The ABA Journal asks a holiday appropriate question this week: “Are you still with your law school sweetheart?”
I find the term “law school sweetheart” to be gross and vaguely unnatural. You don’t have “sweethearts” in law school. You have people who will bang you when you come back from the library wearing sweatpants, people who will save you a slice of pizza because you always forget to eat while at your clinic, and people you can sleep with after exams are over who won’t mind that you actually just want to sleep.
But really, the question presented isn’t about the sad, “I’m too busy to put on heels to get laid” settlement negotiations that mark the start of most law school relationships. Instead, they’re asking whether these couplings have any legs once people get out into the real world….
Even though my wife and I went to law school together, we didn’t meet in law school. We met in college. I think this is important. We met when we were young and had hopes and dreams. We met before law school taught us to “think like lawyers,” and so we still have a method of communicating that doesn’t devolve into a battle of the forms.
Meeting your spouse in law school is kind of like meeting your spouse in a theater of war and then assuming everything is going to work out once you get back to the home front. You’ll both have scars that only the other person will understand, but you’ll still kind of look around and think, “Wow, now that I’m home I remember that there are all these people with no scars.”
And by “scars,” I’m clearly talking about debt. The combined debt my wife and I had when we graduated from law school… I don’t even like to talk about it. My colleague Staci Zaretsky met her fiance in law school; their debt is similarly obnoxious. Sticking with your law school lover often also means starting your marital life in a hole so deep Batman couldn’t climb out of it.
So you’re going to have to pay it off, but who is going to do it? I used to joke with my wife that we were in a “race” to see who would quit first. Loser has to pay off our bills for life. She doesn’t think it’s that funny, and Above the Law readers think I’m some kind of roiling deadbeat, but lots of people in law school-based relationships have that kind of division of labor. One person has to toil away in Biglaw for the rest of their lives, the other person gets to move on and have a fulfilling career. Not every relationship can handle the “one of us goes free while the other is chained” dichotomy.
But God forbid you both try to make as much money as possible in Biglaw. That’s not a marriage. You don’t even need to buy a queen-sized bed for that, since you won’t really ever be sleeping at the same time. And when you both want to still continue your striving towards partnership after you have children… then you have to agree on the highly paid wolves who will be raising your children.
The upside of getting your hooks into someone during law school and never letting go is that you’ll probably become even less desirable after you become a lawyer, so you might as well strike while the iron is lukewarm. Women get this message beaten into them by every media source on the planet. Men think they’ll age like George Clooney in Michael Clayton… but you’ll be shocked by how depressing it is to try to pull ass during document review.
Sorry, I know I’m supposed to be more sunshine and rainbows as we approach Valentine’s Day. Maybe you’re Elle Woods and he’s Luke Wilson and if I met you I’d resist the urge to shoot heart-shaped candies at you with an uzi.
So by all means, tell us the gooey stories of love and happiness that started in law school.