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Lawyer Burns Ties to Harvard, Literally

We've seen lawyers' careers go up in smoke before, but never quite so literally. "Jack" is a Washington, D.C., lawyer who hopes someday to be to the legal profession what Siddhartha was to Buddhism -- one remembered for giving up a life of luxury to pursue the path of simplicity. Unlike Buddha, Jack has a blog, "Adventures in Voluntary Simplicity," where he anonymously chronicles his self-charted conversion from highly paid lawyer to pilgrim of simple happiness. It all started last June, when Jack took a vow: "stop living a life of excess, materialism, and unnecessary stress in order to gain something much more valuable: unencumbered, simple happiness." Out would go his job at a large law firm. Out would go his $300,000-plus annual salary. Out would go his newly renovated, four-level townhouse. Out would go his mix of expensive antique and modern furniture. At least that was the plan, yet to be executed.

But one vestige of his yet-to-be-past self nagged at him -- his Harvard Law School diploma. It stood, a symbolic barrier, between him and freedom. "Sometimes," he decided, "you just need to say goodbye to your past in order to move forward." So goodbye he said, in much the same way that a spurned spouse says goodbye to memories of a former lover. He set it on fire.

Not only did he incinerate his Harvard degree, but he captured the conflagration on video, describing it on his blog and posting it to YouTube. "In the end," he writes, "it was just a piece of paper. Nothing more. I would rather live my life on my own terms than be a person that needs a piece of paper to justify their own worth." I suspect a few folks in Harvard's alumni-development office will be hot under the collar when they see Jack's video. But one lesson every Harvard Law grad can learn from watching Jack's act of career-defiance is that these things are not all that easy to burn.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 28, 2008 at 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

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