There’s an interesting story on Legal Week suggesting law students put intellectual stimulation over money in career choice. I am a bit sceptical.
I ask my students (if they want to be practising lawyers) something like this informally every year, but I also ask them why they think other students want to be lawyers. I get similar answers to the Legal Week survey but the students also think other students are much more motivated by the money than they are. Go figure. It may suggest a difference between stated and actual preferences or tell us something about how law students project their career choices to their fellow students outside the class room.
I think the interesting thing is then to probe them on their assumptions about where the most intellectually stimulating work is. These students have often done work placements, but their answers to the question how do you know which work is most stimulating are generally weak and unconvincing. They often have no real idea what the most stimulating work (to them) is or would be. They assume that the firms high up the league tables provide the most interesting work but cannot really explain why in a cogent fashion. And they know they have to pretend (and yep folks they generally are pretending) to find business fascinating and (with a certain amount of bemusement) to be commercially aware.
My (unresearched) conclusion is that in reality financial reward and weak assumptions about what will be interesting reinforce each other and that financial reward is what really drives initial career choices both for itself and as a proxy for ‘being the best’ (whatever that might mean in reality).