I was at a dinner party the other night, catching up with some lawyer acquaintances I hadn’t seen in a while. I bumped into a former colleague, David, who worked with me at a Chicago law firm back in 1999. He is still working there, and made partner several years ago. We spent a few minutes talking about Cleveland basketball and Lebron, and we spent a few minutes talking about law firm life in Chicago.
When I mentioned Sweatours (our wellness platform for law students), he seemed truly intrigued.
“Dude, it’s high time someone addressed the insanity of law school. Too bad we didn’t have more support when we were in school all those years ago.”
“Thanks,” I told him. “Our goal is to open up the conversation about wellness, to take the stigma out of asking for help.”
“Wait, you work there?” he asked.
“Well, yes” I replied. “Most founders do spend some time working at their own company!”
“Hold up, hold up.” Dave said to me. “You used to work at a law firm. Now you’re running a company? Stay in your lane!”
Seriously? First of all, any basketball fan knows that staying in your lane for three seconds or longer leads to an offensive or technical foul. So it’s a dumb thing to say for that reason alone.
More importantly, what the eff is “stay in your lane” supposed to mean? I worked with Dave nearly 20 years ago as a commercial litigator. Does my job choice at age 24 permanently brand me as a breach of fiduciary duties specialist? Is no one allowed the luxury of change or evolution without unjustified judgment anymore?
Staying In Your Lane as A Student
While we are in law school, some of us feel compelled to narrow our focus early on. To achieve our goals, we often feel that we need to think narrow over wide, specialized over general. There is a reason why sayings like “core competencies” and “subject matter experts” permeate our vocabulary.
This works well for some students. But what if we don’t know what we want to do? As a minority female, should I have stayed in my “lane” and taken a bunch of immigration and criminal law classes, as an obnoxious former classmate once idiotically recommended I do?
How are we supposed to know what we love until we try it first? According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, law is one of the least inclusive professions in the U.S., and minority and female attrition is high. Shouldn’t it be a good thing to shift “lanes” while in school? Isn’t that the point?
Keeping Up with Kontract Kases
A few months back, Kim Kardashian West was forced to defend her decision to pursue a career in law. The reality TV star and KKW Beauty founder revealed that she plans to take the bar exam in 2022, having quietly begun a four-year law apprenticeship last summer.
The second I heard KKW was studying to become a lawyer, I was there for it. But not everyone was. Her decision was met with some harsh criticism online, but Kim took to Instagram to share the following message for anyone who thought she should “stay in [her] lane.”
She stated in part: “One person actually said I should ‘stay in my lane.’ I want people to understand that there is nothing that should limit your pursuit of your dreams, and the accomplishment of new goals. You can create your own lanes, just as I am.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. If you want to forge your own path, don’t let other people’s negativity get in your way. Dave, I hope you’re listening.