Cardozo Law School, Law Schools

Homeless By Choice: Because Law School Wasn’t Tough Enough

It's like Bizzaro Pursuit of Happyness.

If you were close to a computer yesterday, you probably noticed the article on Gawker about the Yeshiva University student who was “homeless by choice” while going to school. The student, who goes by the name of “David,” gave an interview to the Yeshiva Observer.

If you read the article quickly, you might have missed the part where we found out this David fellow is a 2L at Cardozo Law School. You might have missed the part where this 2L at Cardozo decided to go through a semester of law school while living on the streets.

The Yeshiva Observer interview which Gawker linked to focused on the crazy aspect of a privileged person depriving himself of shelter. But David reached out to Above the Law and gave us short interview, including insight into how his self-challenge affected his legal career….

In case you missed the story, here is the short version: David, a 2L at Cardozo, realized his life was problem-free. That was a problem for David, so he decided to “become homeless.” He wasn’t really trying to learn more about the plight of the underclass in America or make a grand political statement about how the other half lives. He wasn’t trying to be Morgan Spurlock or land a reality TV show. He just wanted to give himself a challenge.

David recently ended his stint of homelessness by moving back into his old apartment. It was getting cold. Would somebody cue up the “first world problems” meme?

Here’s how he explained it to the Yeshiva Observer:

So I’m in my second year at Cardozo and I already had an internship of my dream job. And I already had it set up for the summer and, like, my running was doing well, I didn’t have romantic problems, and no financial problems, and my apartment was great, and the weather was great, and just everything was so good; yet I wasn’t satisfied, my life just felt meaningless because I didn’t have really any challenges so you know, just thinking back on humanity and mankind, I’ve realized that it has always been difficult for humans to survive until recently with technology and everything.

So I don’t think that early man, Neanderthals and people a thousand years ago ever struggled with this feeling of boredness [sic] because they didn’t have any problems. I kind of wanted to model my life after that a little bit and make my survival more difficult, so I could just give myself a problem. With that said, it’s a problem that I can control and stop it whenever I want… and it’s a problem that’s difficult but not impossible to achieve.

I bet he doesn't have four lockers at the New York Health and Racquet Club.

I get it, it’s kind of like an anthropology experiment. An incredibly dangerous, borderline insane, anthropology experiment.

Now, most people would find law school “challenging” enough. But not David. He told Above the Law: “Is law school difficult? Yes. Is its challenge, by itself, enough to fulfill the need for purpose in my life? No. We all seek such challenges. Being temporarily homeless just so happened to be my latest method of searching for one.”

I get that. Lord knows I’m the guy who thinks there are harder and greater things to accomplish in life than law school. A friend of David’s emailed in to tell us that David was at Cardozo on a full scholarship, so I guess the challenges of dodging creditors for twenty years would also be denied him.

I think I can understand his impulse. There is no reason intelligent people need three years of law school. You learn pretty much everything you need during your first year, after that it’s just changing the nouns for legal subjects that are largely derivative of those basic 1L courses. You can’t specialize until you are on the job anyway (ask any fifth year M&A associate how well his 2L class in mergers and acquisitions prepared him for his career). Most law students get horrible cases of “3L-itis.” My “personal challenge” was to get through 3L year with a B average without buying any books; it wasn’t that hard.

Really, David is just ahead of the curve in his boredom and more adventurous in his methods of coping with it.

But David says he didn’t confuse his challenge with the struggles of people who are actually homeless:

I did not intend to disrespect or marginalize anybody facing a real problem. I simply wanted to create a challenge in my own life, which I felt was necessary at that particular stage of my life.

Detractors may mock my “first-world problems,” and that is a perfectly accurate characterization. But my decision to sleep on the streets for a couple of months did not hurt a soul, so what’s the harm?

Obviously, the challenge turned out to be too difficult for me. I humbly gave up on my intended semester of homelessness after a few too many very cold nights. I now have endless respect and sympathy for those who have no choice but to live through New York City’s winters on the streets.

Given these extra problems, I asked David how he was handling the normal stuff that keeps most law students lying awake in their comfy beds. What are his job prospects and how are his grades? Here’s what David said:

I am currently waiting to hear back from my summer employer (not Biglaw) about post-graduation work…

An article on Gawker.com incorrectly stated that I was homeless for a year. I actually only made it nine weeks, beginning in late August when I arrived back in the city from my summer internship, and ending on November 1st.

I am waiting to receive most of my grades for the semester, but so far, a P and an A-.

Because he’s still waiting on his job offer, David wishes to remain anonymous (you see, the kid’s not crazy). But he did tell a few fellow Cardozo Law students about his little experiment. Their reaction? “They were slightly entertained but mostly just worried about me.”

Are you sure they were worried about “you” and not themselves? How would you like to be the Cardozo student who ended up ranked behind the homeless guy?

The reaction to David’s story over most of the internet has been to laugh at this example of privilege. I think it’s yet another indication that three years of law school is at least one year too many.

‘Homeless By Choice’ Law Student on the Art of Bourgeois Homelessness [Gawker]
Homeless By Choice [Yeshiva Observer]

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