I knew, from listening to his answers in class, that he had everything he needed to be a superb lawyer: it’s not accidental that law is called a trade, and like all trades, what it demands most is a capacious memory, which he had. What is demands next – again, like many trades – is the ability to see the problem before you…and then, just as immediately, the rat’s tail of problems that might follow.

Much the way that, for a contractor, a house is not just a structure – it’s a snarl of pipes engorging with ice in the winter, of shingles swelling with humidity in the summer, of rain gutters belching up fountains of water in the spring, of cement splitting in the first autumn cold – so too is a house something else for a lawyer. A house is a locked safe full of contracts, of liens, of future lawsuits, of possible violations: it represents potential attacks on your property, on your goods, on your person, on your privacy

Of course, you can’t literally think like this all the time, or you’d drive yourself crazy. And so for most lawyers, a house is, finally, just a house, something to fill and fix and repaint and empty. But there’s a period in which every law student- every good law student – finds that their vision shifts, somehow, and realizes that the law is inescapable, that no interaction, no aspect of daily life, escapes its long, graspy fingers. A street becomes a shocking disaster, a riot of violations and potential civil lawsuits. A marriage looks like a divorce. The world becomes temporarily unbearable.

  • From A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara