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I Wish I’d Known – Erwin Chemerinsky


By Erwin Chemerinsky.

Erwin Chemerinsky is the dean and a distinguished professor of law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Before taking this position, he was on the faculty of Duke Law School for 4 years and the University of Southern California Law School for 21 years. Chemerinsky is the author of 7 books and more than 200 law review articles. He frequently argues appellate cases, including in the US Supreme Court.

In my second year of law school, I had a grand total of zero interviews for summer jobs. I only was interested in doing public interest or legal aid work, and those organizations were not interviewing on campus. I felt alienated as I watched my classmates in their suits flying off to interview with law firms.

I found a summer job at a small public interest law office in Washington, D.C., and after graduation worked as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice and then as a lawyer at the public interest office where my summer job had been. Just two years out of law school, through a series of coincidences, I found a position as a law professor. I recall going home after my first day of teaching and saying that I had found my dream job and what I wanted to spend my career doing. I have now been a law professor for 33 years and love it as much as when I began in 1980.

I wish that I could have realized in law school that one cannot really plan a career. Opportunities that could not be imagined will arise, and sometimes can be created, and disappointments, sometimes profound, are inevitable, too. As I look over the past few decades, I think of the classes I have taught, the appellate cases I have handled, the government commissions I have served on, and I realize the enormous variety of experiences available with a law degree.

I tell my students how important it is that they find a career path that provides them happiness and even joy. We all spend far too much of our lives at work to settle for anything less. I feel so very fortunate to have found that.

Vol. 41 No. 9

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.