I once taped a quotation from Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., to the door of my office:
... what a profession the law is! … what other gives such scope to realize the spontaneous energy of one's soul? In what other does one plunge so deep in the stream of life—so share its passions, its battles, its despair, its triumphs?
One of my colleagues wrote beneath the quotation, "What drugs was he taking?"
A life in the law means making the trip from Holmes's rhapsody to my colleague's cynicism and back again, sometimes several times a day.
My legal career has been old enough to drink for several years already. When I look back, I'm struck by the near-randomness of its course. I mainly have my ignorance to thank for the way things turned out. From the decision to apply to law school to the most recent decision to switch jobs, my life in the law has been a series of big choices made based on little information.
Without a network of family or friends to pass along the wisdom of the ages, I made choices about my education and career—choices that determined my life course—based on whatever scraps of information reached my ears, fortified as necessary by unwarranted assumptions. In writing this career memoir, my guiding principle has been to include the things I know now that I wish I'd known then.