Arrival


A little under six years ago, I quit my job. It was a good job; there was little wrong with it. But I knew that I didn’t want to be programming full-time ten years from then, and given that knowledge, I figured I should quit before I grew to hate coding, rather than after. Rather than wait a decade before doing what I really wanted to do with my life, it seemed better to start in on that task immediately.

At the time, I had two thoughts about what that might be. First, I’d been blogging a lot—I’m not kidding; check out the archives from 2000–01 and you’ll see how much more active then I was than I am now—and finding it more fulfilling than work. I knew that my highest and best use would involve a lot of writing. And second, after reading a few great books, I was convinced that law professors were a pretty smart bunch. Particularly on my home turf of computer technology, they seemed to have a better understanding of what was really going on around the turn of the millennium than did most people from the technology world. I’d soured on computer science academia, but perhaps legal academia might provide a way to think seriously about the social impacts of the technologies I loved.

And so I launched myself out into the unknown, with a vague short-term plan of trying my hand at freelance writing and a vague long-term plan of becoming a law professor. The former didn’t work out so well, but during the year during which it was becoming apparent that I just don’t have the self-starter mindset to keep on pitching stories to editors again and again, I applied to law school; when I started, I still had in mind the idea of someday being on the other side of the lectern.

I’m happy now to report that I’m batting .500 on my quit-my-job ambitions. I’ve accepted an offer to join the faculty of New York Law School, where, starting this coming academic year, I’ll be an Associate Professor of Law.

Along the way, something perhaps not-so-strange happened. I went into law school thinking of myself as a computer scientist sneaking into enemy territory to report back on what I saw there, and perhaps to engage in a little strategic sabotage. But once there, I started to appreciate the professional virtues of good lawyers, and to appreciate the integrity of a legal way of looking at the world. I still think of myself as a computer guy, but I think of myself as a lawyer, too.

Dual identities can be difficult to manage; trapped between two worlds, one is never wholly at home in either. But if it were easy, it probably wouldn’t be worth doing. Law and computer technology have a long and difficult reconciliation ahead of them, and I love them both too much not to want to help in smoothing the way. I don’t know exactly where I’m going from here, but I know that I’m now exactly where I want to be—exactly where I’ve wanted to be for a long time.

Thank you all.


Wow! Congratulations!


That’s great, James - congratulations!


Is it ungracious of me to point out that you’re also arriving accompanied?


I’ve already gloated about that. But yes, I’m also very glad to be arriving on the arm of a beautiful woman.


I am impressed that you are starting at the rank of Associate, which is a step above the usual beginning. Particulary impressed since that’s the rank at which, after six years, I ended my academic career.


Nothing special there, actually; all junior faculty at NYLS are Associate Professors.

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