February 3, 2004

There's always a filter

I've decided who to interview and hire for technical jobs in Silicon Valley during and after the boom. Too many resumes. Not enough time. Some of the people exaggerate their credentials. Others don't market their skills effectively. What did I do? I trusted people's personal recommendations and threw the rest of the resumes away. I very seriously doubt that I ever got the best person for the job. But it always worked out just fine--interviews would usually catch the psychos and the incompetents, the rest were usually hired. And I wouldn't have been able to do my job if I took the time to figure out who the best person for the job was out of all those resumes. So, I used the filter of people and related job experience.

In law, the filter we hear about all the time is the rank of your school or the rank of your grades within your school. As I said before, I found law school grading to be somewhat arbitrary thus far. But, it's no more arbitrary than your best friend's little sister dating the dog-walker of my cousin's dog. If you are good at networking, you will probably find a better job and eventually, have a more successful technical career in the valley. This seems unfair given the meritocracy that most engineering worlds pretend to be and the fact that networking isn't necessarily linked to the skills you'll be using in your career (the inverse relationship between technical genius and standard socialization being a TRUTH, in my book).

In law school, if you get good grades and/or go to a school with a higher ranking, it is likely that you will get a more prestigious job. This seems unfair if you acknowledge the minute differences in the intelligence, capability, and drive of students from different schools and with GPAs that vary by quite a bit.

But guess what kids--life isn't fair. It's what you make of it and how you handle the unfairness that matters. If you value career opportunities, it is worth quite a bit to work your A** off in order to obtain the ranking and grades that will keep the doors open (see JCA's Post for a more cogent discussion of this point). If you value time, money, relaxation, early retirement, family, or any other number of other things over career opportunities, it may not be worth the effort to buy into the Gospel According to the Law Community.

Me? I love the doors of opportunity. I work hard. I'd love to have the grades and/or ranking to show for it. But I have a fuzzy line that I won't cross. The grades and ranking I don't have may or may not be an indication of my commitment to stay behind that line. That line is drawn by my sanity, E, a reasonably fit body, my family, friends, and a bunch of other things I've decided really matter. So, unless things change drastically, I'll never know just how "great" I could have been in this one area because I'd have to do it at the expense of things I'd never forgive myself for losing.

I've already put myself in the hospital for working too many hours without sleep, exercise, good food, or a social life. I don't want to do it again. What's the point in having doors of opportunity open in the future if you aren't taking the time to go down any of the hallways that are available right now? I don't mean this to say that people who do have the doors of opportunity open to them don't chose to enjoy life at the present moment. Perhaps they are gifted, talented, driven or just plain lucky. I only mean that it saddens me to see how many of my fellow students don't take the time to enjoy the great things about life that they do have because they are too busy wishing for, working for, or wallowing about the lost opportunities due to pedigree. A perfect example of balancing future doors for current opportunities is described in the ever-clever Scheherazade's post about why she {gasp} quit law review.

I understand the grumpiness that comes with a loss of opportunity despite hard work and feeling like you deserve it. But, I also know that the best turns my career took before law school were completely serendipitous. Luck. Being prepared was the pre-requisite, but being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right dog-walker were the final straws. And that's not fair to everyone else who worked to be prepared but weren't in the right place at the right time or didn't know the dog-walker. I suspect that my future career will follow a similar brownian path. And I doubt that the rank of my school or the grades that I get will greatly affect it. I hope I'm right.

Off to go read cases (no sense closing the doors I can keep open while staying behind my line...)

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