I Never Wanted To Be A Lawyer.

Lauren Crais

DPhil, Law (Oxford Intellectual Property Research Centre).

I suffered immensely from stage fright for the first two decades of my life, even dropping classes in undergrad that had presentation requirements. Any job that had me on display in front of any sort of group was immediately scrapped. I considered more behind-the-scenes roles: architect (too much physics), journalist (too much interviewing), chef (too many hours away from a family), trophy wife (too much boredom, and also a shocking lack of willing participants). I studied art history, French, and psychology at undergrad, all of which I loved but none of which I wanted to pursue. But the LSAT (the American law school entrance exam) looked fun, so I took it just in case.

I ended up in the entertainment industry, on the path to become a talent agent (too much lying). But I liked negotiating, and I liked the subject matter, so I went back to school for my JD, thinking it would help me deal with contracts. I definitely wasn’t going to be a lawyer. It seemed like everyone in my first-year law school class wanted to be a litigator; I did not want anything to do with a courtroom. (Me: “Daddy’s a litigator. Those are the scariest kinds of lawyers.”* Them: blank faces. Me: ::big sigh::.) I did not enjoy my first year of law school, and I wondered if I’d made a mistake.

The following summer, I had an internship with the federal prosecutor’s office. On my first day, we were told to go watch as many trials as we could; the assumption was that we all wanted to be trial lawyers. Well, I thought, no one needs to know I don’t want to do this.

I walked into my first courtroom to watch my first trial, and I fell in love.

I spent the next two years of law school training myself not to be scared to speak in public, and the next six putting it into practice every day as a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles. I learned to love the performance aspect of a trial, learned to love explaining the law to twelve members of the public without legal backgrounds. I learned to love the law.

Eventually, I missed the luxury of devoting time to learning, so I did an MSc through a program that allowed me to combine art history with law. I thought about returning to practice, this time as a heritage lawyer (too many clients). In the end, it was the law itself that I’d fallen in love with—that, and explaining the law in an accessible way to people from all backgrounds. After six years of teaching cultural heritage law for auction houses, museums, and universities, I came to Oxford for my DPhil.

I am currently researching food as cultural heritage and the ways in which we think about borrowing inspiration from other cultures. If you need me, I’m probably at the Law Faculty trying to justify field work funding for dinner at a Michelin-star restaurant. I haven’t been successful yet, but I can hope!

Written in 2022

* If you got that reference, you are my people.