Law in Contemporary Society

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ArgiriosNickasSecondEssay 5 - 13 Jun 2016 - Main.ArgiriosNickas
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First Days on the Job

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Happy Birthday

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I’m sitting here on a Thursday night. This Thursday night happens to be my birthday. I’m tired. And I’m writing an essay with uninebriated attention. For every year on this day as far back as I can remember, I don’t remember much of anything at all.
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I’m sitting here on a Thursday night. This Thursday night happens to be my birthday. I’m tired. And I’m writing an essay with uninebriated attention. For every year on this day, as far back as I can remember, I don’t remember much of anything at all.
 I never thought lawyering could be sobering. Contrary to our encounter with Mr. Wylie that is, more or less, exactly what has happened (though to be perfectly honest, Friday night may be a different story). All day victims paraded in with complaints: embezzlement, foreclosure schemes, deceptive business practices, false advertising, you name it. Sometime next week I might even get to see an autopsy in person (the bureau that covers gang crimes is right across the hall) – maybe then I won’t be able to eat either…

ArgiriosNickasSecondEssay 4 - 10 Jun 2016 - Main.ArgiriosNickas
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First Days on the Job

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 Of the numerous comments on the first draft of my first essay, one was: “insofar as everything in society is affected by social influences, tautologically.” That is exactly it. You put it bluntly and unapologetically. Each experience, interaction, comment, thought, idea, song, person, laugh, honked horn, client, family member, and on and on, forms who we are. Letting others put together the pieces of my puzzle with ignorance of the process and results is no way to practice law or go through life. I want to own my practice and guide the hands that place my pieces.
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Life is an opportunity to reflect on who and what you’re becoming. Yesterday I was preparing; today I’m realizing my preparation was a little too melodramatic. Right now I’m saying, “when you see these victims in person, face to face, there is no way not to care.” Today, I’m an impassioned prosecutor, but tomorrow, who knows? Maybe emotional stress turns to emotional fracture, and I end up popping Vicodin and drowning in codeine? There is a battle inside all of us and the scale tips one place or another.
>
>
Life is an opportunity to reflect on who and what you’re becoming. Yesterday I was preparing; today I’m realizing my preparation was a little too melodramatic. Right now I’m saying, “when you see these victims in person, face to face, there is no way not to care.” Today, I’m an impassioned prosecutor, but tomorrow, who knows? Maybe emotional stress turns to emotional fracture, and I end up popping Vicodin and drowning in codeine? There is a battle inside all of us and sometimes the scale tips one place or another.
 
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Attentiveness is part of the solution. My Yiayia was right: Τα μάτια σου δεκατέσσερα. I know I have the tools to both recognize what I was and shape what I will be. I just need to pay close enough attention to not miss the opportunities to do in my legal practice and in life.
>
>
Attentiveness is part of the solution. My Yiayia was right: Τα μάτια σου δεκατέσσερα. I know I have the tools to both recognize what I was and shape what I will be. I just need to pay close enough attention to not miss the opportunities to do so.
 


ArgiriosNickasSecondEssay 3 - 10 Jun 2016 - Main.ArgiriosNickas
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Yiayia’s Expression

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First Days on the Job

 -- By ArgiriosNickas - 30 Mar 2016
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What I Thought it Meant

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Happy Birthday

 
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My yiayia always says: “Τα μάτια σου δεκατέσσερα.” Like many other foreign expressions, the meaning gets lost in translation: “Your eyes fourteen.” She would say it every time I left her house. She would say it every time I left to run an errand, go out with friends, or head home. If there was an occasion that involved contact with others, the expression was coming. The way I understood it was as a Greek version of “look both ways before you cross the street.” In the same way schoolchildren should need less reminders of self-preservation as they get older – I cannot remember the last time my mother told me not to talk to strangers – I thought Yiayia’s expression would fade with time. It never did.
>
>
I’m sitting here on a Thursday night. This Thursday night happens to be my birthday. I’m tired. And I’m writing an essay with uninebriated attention. For every year on this day as far back as I can remember, I don’t remember much of anything at all.
 
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<

What it Means

>
>
I never thought lawyering could be sobering. Contrary to our encounter with Mr. Wylie that is, more or less, exactly what has happened (though to be perfectly honest, Friday night may be a different story). All day victims paraded in with complaints: embezzlement, foreclosure schemes, deceptive business practices, false advertising, you name it. Sometime next week I might even get to see an autopsy in person (the bureau that covers gang crimes is right across the hall) – maybe then I won’t be able to eat either…
 
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Recently, I asked her why she insists on reminding me, a [competent] adult, to do something, self-preservation (i.e. not get hit by cars), which should need no reminding. She explained that the expression was not meant to keep me vigilant only in a physical sense. It was meant as a spiritual warning. The ‘fourteen eyes’ are a reminder of spiritual health and to guard my heart.
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I’m not tired because the day was particularly long or arduous. I had an hour off for lunch and I ate a pretty decent Subway sandwich (6 inch, toasted Subway club on 9 Grain Honey Oat). A few interns and I sat behind the office on a picnic bench next to the “District Attorney Community Garden” where small strawberry plants were just starting to grow in. After some random conversation had died down and there was silence for a few seconds, someone started uncontrollably laughing. ‘I’m eating a fucking sandwich and sitting outside in the sun and literally right behind us we’re deciding what to do with people’s lives,’ she said. I almost fell out of my seat in painful hysterics.
 
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For an ouzo-with-breakfast Yiayia (though I am not sure there are any other types), the advice could not have been more sagacious. Law school, Grades, New York City, EIP, Finance, Transactional Work. The list of self-corrupting mechanisms goes on and on. To be absorbed and consumed by that world would leave a hollow hull: physically functioning, but incapable of much else. Surrendering to those controls would leave psychological scars from constant splitting so deep that all the spiritual surgery in the world would be unable to mend them.
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We talk and talk about problems in the world, but 99% of it is filtered through a television or computer screen and the remaining 1% is divided 9/10 to books and print and 1/10 towards actual encounters with those problems. Though I’m not sure delaying the second essay comments was intentional, it was probably a good thing we got them back when we did. Most of us had no real experiences in lawyering, and now we do.
 
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What it Means in Action: My Challenge

 
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Realization is the first step; action is the second. I know everything in the preceding paragraph is true. I know that at any point I am only a few short steps from an unrecoverable fall down a very steep and jagged mountain. The hilarity of it is that I am so close to the precipice precisely because of my family, the same people from whom my perception of these dangers comes.
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Real People, Real Consequences

 
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The reconciliation of my family and our society is what I, like many others I know (though that’s probably selection bias), struggle with most. It’s not unawareness or apathy to external tragedies, it’s a hereditary and social bond to the faces I know, feel safe around, am accustomed to, and love the most. It’s forcing myself to raise my eyes past an immediate horizon.
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>
I was on the right track in my last draft, but I approached real problems as la carte items to be ordered in the distant future, as university courses I could take my time thinking about maybe enrolling in one day. Now the problems are confronting me. I’ve been given my assigned seat and the teacher is cold-calling my ass tomorrow. Its 8:49pm and I need to be in by 8:45am. Between then and now I need to figure out which larceny theory in a foreclosure fraud scheme has a shot at convicting. The ADA doesn’t have the answer; she’s swamped and relying on me to provide it.
 
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In my case, the bonds are unusually strong. I come from a family where twenty relatives get together almost every night of the week to eat dinner. Where my grandparents, first cousins, other first cousins, second cousins, other second cousins, and immediate family all lived on the same street growing up. I come from a family where every cousin gets their roman numeral, in order of birth, and the word “οικογένεια” (family) tattooed in big bold letters. A family where getting a college degree, much less one within four years, is a major accomplishment. It’s not unlike The Godfather; but we’re Greek, with less criminal ties. They all hated Fredo, and it definitely wasn’t because he wasn’t smart.
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A month ago it was nice to sit quietly and meticulously think about quotations from my Yiayia, literature, and life lessons I’ve encountered along the way. Now I’m facing real problems with real people and real consequences.
 
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Its not that I am unaware of the consequences of a career in something like Big Law, it’s that I have done a cost/benefit analysis and have calculated that the risk of my well-being is worth the sacrifice, to provide a comfortable life to those closest to me. The bigger problem is that until very recently, I didn’t see the flaws in that reasoning.
 
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A Start to a Solution

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Attentiveness and the Balancing Act

 
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The problem is a failure to see more broadly. If we go along with the analogy of a cost/benefit equation, it’s a failure to see externalities. As [well-]educated lawyers we are in a position to see into the lives of others, the circumstances of the less fortunate, and the troubles of the marginalized. We are in a position to use that perspective to address those concerns. The law provides a window into the problems – through case law, lunch talks, clinics, externships – and a path to tackle them – legal representation. Yiayia’s expression is about turning your eyes to the travesties staring right back at you.
 
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The method through which people arrive at a place where they can look past their familial sphere is sometimes different, but always a challenge. For me, I’ve started to find answers in C.S. Lewis’s World War II era broadcast talks; the methodology through which someone loves their neighbors as much as their own families is not by metaphysically willing it into existence (surely that would be impossible), but by actually adopting that love in practice.
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But I need to take deep breaths. And I need to focus on this essay. I need to focus on this essay not for the grade, but for the opportunity to reflect it provides - for what I can take away from it. I’m writing this for myself.
 
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How someone else might start to look past his or her immediate concerns will be different. It might come from a tragedy that affects them, from discourse, from a law school class, from internal reflection, or from divine intervention, if such a thing exists. The common thread is a realization of the scope of impact a person can make, that the tools through which they can make that change is available to them, and that not exercising those tools to their fullest extent is a waste of potential. That waste is a loss for the world, which is compromised of millions and billions of individuals with their own families, who have not been afforded the same opportunity a person reading or writing this has.
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So how would I have written that last essay differently if “then me” was “now me”? My family still means more than anything to me so I’d still want you to know about the tattoos and the ‘compound’ I grew up on. I’d still want you to know about my Yiayia’s expression because I carry that with me everyday. I would probably change the idealistic tone of the last section: too much droning and not enough action. Now the furnace is raging and I’m coming out as steel, or not at all.
 
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The solution is not caring less for one and more for another. It’s fundamentally reshaping our understanding of a lawyer’s, and therefore my own, role in civil society, where what is done to the least of us is done to all of us. I am only starting to realize that.
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Life is a balancing act where you constantly maneuver values, ideas, and actions back and forth on a teeter-totter. My first essay was all reflection and preparation. Now its time for action: reflection and preparation can wait until next weekend. Somewhere between then and now I will probably drink. But most of the time I will be sober. All of the time I will be attentive. If your course has taught me nothing else, it is to be attentive. Take something away from Mr. Wylie, from John Brown, and from Mr. Robinson. Take something away from Professor Moglen, Thurman Arnold, and Edward Snowden. A wide range of characters and an equally wide range of potential lessons learned.
 
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Of the numerous comments on the first draft of my first essay, one was: “insofar as everything in society is affected by social influences, tautologically.” That is exactly it. You put it bluntly and unapologetically. Each experience, interaction, comment, thought, idea, song, person, laugh, honked horn, client, family member, and on and on, forms who we are. Letting others put together the pieces of my puzzle with ignorance of the process and results is no way to practice law or go through life. I want to own my practice and guide the hands that place my pieces.
 
Added:
>
>
Life is an opportunity to reflect on who and what you’re becoming. Yesterday I was preparing; today I’m realizing my preparation was a little too melodramatic. Right now I’m saying, “when you see these victims in person, face to face, there is no way not to care.” Today, I’m an impassioned prosecutor, but tomorrow, who knows? Maybe emotional stress turns to emotional fracture, and I end up popping Vicodin and drowning in codeine? There is a battle inside all of us and the scale tips one place or another.

Attentiveness is part of the solution. My Yiayia was right: Τα μάτια σου δεκατέσσερα. I know I have the tools to both recognize what I was and shape what I will be. I just need to pay close enough attention to not miss the opportunities to do in my legal practice and in life.

 
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It's hard to object to the sentiment, but the draft feels a little over-argued to me. Our grandmothers tell us to take care of ourselves. They mean our hearts as well as our shins, our spirits and minds as well as our bodies. Selfishness is a prison in which young people sometimes put themselves. At the moment, you are reacting against that impulse.
 
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So far so good. But, as I say, this cannot be 50 words to me and 1,000 to you without something being wrong at one or the other end. It seems to me that we ought to be reading something more than the generalities of feeling, more about the consequences of thinking.
 


ArgiriosNickasSecondEssay 2 - 05 Jun 2016 - Main.EbenMoglen
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META TOPICPARENT name="SecondEssay"

Yiayia’s Expression

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 The solution is not caring less for one and more for another. It’s fundamentally reshaping our understanding of a lawyer’s, and therefore my own, role in civil society, where what is done to the least of us is done to all of us. I am only starting to realize that.
Added:
>
>
It's hard to object to the sentiment, but the draft feels a little over-argued to me. Our grandmothers tell us to take care of ourselves. They mean our hearts as well as our shins, our spirits and minds as well as our bodies. Selfishness is a prison in which young people sometimes put themselves. At the moment, you are reacting against that impulse.

So far so good. But, as I say, this cannot be 50 words to me and 1,000 to you without something being wrong at one or the other end. It seems to me that we ought to be reading something more than the generalities of feeling, more about the consequences of thinking.

 

ArgiriosNickasSecondEssay 1 - 30 Mar 2016 - Main.ArgiriosNickas
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META TOPICPARENT name="SecondEssay"

Yiayia’s Expression

-- By ArgiriosNickas - 30 Mar 2016

What I Thought it Meant

My yiayia always says: “Τα μάτια σου δεκατέσσερα.” Like many other foreign expressions, the meaning gets lost in translation: “Your eyes fourteen.” She would say it every time I left her house. She would say it every time I left to run an errand, go out with friends, or head home. If there was an occasion that involved contact with others, the expression was coming. The way I understood it was as a Greek version of “look both ways before you cross the street.” In the same way schoolchildren should need less reminders of self-preservation as they get older – I cannot remember the last time my mother told me not to talk to strangers – I thought Yiayia’s expression would fade with time. It never did.

What it Means

Recently, I asked her why she insists on reminding me, a [competent] adult, to do something, self-preservation (i.e. not get hit by cars), which should need no reminding. She explained that the expression was not meant to keep me vigilant only in a physical sense. It was meant as a spiritual warning. The ‘fourteen eyes’ are a reminder of spiritual health and to guard my heart.

For an ouzo-with-breakfast Yiayia (though I am not sure there are any other types), the advice could not have been more sagacious. Law school, Grades, New York City, EIP, Finance, Transactional Work. The list of self-corrupting mechanisms goes on and on. To be absorbed and consumed by that world would leave a hollow hull: physically functioning, but incapable of much else. Surrendering to those controls would leave psychological scars from constant splitting so deep that all the spiritual surgery in the world would be unable to mend them.

What it Means in Action: My Challenge

Realization is the first step; action is the second. I know everything in the preceding paragraph is true. I know that at any point I am only a few short steps from an unrecoverable fall down a very steep and jagged mountain. The hilarity of it is that I am so close to the precipice precisely because of my family, the same people from whom my perception of these dangers comes.

The reconciliation of my family and our society is what I, like many others I know (though that’s probably selection bias), struggle with most. It’s not unawareness or apathy to external tragedies, it’s a hereditary and social bond to the faces I know, feel safe around, am accustomed to, and love the most. It’s forcing myself to raise my eyes past an immediate horizon.

In my case, the bonds are unusually strong. I come from a family where twenty relatives get together almost every night of the week to eat dinner. Where my grandparents, first cousins, other first cousins, second cousins, other second cousins, and immediate family all lived on the same street growing up. I come from a family where every cousin gets their roman numeral, in order of birth, and the word “οικογένεια” (family) tattooed in big bold letters. A family where getting a college degree, much less one within four years, is a major accomplishment. It’s not unlike The Godfather; but we’re Greek, with less criminal ties. They all hated Fredo, and it definitely wasn’t because he wasn’t smart.

Its not that I am unaware of the consequences of a career in something like Big Law, it’s that I have done a cost/benefit analysis and have calculated that the risk of my well-being is worth the sacrifice, to provide a comfortable life to those closest to me. The bigger problem is that until very recently, I didn’t see the flaws in that reasoning.

A Start to a Solution

The problem is a failure to see more broadly. If we go along with the analogy of a cost/benefit equation, it’s a failure to see externalities. As [well-]educated lawyers we are in a position to see into the lives of others, the circumstances of the less fortunate, and the troubles of the marginalized. We are in a position to use that perspective to address those concerns. The law provides a window into the problems – through case law, lunch talks, clinics, externships – and a path to tackle them – legal representation. Yiayia’s expression is about turning your eyes to the travesties staring right back at you.

The method through which people arrive at a place where they can look past their familial sphere is sometimes different, but always a challenge. For me, I’ve started to find answers in C.S. Lewis’s World War II era broadcast talks; the methodology through which someone loves their neighbors as much as their own families is not by metaphysically willing it into existence (surely that would be impossible), but by actually adopting that love in practice.

How someone else might start to look past his or her immediate concerns will be different. It might come from a tragedy that affects them, from discourse, from a law school class, from internal reflection, or from divine intervention, if such a thing exists. The common thread is a realization of the scope of impact a person can make, that the tools through which they can make that change is available to them, and that not exercising those tools to their fullest extent is a waste of potential. That waste is a loss for the world, which is compromised of millions and billions of individuals with their own families, who have not been afforded the same opportunity a person reading or writing this has.

The solution is not caring less for one and more for another. It’s fundamentally reshaping our understanding of a lawyer’s, and therefore my own, role in civil society, where what is done to the least of us is done to all of us. I am only starting to realize that.

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Revision 5r5 - 13 Jun 2016 - 16:12:26 - ArgiriosNickas
Revision 4r4 - 10 Jun 2016 - 11:17:32 - ArgiriosNickas
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Revision 2r2 - 05 Jun 2016 - 19:07:38 - EbenMoglen
Revision 1r1 - 30 Mar 2016 - 23:31:31 - ArgiriosNickas
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