A Former Investment Banker Analyst Falls Back On Plan B.
BY Helen Coster
1. Explain why you want to attend law school.
I want to attend law school because I want to make a difference in the world. My desire to attend law school has nothing to do with the fact that I was recently fired from my job as an analyst at an investment bank, where I worked in the mergers and acquisitions group. Since January, I’ve worked on approximately one merger, zero acquisitions, have played Spider Solitaire 434 times and updated my Facebook status, on average, five times a day. My 401K is down 45 percent. All three of my roommates — Teddy, Whit, and Dan (The Man) McGregor — have lost their jobs and are moving back home with their parents. (I feel most sorry for Whit, who’s from Cleveland.) I have $350 in savings, which may seem strange because I’ve been making, with bonus, at least $100,000 a year since graduating from college four years ago (in “Boston.” OK … Harvard.). But New York is expensive. Drinks cost $15. My Hamptons summer share (which was a valuable networking tool) put me back $15,000 last year. This is a long way of saying that law is a tool to promote equality, and to help create a just society. These have always been my goals in life.
2. Explain your greatest achievement.
To outsiders, it may appear that I have achieved many things in life. I was the valedictorian of my high school class and an All-American soccer player. In college I was the president of my finals club and got recruited to join one of the most prestigious banks on Wall Street. Many beautiful women would like to date me. But these accomplishments mean nothing compared to one that really matters to me: In a world filled with greed and materialism, I live a life of integrity. My integrity is one of the reasons why I was on track to become the youngest-ever partner in the history of my investment bank, but then the economy vaporized and so did that plan. If there’s an empty seat at a Rangers’ game, and it’s better than the seat I bought, I’ll sit in mine anyway. If I accidentally receive mail that’s addressed to someone else, I leave it—unopened—in the mailroom. I never cheat in golf. These are the qualities that will matter when I fulfill my dream of fighting for the legal rights of immigrants.
3. Explain you biggest mistake and what you learned from it.
As I think Chief Justice Ginsburg once said, “If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.” My greatest mistake occurred in 2004, when a few of my college friends were trying to launch their web site and asked me to come work with them. They were living in Silicon Valley, and there were only two of them at the time, and I was looking at a six-figure bonus at my banking job and in no rush to leave that or New York. Plus, I liked the security of working for a big financial institution. I like to wear ties, and I like car service home when I work past 9:00 PM. I like going to steak dinners after we close a deal, even though we haven’t closed a deal since January 2008. I like having an assistant, and I like carrying around a gym bag that’s embroidered with the name of my bank. The decision to stay at my job did not feel like a mistake at the time, but it does now, since my friends’ start-up has 120 million unique users, including, I think, my mother, and is this little thing called Facebook. Right now I have no car service, no assistant, no use for my ties, and no paycheck. So in hindsight, becoming the third employee at Facebook doesn’t seem like a bad idea. I believe, though, that this mistake presented an opportunity to explore my passion, which is drafting the constitutions of post-conflict countries.
4. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years I would like to be a successful entrepreneur, a managing partner at an investment bank, or a legal aid lawyer working on behalf of indigent clients. Even though I have no use for material things, I would like to have the option of retiring by the time I’m 45. I believe that law school is a tool to help me realize my goals, as well as an acceptable way to wait out the recession without having to work in retail.
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