For some strange reason, I chose yesterday to be the day that I informed some of my close friends and family about my renewed interest in attending law school. I doubt anyone who knew me well was the least bit surprised about my announcement given my inclination toward career indecisiveness. The fact is that I had planned on applying to JD/PhD programs all along. In an effort to be efficient, I applied to PhD programs first. My next move was supposed to be to apply to the law school at the university where I chose to pursue my PhD. Unfortunately, that turned out to be Temple.
Although Temple’s law school seemed pretty open to the idea of having a JD/PhD student from the business school, my department was surprisingly resistant. I found out that they only admitted me based on pressure from the dean because they felt that my research interests were not a good fit for the department . They also doubted my desire (and ability) to be a successful academic. I figured that letting them know of my plan to pursue a JD/PhD dual degree would only make things worse.
When I finally left Temple, I had pretty much given up on law school. I just wanted to finish my PhD, graduate, and live a normal life as soon as possible (assuming that ministers actually are capable of living normal lives). I had already lost three years of my life pursuing a PhD in a place that had no real intention of helping me to succeed. There was no way I was ever going to add three more years of study. At least that’s what I thought at the time.
Then, my father’s illness took a turn for the worse. As my brother and I struggled to preserve everything that he had worked for, we realized that we did not know enough about the legal system. Our lack of knowledge proved costly as we inadvertently enabled the courts to take away our ability to decide what was best for our ailing father. In the aftermath, we both lamented about not having an honest lawyer that we could turn to in our family. Sure I have several relatives who are lawyers, but they are either morally bankrupt or working in specialties unrelated to estates or people who are disabled. Ironically, those areas would have been my specialty if I hadn’t abandoned my pursuit of law years earlier.
Growing up with an autistic cousin who is like a brother to me allowed me to have great insight into the issues that families of disabled adults face. His mother often expresses concern about what will happen to him when she is no longer around to take care of him. I did a bit of research and suggested that she place some assets for him in a special needs trust. That way, she could ensure that his accumulation of property would not render him ineligible for the social security benefits that he has come to rely on. We didn’t know of any lawyers who specialized in the creation of these sorts of documents so I decided that I would pursue it myself. Then my JD/PhD plans were sidetracked.
(For the record, I am still interested in capacity building for businesses and nonprofit organizations which means I will also focus on tax-related issues.)
So far, the reaction from much of my family and close friends has been favorable. They’re generally encouraging of my dreams even if they wonder when (or if) I will finally settle down and start a family. (Don’t worry Mom. Your grandchildren are still on the way. They’re just slightly delayed.) Still, there is always at least one naysayer. In this case, someone expressed their belief that I was using my education as a means of running from life. I didn’t agree. If anything, I am running toward my dreams by putting in the time in effort to make them happen.
There is no such thing as a successful life that does not require sacrifice. Nonetheless, there are plenty of people out there who want to reap the benefits of such a life without putting in the necessary work. That’s a part of why so many successful people are viewed with envy and/or suspicion. I am learning not to let it bother me though. I know that my educational pursuits have forced me to put a lot of my personal goals aside for a bit. (In addition to getting married and having children, I still dream of releasing at least one collection of original music someday. All of those things are on hold until my financial situation becomes more favorable.) Still, I am confident that I will view my sacrifices as worthwhile 10 years from now when I am a successful minister, attorney, lecturer, and family man who is finally able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.