J.D. programs aren’t off the hook—not while students react to exams with all-over body pain. “I really think that all higher education programs—including law—could benefit from integrating wellness into the curriculum,” Parrish says. She asserts that a wellness skill-set would prepare students for both school and the legal world beyond, which won’t necessarily be any more relaxing.
Charlie has a few of those skills in his repertoire. “Doing exercise that causes you to do deep breathing has been good, like yoga, running, and lots of sit-ups,” he says.
But like Parrish, he thinks law schools could be doing more for their students. His solution? Eliminating grades. “They’re stupid and they’re worthless,” he says. He notes that top schools like Stanford and Berkeley don’t give them. “Why should the elite schools give their students a mechanism to avoid stress?” he asks.
Charlie is willing to say a lot of controversial things about law school, the job search, and life in general. What he’s not willing to do is go on the record with any of it. For the most part, the legal world is still a place for conservative suits, ties, haircuts, and opinions. Charlie is well-aware of the attitudes of the people who ultimately make the rules; he can only play by his own so often.
Take note, would-be lawyers: Depending on how serious you are about exercising the belief that shit doesn’t matter, law might or might not be the field for you.
‘YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO THE READING’