|“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—|
|I took the one less traveled by,|
|And that has made all the difference.”|
In earlier posts, I described two roads not taken–becoming a Protestant minister or a professional historian. Another was not going to graduate school in economics after reading PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) at Oxford. That was primarily because I had had hardly any of the necessary mathematics in college and did not want to embark on a lengthy pursuit of a Ph.D.
After four years of being a Wall Street lawyer, I already have talked about my choosing not to remain at Cravath, Swaine & Moore to compete for one of its partnerships. At the same time I declined an offer to teach at the University of Iowa College of Law. That was because I had enjoyed practicing law, because practice was more lucrative than teaching, and because I did not have some brilliant legal scholarship waiting to be unleashed.
Instead I chose to continue practicing law. But instead of fully exploring various cities, including San Diego, that were on my list of possibilities for such practice, I chose Minneapolis without an exhaustive analysis of the pros and cons of one city versus another. I did so because I already had developed good working relationships with Minneapolis attorneys at Faegre & Benson on the IBM antitrust cases, because Minneapolis was closer to my wife and my original homes in Nebraska and Iowa and because Minneapolis sounded like an interesting place to live. (This last February after spending four pleasant weeks in Carlsbad, California just north of San Diego and avoiding a very cold and snowy Minneapolis, I wondered: Did I make a mistake in not going to San Diego?)
Other paths not taken were because I was not chosen. I already mentioned not winning a White House Fellowship in the last semester of law school. At the same time my applications for U.S. Supreme Court clerkships with Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justices Potter Stewart and Byron White were rejected. Such clerkships, of course, are pursued by many top law graduates because they are fascinating, challenging and prestigious jobs that open many doors for subsequent legal careers.
After registering for the military draft at age 18, I had college student deferments (Class 2-S) that covered my nine years at Grinnell, Oxford and Chicago. But in my last semester of law school, I received a notice from my draft board to report for an Armed Services physical examination and thus potential military service. As it turned out, my wife was pregnant with our first child, and I thus was entitled to a new deferment (Class 3-A) because of dependant’s hardship. As a result, I never had to serve in the military, and I did not volunteer to do so. I missed the Vietnam War, much to my relief then and now.
While I was at the Faegre & Benson law firm, I was unsuccessful in my efforts to be appointed to vacancies on the Minneapolis School Board and the U.S. District Court in Minnesota as a judge and then later as a magistrate judge. I also was unsuccessful in seeking the Deanship of the Hamline University School of Law. These jobs all sounded interesting, challenging and rewarding. The last three also would have allowed me to escape the pressures of practicing law.
I also have mentioned my not being offered a teaching position in Ecuador after I retired.
I have no regrets about these roads not taken although I will never know what would have happened had I chosen or been chosen for one of them. But clearly the road I did take “has made all the difference” in my life. Indeed, the road you take and the many decisions you made at various forks in the road along the way constitute your life.
 Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken in Mountain Interval (1915).
 Post: Adventures of a History Detective (4/5/11); Post: Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church (4/6/11).
 Post: Lawyering on Wall Street (4/14/11).
 Post: Questioning President Lyndon Johnson (4/17/11).
 Post: My First 10 Years of Retirement (4/23/11).