Law in Contemporary Society

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The Lawyer I Want to Be: Adding a Commitment to Social Justice to My Practice

The opportunities and successes that brought me to Columbia were largely a product of chance—complete luck of the draw. I was born into an upper-middle class family in the United States, attended two of the best universities in the world, and grew up knowing some of the most influential people in modern society. Everything I have been able to accomplish in life (most notably my admission into Columbia Law School,) has only been possible because of where and to whom I was born. While I did not appreciate this concept as a child or even as a college student, my recent acceptance of it led me to the conclusion that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Accordingly, I want to use the power I acquire at Columbia to effectuate social justice. But I have not yet figured out how to do so in a way that is practical for me.


ElieTFirstPaper 6 - 21 Jun 2013 - Main.ElieT
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The Kind of Lawyer I Want To Want To Be

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The Lawyer I Want to Be: Adding a Commitment to Social Justice to My Practice

 
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I hate bullshitting. I think this comes from my Israeli father, who says what’s on his mind and doesn’t to pull punches. When I see problems in society, I tend to think about them in this way. I pick them apart and try to analyze what causes them, how they proliferate, and how they can be solved. But I am also very practical. This comes from my mother, who, chooses her battles carefully and really thinks things through before acting. This quality causes me to brush many of the problems I identify aside as unsolvable, or to buy into them and allow them to proliferate further. This conflict has been a constant struggle for me. I want to want to be a lawyer who pursues meaningful goals by fixing the problems that I identify in the world. But I have not yet decided if this course is practical for me.
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The opportunities and successes that brought me to Columbia were largely a product of chance—complete luck of the draw. I was born into an upper-middle class family in the United States, attended two of the best universities in the world, and grew up knowing some of the most influential people in modern society. Everything I have been able to accomplish in life (most notably my admission into Columbia Law School,) has only been possible because of where and to whom I was born. While I did not appreciate this concept as a child or even as a college student, my recent acceptance of it led me to the conclusion that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Accordingly, I want to use the power I acquire at Columbia to effectuate social justice. But I have not yet figured out how to do so in a way that is practical for me.
 
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I came to law school with the intention of beginning my career in a big law firm. I planned to work my way up and eventually pursue a partner track with the firm or go in house with a sports, entertainment or media company. Coming into law school, I thought I’d like to be a prominent sports agent, the commissioner of a sports league, or private counsel to Hollywood executives and celebrities. My motivation for pursuing this track was twofold: I wanted to be involved in a “sexy” industry (that I believed I was interested in) and I wanted to be able to make a lot of money while doing so.
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I came to law school with the intention of becoming a prominent sports agent, the commissioner of a sports league, or private counsel to Hollywood executives and celebrities. My motivation for pursuing this track was twofold: I wanted to work in an industry I was passionate about and I wanted to make a lot of money while doing so. I believed that law school could get me these things and that as long as I worked hard, I would be able to achieve these material goals without much trouble. My experience as a first-year law student not only reaffirmed this belief, but strengthened it. I could easily spend a few years working in a law firm that represents major players in the sports and entertainment world, make the right connections, and forge a career for myself as a sports and entertainment lawyer. This is the road that many others have taken before me, and given Columbia’s network and prestige, it seems like an easy path to follow. However, I don’t believe such a career would satisfy me as I once thought it would, given my emerging desire to do something more meaningful with my life.
 
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However, as I have gone through law school, I have become more cognizant of the fact that I, as a future lawyer with an education from one of the best schools in the world, am one in a rare class of people who might be able to do justice in the world. I may be able to address some of the problems I have noticed in society and really make a difference. Further, I even feel somewhat responsible for effectuating justice. There are plenty of smart people out there, but very few have been given the opportunities to learn the tools and skills that I am acquiring in law school. “With great power comes great responsibility,” and I want to live up to that responsibility.

With this in mind, I am no longer confident in my previous plans—I am not sure that I will be happy pursuing a career in sports or entertainment law while real problems exist in society. In my view, to do so would render me a “sellout” to a certain extent; I would be operating within an unjust society to pursue my own economic, social, and material goals at the expense of making an important difference in the world. Rather, I believe my future happiness will stem from becoming a lawyer who is not afraid to question society, challenge the status quo, and start a revolution. But this new awareness has presented me with a number of concerns that I will have to overcome before I am able to commit to a career of effectuating change.

First, I do not know if such a career will provide me with enough money to be comfortable. While I realize that money does not buy complete happiness, I know that I will not be happy unless I acquire the wealth that I need to live my life as I have always envisioned it. This isn’t an exorbitant number, but it is significant enough to make me question whether I will be able to achieve it on my own. I know I could earn a great salary playing the corporate game, and I only hope to be able to earn that amount pursuing a career I am passionate about.

Moreover, I have realized that attempting to change the world will put me in danger. I am talking about being a lawyer who brings about justice by challenging dominant power structures to spark revolutions. My goal will be to uproot broken systems that support countless individuals who do not even understand the systems they are a part of. Average citizens will regard me as “the enemy” for challenging their potential sources of income, ideals, or insecurities and will want to do away with me in order to sustain the status quo. Leaders of these unjust organizations, ideas, and practices, will do whatever they must to remain in power. I will be as dangerous to myself as I will be to society.

I am considering trading a career of glitz and glamour for one as an outcast. While this is a bit unsettling, I would be willing to make this trade if it is for something I am truly passionate about. But I am not sure what I care about just yet. I am in a state of limbo. I will spend my remaining time in law school searching for the right opportunity, figuring out what I truly care about, and learning the skills to eventually make a difference in the world. In the end, it may be that what I care about most isn’t a particular problem in society, but rather the people around me. I wonder if I might be satisfied effectuating change for the people I most care about, rather than for society as a whole. This might be the only thing that I would risk my life for.

I think this rewrite improves the clarity and force of the statement, at the expense of realism. You're not actually considering life as an outcast, Elie. Nor should you. You're asking how you can add an acute sense of social outcomes, maybe even a commitment to social justice, to the work of supporting yourself in the style to which you want to become accustomed.

Your current draft says, basically, that if a world-moving passion showed up, you'd follow it anywhere. But that's not the temperament you consider yourself to have. Anyone could say that the world is well lost for love, and that in response to a Grand Passion they'd abandon it all for life on the beach with the object of their adoration. But in general the world adopts satisficing monogamy and finds itself living, Babbit-like, with gentle but ultimate disillusion.

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As I went through my first year of law school, I became more cognizant of the fact that I, as a future lawyer with an education from one of the best universities in the country, am one in a rare class of people who might be able to make a difference in the world. I even feel somewhat responsible for effectuating justice. There are plenty of smart people out there, but only a very small percentage of them have been given the same opportunities to learn and grow as I have. I don’t want to become a participant in a system that merely satisfies my own material goals at the expense of not doing justice in the world, as so many of my privileged contemporaries have. I want to help change the world. “With great power comes great responsibility,” and I want to live up to that responsibility.
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The question I have yet to answer is precisely how I will incorporate a commitment to social justice into my practice. While I know that pursuing my own economic, social, and material goals without regard to the world’s problems is not an option for me, I don’t plan to give up on making enough money to support myself in the style to which I want to become accustomed. I also still plan to work in a field that I am passionate about (whether it’s sports and entertainment or something else). But some part of what I do with my life must revolve around making the world better. This uncertainty is a bit unsettling, but I still have two years of law school (and an entire career) to figure it out. I will use my remaining time at Columbia to discover what I truly care about, search for new opportunities, and learn some of the skills that will help me change the world. This is a far cry from the way I approached the majority of my life, and I can’t wait to find out where it takes me.
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ElieTFirstPaper 5 - 18 Jun 2013 - Main.EbenMoglen
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The Kind of Lawyer I Want To Want To Be

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  I am considering trading a career of glitz and glamour for one as an outcast. While this is a bit unsettling, I would be willing to make this trade if it is for something I am truly passionate about. But I am not sure what I care about just yet. I am in a state of limbo. I will spend my remaining time in law school searching for the right opportunity, figuring out what I truly care about, and learning the skills to eventually make a difference in the world. In the end, it may be that what I care about most isn’t a particular problem in society, but rather the people around me. I wonder if I might be satisfied effectuating change for the people I most care about, rather than for society as a whole. This might be the only thing that I would risk my life for.
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You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:
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I think this rewrite improves the clarity and force of the statement, at the expense of realism. You're not actually considering life as an outcast, Elie. Nor should you. You're asking how you can add an acute sense of social outcomes, maybe even a commitment to social justice, to the work of supporting yourself in the style to which you want to become accustomed.

Your current draft says, basically, that if a world-moving passion showed up, you'd follow it anywhere. But that's not the temperament you consider yourself to have. Anyone could say that the world is well lost for love, and that in response to a Grand Passion they'd abandon it all for life on the beach with the object of their adoration. But in general the world adopts satisficing monogamy and finds itself living, Babbit-like, with gentle but ultimate disillusion.

 
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ElieTFirstPaper 4 - 07 Apr 2013 - Main.ElieT
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The Kind of Lawyer I Want To Want To Be

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I don’t believe in bullshitting. I think this comes from my Israeli father, who says what’s on his mind and does not to pull any punches. When I see problems in society, I think about them in this way. I pick them apart and try to analyze what causes them, how they proliferate in society, and how to solve them. But I am also very practical. This comes from my mother, who, chooses her battles carefully and really thinks things through before acting. This quality causes me to brush many of the problems I identify aside as “unsolvable,” or to buy into them and allow them to proliferate further. This conflict has been a constant struggle for me. I want to want to be a lawyer who pursues meaningful goals and changes the world. But I have not yet decided if it is practical for me.
>
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I hate bullshitting. I think this comes from my Israeli father, who says what’s on his mind and doesn’t to pull punches. When I see problems in society, I tend to think about them in this way. I pick them apart and try to analyze what causes them, how they proliferate, and how they can be solved. But I am also very practical. This comes from my mother, who, chooses her battles carefully and really thinks things through before acting. This quality causes me to brush many of the problems I identify aside as unsolvable, or to buy into them and allow them to proliferate further. This conflict has been a constant struggle for me. I want to want to be a lawyer who pursues meaningful goals by fixing the problems that I identify in the world. But I have not yet decided if this course is practical for me.
 
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I came to law school with the intention of starting my career in a big law firm and gradually working my way up in different organizations to accomplish something in sports. I have always had a strong background in sports, and upon coming to law school I thought that one day, I might like to be a prominent sports agent or the commissioner of a sports league. My motivation for this was multi-faceted. I wanted to be involved in an industry that I was really interested in, and I wanted to make a lot of money while doing it. Pursuing this course would require me to “sell out” to a certain extent – to operate within a system for the sake of achieving my own economic, social, and material goals and to forego the chance to make an important difference in the world. This is the track that I feel that I have been on ever since I got into law school, and until recently, I thought I would have no problem pursing it.
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I came to law school with the intention of beginning my career in a big law firm. I planned to work my way up and eventually pursue a partner track with the firm or go in house with a sports, entertainment or media company. Coming into law school, I thought I’d like to be a prominent sports agent, the commissioner of a sports league, or private counsel to Hollywood executives and celebrities. My motivation for pursuing this track was twofold: I wanted to be involved in a “sexy” industry (that I believed I was interested in) and I wanted to be able to make a lot of money while doing so.
 
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As I have gone through law school, I have thought more about the problems I recognize in society and have discovered numerous others. I have become cognizant of the fact that I, as a future lawyer with an education from one of the best schools in the world, am one of a rare class of people who might be able to do justice in the world. I am no longer sure that I can live a happy life pursing a career in sports law (or another brand of corporate law) while real problems exist in society. The adage “with great power comes great responsibility” seems to really resonate with me. I want to be a lawyer who is not afraid to challenge the dominant system and start a revolution.
>
>
However, as I have gone through law school, I have become more cognizant of the fact that I, as a future lawyer with an education from one of the best schools in the world, am one in a rare class of people who might be able to do justice in the world. I may be able to address some of the problems I have noticed in society and really make a difference. Further, I even feel somewhat responsible for effectuating justice. There are plenty of smart people out there, but very few have been given the opportunities to learn the tools and skills that I am acquiring in law school. “With great power comes great responsibility,” and I want to live up to that responsibility.
 
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However, this awareness has presented a number of concerns for me:
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With this in mind, I am no longer confident in my previous plans—I am not sure that I will be happy pursuing a career in sports or entertainment law while real problems exist in society. In my view, to do so would render me a “sellout” to a certain extent; I would be operating within an unjust society to pursue my own economic, social, and material goals at the expense of making an important difference in the world. Rather, I believe my future happiness will stem from becoming a lawyer who is not afraid to question society, challenge the status quo, and start a revolution. But this new awareness has presented me with a number of concerns that I will have to overcome before I am able to commit to a career of effectuating change.
 
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First, I do not know which issues I care about enough to want to pursue. I want to do meaningful work, but I also want to truly care and have a personal interest in what I am doing. Job satisfaction is really important to me.
>
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First, I do not know if such a career will provide me with enough money to be comfortable. While I realize that money does not buy complete happiness, I know that I will not be happy unless I acquire the wealth that I need to live my life as I have always envisioned it. This isn’t an exorbitant number, but it is significant enough to make me question whether I will be able to achieve it on my own. I know I could earn a great salary playing the corporate game, and I only hope to be able to earn that amount pursuing a career I am passionate about.
 
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Second, I do not yet know how to solve these big problems in society. A revolution cannot be started on a whim. It obviously has to be readily thought out and executed, accounting for every contingency, with every move planned out five steps in advance. I hope to learn the necessary strategic and tactical skills in law school, but I anticipate that I will need to extract as much as I can from Columbia’s network in order to do so. I may decide to work for a law firm for a few years to augment this process by borrowing their network.
>
>
Moreover, I have realized that attempting to change the world will put me in danger. I am talking about being a lawyer who brings about justice by challenging dominant power structures to spark revolutions. My goal will be to uproot broken systems that support countless individuals who do not even understand the systems they are a part of. Average citizens will regard me as “the enemy” for challenging their potential sources of income, ideals, or insecurities and will want to do away with me in order to sustain the status quo. Leaders of these unjust organizations, ideas, and practices, will do whatever they must to remain in power. I will be as dangerous to myself as I will be to society.
 
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Third, I do not know if this course will provide me with the amount of wealth that I need to be happy in life. Like everyone, I will need a certain amount of income, and I hope to be able to earn that amount pursuing a career I am passionate about. While I realize that money does not buy happiness, I do not think that I will achieve happiness solely through making a difference in the world either, and I fear that I might be lured by the promise of a paycheck and an opportunity to make this sum of money.
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I am considering trading a career of glitz and glamour for one as an outcast. While this is a bit unsettling, I would be willing to make this trade if it is for something I am truly passionate about. But I am not sure what I care about just yet. I am in a state of limbo. I will spend my remaining time in law school searching for the right opportunity, figuring out what I truly care about, and learning the skills to eventually make a difference in the world. In the end, it may be that what I care about most isn’t a particular problem in society, but rather the people around me. I wonder if I might be satisfied effectuating change for the people I most care about, rather than for society as a whole. This might be the only thing that I would risk my life for.
 
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Fourth, I believe that pursing such a course will put me in danger. I want to be a lawyer who brings about justice by challenging the dominant power structures to spark a revolution. My goal will be to uproot broken systems that many people are a part of and whose injustices are unknown or shrugged aside by most of the world. Numerous power structures and people will regard me as “the enemy” and will want to do away with me in order to remain in power. To make any successful change in society, then, I will have to become dangerous, and in doing so, I will put myself in harm’s way.

In theory, I am okay with all of this. For something I truly care about, I would be willing to put myself in harm’s way. But, I am not sure if I care about something that much yet. For the time being, I am in a state of limbo. I want to want to make a difference in the world, but it is hard to commit to doing so at the moment. While it makes me uncomfortable, I know that it’s alright to feel that way. I have at least two years before I have to commit to my first step, and will spend that time figuring out what I truly care about and learning the skills to eventually make a difference. If I don’t find such a thing, I know that I at least care about the people around me. In that case, perhaps starting my own practice and working for people I care about in order to make their lives easier would satisfy me.

 
You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable.

ElieTFirstPaper 3 - 01 Apr 2013 - Main.ElieT
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How to Change the World

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The Kind of Lawyer I Want To Want To Be

 
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Systems in Society

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I don’t believe in bullshitting. I think this comes from my Israeli father, who says what’s on his mind and does not to pull any punches. When I see problems in society, I think about them in this way. I pick them apart and try to analyze what causes them, how they proliferate in society, and how to solve them. But I am also very practical. This comes from my mother, who, chooses her battles carefully and really thinks things through before acting. This quality causes me to brush many of the problems I identify aside as “unsolvable,” or to buy into them and allow them to proliferate further. This conflict has been a constant struggle for me. I want to want to be a lawyer who pursues meaningful goals and changes the world. But I have not yet decided if it is practical for me.
 
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It is no secret that there are many structures in society that are in need of a massive overhaul. For instance, one such structure is the system of unpaid corporate internships. There is an inherent injustice in subjecting students to the lowest grade of work without compensating them a dime for their time. Most simply, organizations take advantage of students who want to gain real world experience by forcing them to work for free. Of course, the system justifies itself by providing students with school credit, but this only furthers the injustice done to students. Instead of simply working for free, students actually pay their schools for the credits they receive for participating in the internship. Certain educational programs even require students to engage in unpaid internships as a core part of their curriculum, further proliferating the problem. And the worse part of all is that students find themselves competing for the best unpaid internships, further empowering the structures that employ them.
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I came to law school with the intention of starting my career in a big law firm and gradually working my way up in different organizations to accomplish something in sports. I have always had a strong background in sports, and upon coming to law school I thought that one day, I might like to be a prominent sports agent or the commissioner of a sports league. My motivation for this was multi-faceted. I wanted to be involved in an industry that I was really interested in, and I wanted to make a lot of money while doing it. Pursuing this course would require me to “sell out” to a certain extent – to operate within a system for the sake of achieving my own economic, social, and material goals and to forego the chance to make an important difference in the world. This is the track that I feel that I have been on ever since I got into law school, and until recently, I thought I would have no problem pursing it.
 
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Why Don't Changes Occur Often?

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As I have gone through law school, I have thought more about the problems I recognize in society and have discovered numerous others. I have become cognizant of the fact that I, as a future lawyer with an education from one of the best schools in the world, am one of a rare class of people who might be able to do justice in the world. I am no longer sure that I can live a happy life pursing a career in sports law (or another brand of corporate law) while real problems exist in society. The adage “with great power comes great responsibility” seems to really resonate with me. I want to be a lawyer who is not afraid to challenge the dominant system and start a revolution.
 
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However, this awareness has presented a number of concerns for me:
 
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Changes don't occur often because change is constant. Your question would benefit from refinement. I think you are asking "Why Do the Powerful Win Almost All the Time When They Struggle with the Weak?" But perhaps that was not the question you meant to ask.
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First, I do not know which issues I care about enough to want to pursue. I want to do meaningful work, but I also want to truly care and have a personal interest in what I am doing. Job satisfaction is really important to me.
 
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Second, I do not yet know how to solve these big problems in society. A revolution cannot be started on a whim. It obviously has to be readily thought out and executed, accounting for every contingency, with every move planned out five steps in advance. I hope to learn the necessary strategic and tactical skills in law school, but I anticipate that I will need to extract as much as I can from Columbia’s network in order to do so. I may decide to work for a law firm for a few years to augment this process by borrowing their network.
 
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Despite the injustice of this system and many others like it in society, changes do not occur often. They are so established as “the way things work” that people buy into them and cause them to proliferate until they are so widespread that they become even harder to change. Do people not notice that systems are unjust? Do they notice but not care? Do they notice and care but think it’s impossible to change things, or are they too fearful to try? Or do people believe that is it easier to operate within a system as it is? Is it somehow easier or safer to adhere to a given system and play the game within it, according to prescribed rules, rather than uproot it and expose it for what it is? I came to law school to answer this question for myself.

Or was this not the system a little while ago? Perhaps the internship is a relatively recent development in the labor market? Perhaps the women with high school educations who used to be the poorly-paid literate administrative workers of the business world are being replaced, because of technology-driven change, with a much smaller number of tertiary degree-holders working in unpaid apprenticeships? Perhaps the right-wing economist is correct that people are presently paid zero who would be paid below minimum wage if we had no minimum wage laws, or had "youth wage" exemptions? Perhaps the left-wing political economist is correct who says that whether we call it apprenticeship, slavery, child labor, or internship, whether we pay it wages or withhold them altogether, is a detail of the underlying truth of exploitation, which is universal and remorseless, and which can only be slain and replaced, but which cannot be reasoned with or restrained? Could you be realizing by now the cumulatively negative effect of piling up rhetorical questions?

My Background

Before coming to law school, I was part of a system like this. Throughout college, I worked as an unpaid intern at a prominent sports agency, with the goal of working my way up within the organization. For a long time I was na´ve. I did not realize that I was being taken advantage of and I was happy to operate within the system because I enjoyed the prominence and the perks of what I was doing. But when I finally figured it out, my attitude didn’t really change. I understood that I was part of a system and that there was nothing I could do to change things. All that I could do was threaten to quit if they did not start paying me. Knowing the departmental budget as I did, I knew that the company would rather hire another intern than pay me to be a full time employee. So when I was ready to leave, I presented an ultimatum to the head of the department: hire me full time or I have to quit. As I expected, he passed on the opportunity. As much as I had become a part of their business, there were a hundred people in line ready to replace me. But what if there weren’t?

Then you would be a temporarily advantaged worker, with a market anomaly working in your favor.

What Can be Done?

There is a way to change this system. For instance, if someone could unify all the college and graduate students of the world to go on strike against unpaid internships, the practice would end one way or another. Either organizations would begin to pay their interns for their work, or they would realize that they didn’t need their services and would adjust their business models. Then schools would not be able to force their students into unpaid internships. To most readers, this might seem like a completely ridiculous idea. But why?

The best way to develop an idea is not to argue in its favor against someone who dismisses it as completely ridiculous. Such a conversation is unlikely to bring out the best in any participant. The way to develop an idea is to respond to an imagined interlocutor who shows the places where the idea is undeveloped.

Here, for example, an economist interlocutor will object that your economic model of the employment market is too simple to account well for the consequences of imaginary collective bargaining by interns. He would suggest you model, for example, the possible effect in moving those jobs inside the vast business outsourcing world that used to be "temp agencies." They want to take over all forms of office-park apprenticeship. Many companies that had to compete with very worker-positive job terms in order to get skilled workers in a labor-constrained market, like Microsoft, responded by outsourcing every other possible job in the organization, so that their very costly employment policies affected only the high-value non-managerial employees.

The strategist will object that you are postulating an enormous organizing effort among workers who are for many reasons traditionally very difficult to organize. No one knows how plausibly to perform that effort, even with far more than anyone's best guess as to available resources. Having assumed into existence an immensely complex and far-flung organizing effort, you are then using it to demand as an objective that workers be paid. This is not a plausibly sufficient demand. Paid how? The whole point of the employer's effort is to deny these workers the status of employee. They will acquire protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act. They cannot possibly be managerial employees exempt from overtime pay requirements. If they are full-time workers, they are entitled to minimum benefits, including employer contributions to Social Security and Medicare. If performing work in represented bargaining units, they are within the scope of collective bargaining agreements. Of course the employer would not have created those jobs under those terms. No employer ever voluntarily will.

But your actual original complaint had less to do with the wage, which apparently you were willing to do without, than the security of employment that you weren't ever going to have. You wanted the right to be considered for promotion on the basis of seniority. A union contract might have given that to you if you came within its terms.

Is it because people don’t care about this particular “problem”? Perhaps it does not have enough support to stage a revolution. Is it because, practically, this is an admittedly bad plan and would never work because it would be impossible to rally an entire nation of interns? Maybe. Is it because there is no better plan that can be devised? Possibly, but I would imagine that a creative lawyer could figure out a way to take on the system by going after certain companies for unfair employment practices. Are they afraid to upset established power structures? Probably. Or is it simply that people see value in existing within a given system rather than challenging it?

The Lawyer I Want to Be

I know that I want to be a lawyer who is not afraid to challenge the dominant system and start a revolution. But at the same time, I am unsure of its practical effects. A revolution cannot be started on a whim. It obviously has to be readily thought out and executed, accounting for every contingency, with every move planned out five steps in advance. Realistically, radical change is probably not feasible in a majority of circumstances. There will always be dominant power structures holding systems in place, and some will be harder to bring down than others. Additionally, it might not always be necessary to provoke and completely overhaul a system. If a goal can be accomplished within a system, there may be no need to uproot it just for the sake of doing so. But if my objectives are directly at odds with a system, or a cause presents itself that I am truly passionate about, I want to be able to change things. I want to be okay with the proposition of upsetting the power and to know how to do it without getting crushed. This will take a great deal of strategy and even more courage. I need to focus my law school learning on acquiring the skills and strategies to be able to operate both when revolution is necessary and when it is not, and to know when it is appropriate to employ either tactic.

To me, this is what it takes to change the world.

-- ElieT - 25 Feb 2013

As I've noted, the process of developing your idea was cut short by the form in which you interrogated it. Taken a little farther, by asking not whether the idea is ridiculous but rather where it is underdeveloped, we can see other possibilities. It seems clear, for example, that a union workplace would not tolerate unpaid internships preventing the formation of real entry-level jobs. The aggregate level of employment isn't necessarily going to be higher—though critics will no doubt accuse the union of multiplying workers to multiply dues—but the quality of the jobs will be a union priority. So why would one try to organize a far-flung, transient, young, low-leverage workforce with only a sprinkling of workers seasonally present in any business, instead of organizing the business' workers, who are geographically compact, and have preexisting networks of social engagement through common employment, residence, etc.?

If one realized, then, that the rise of the internship structure of white-collar unpaid apprenticeship grew up in the de-unionizing US of the Reagan Era, might one become a labor lawyer?

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Third, I do not know if this course will provide me with the amount of wealth that I need to be happy in life. Like everyone, I will need a certain amount of income, and I hope to be able to earn that amount pursuing a career I am passionate about. While I realize that money does not buy happiness, I do not think that I will achieve happiness solely through making a difference in the world either, and I fear that I might be lured by the promise of a paycheck and an opportunity to make this sum of money.
 
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Fourth, I believe that pursing such a course will put me in danger. I want to be a lawyer who brings about justice by challenging the dominant power structures to spark a revolution. My goal will be to uproot broken systems that many people are a part of and whose injustices are unknown or shrugged aside by most of the world. Numerous power structures and people will regard me as “the enemy” and will want to do away with me in order to remain in power. To make any successful change in society, then, I will have to become dangerous, and in doing so, I will put myself in harm’s way.
 
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In theory, I am okay with all of this. For something I truly care about, I would be willing to put myself in harm’s way. But, I am not sure if I care about something that much yet. For the time being, I am in a state of limbo. I want to want to make a difference in the world, but it is hard to commit to doing so at the moment. While it makes me uncomfortable, I know that it’s alright to feel that way. I have at least two years before I have to commit to my first step, and will spend that time figuring out what I truly care about and learning the skills to eventually make a difference. If I don’t find such a thing, I know that I at least care about the people around me. In that case, perhaps starting my own practice and working for people I care about in order to make their lives easier would satisfy me.
 
You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable.

ElieTFirstPaper 2 - 10 Mar 2013 - Main.EbenMoglen
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META TOPICPARENT name="FirstPaper"

How to Change the World

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Why Don't Changes Occur Often?

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Changes don't occur often because change is constant. Your question would benefit from refinement. I think you are asking "Why Do the Powerful Win Almost All the Time When They Struggle with the Weak?" But perhaps that was not the question you meant to ask.

 Despite the injustice of this system and many others like it in society, changes do not occur often. They are so established as “the way things work” that people buy into them and cause them to proliferate until they are so widespread that they become even harder to change. Do people not notice that systems are unjust? Do they notice but not care? Do they notice and care but think it’s impossible to change things, or are they too fearful to try? Or do people believe that is it easier to operate within a system as it is? Is it somehow easier or safer to adhere to a given system and play the game within it, according to prescribed rules, rather than uproot it and expose it for what it is? I came to law school to answer this question for myself.
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Or was this not the system a little while ago? Perhaps the internship is a relatively recent development in the labor market? Perhaps the women with high school educations who used to be the poorly-paid literate administrative workers of the business world are being replaced, because of technology-driven change, with a much smaller number of tertiary degree-holders working in unpaid apprenticeships? Perhaps the right-wing economist is correct that people are presently paid zero who would be paid below minimum wage if we had no minimum wage laws, or had "youth wage" exemptions? Perhaps the left-wing political economist is correct who says that whether we call it apprenticeship, slavery, child labor, or internship, whether we pay it wages or withhold them altogether, is a detail of the underlying truth of exploitation, which is universal and remorseless, and which can only be slain and replaced, but which cannot be reasoned with or restrained? Could you be realizing by now the cumulatively negative effect of piling up rhetorical questions?

 

My Background

Changed:
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Before coming to law school, I was part of a system like this. Throughout college, I worked as an unpaid intern at a prominent sports agency, with the goal of working my way up within the organization. For a long time I was na´ve. I did not realize that I was being taken advantage of and I was happy to operate within the system because I enjoyed the prominence and the perks of what I was doing. But when I finally figured it out, my attitude didn’t really change. I understood that I was part of a system and that there was nothing I could do to change things. All that I could do was threaten to quit if they did not start paying me. Knowing the departmental budget as I did, I knew that the company would rather hire another intern than pay me to be a full time employee. So when I was ready to leave, I presented an ultimatum to the head of the department: hire me full time or I ghave to quit. As I expected, he passed on the opportunity. As much as I had become a part of their business, there were a hundred people in line ready to replace me. But what if there weren’t?
>
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Before coming to law school, I was part of a system like this. Throughout college, I worked as an unpaid intern at a prominent sports agency, with the goal of working my way up within the organization. For a long time I was na´ve. I did not realize that I was being taken advantage of and I was happy to operate within the system because I enjoyed the prominence and the perks of what I was doing. But when I finally figured it out, my attitude didn’t really change. I understood that I was part of a system and that there was nothing I could do to change things. All that I could do was threaten to quit if they did not start paying me. Knowing the departmental budget as I did, I knew that the company would rather hire another intern than pay me to be a full time employee. So when I was ready to leave, I presented an ultimatum to the head of the department: hire me full time or I have to quit. As I expected, he passed on the opportunity. As much as I had become a part of their business, there were a hundred people in line ready to replace me. But what if there weren’t?

Then you would be a temporarily advantaged worker, with a market anomaly working in your favor.
 

What Can be Done?

Line: 20 to 52
 There is a way to change this system. For instance, if someone could unify all the college and graduate students of the world to go on strike against unpaid internships, the practice would end one way or another. Either organizations would begin to pay their interns for their work, or they would realize that they didn’t need their services and would adjust their business models. Then schools would not be able to force their students into unpaid internships. To most readers, this might seem like a completely ridiculous idea. But why?
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The best way to develop an idea is not to argue in its favor against someone who dismisses it as completely ridiculous. Such a conversation is unlikely to bring out the best in any participant. The way to develop an idea is to respond to an imagined interlocutor who shows the places where the idea is undeveloped.

Here, for example, an economist interlocutor will object that your economic model of the employment market is too simple to account well for the consequences of imaginary collective bargaining by interns. He would suggest you model, for example, the possible effect in moving those jobs inside the vast business outsourcing world that used to be "temp agencies." They want to take over all forms of office-park apprenticeship. Many companies that had to compete with very worker-positive job terms in order to get skilled workers in a labor-constrained market, like Microsoft, responded by outsourcing every other possible job in the organization, so that their very costly employment policies affected only the high-value non-managerial employees.

The strategist will object that you are postulating an enormous organizing effort among workers who are for many reasons traditionally very difficult to organize. No one knows how plausibly to perform that effort, even with far more than anyone's best guess as to available resources. Having assumed into existence an immensely complex and far-flung organizing effort, you are then using it to demand as an objective that workers be paid. This is not a plausibly sufficient demand. Paid how? The whole point of the employer's effort is to deny these workers the status of employee. They will acquire protection under the Fair Labor Standards Act. They cannot possibly be managerial employees exempt from overtime pay requirements. If they are full-time workers, they are entitled to minimum benefits, including employer contributions to Social Security and Medicare. If performing work in represented bargaining units, they are within the scope of collective bargaining agreements. Of course the employer would not have created those jobs under those terms. No employer ever voluntarily will.

But your actual original complaint had less to do with the wage, which apparently you were willing to do without, than the security of employment that you weren't ever going to have. You wanted the right to be considered for promotion on the basis of seniority. A union contract might have given that to you if you came within its terms.

 Is it because people don’t care about this particular “problem”? Perhaps it does not have enough support to stage a revolution. Is it because, practically, this is an admittedly bad plan and would never work because it would be impossible to rally an entire nation of interns? Maybe. Is it because there is no better plan that can be devised? Possibly, but I would imagine that a creative lawyer could figure out a way to take on the system by going after certain companies for unfair employment practices. Are they afraid to upset established power structures? Probably. Or is it simply that people see value in existing within a given system rather than challenging it?

The Lawyer I Want to Be

Line: 31 to 107
 -- ElieT - 25 Feb 2013
Added:
>
>

As I've noted, the process of developing your idea was cut short by the form in which you interrogated it. Taken a little farther, by asking not whether the idea is ridiculous but rather where it is underdeveloped, we can see other possibilities. It seems clear, for example, that a union workplace would not tolerate unpaid internships preventing the formation of real entry-level jobs. The aggregate level of employment isn't necessarily going to be higher—though critics will no doubt accuse the union of multiplying workers to multiply dues—but the quality of the jobs will be a union priority. So why would one try to organize a far-flung, transient, young, low-leverage workforce with only a sprinkling of workers seasonally present in any business, instead of organizing the business' workers, who are geographically compact, and have preexisting networks of social engagement through common employment, residence, etc.?

If one realized, then, that the rise of the internship structure of white-collar unpaid apprenticeship grew up in the de-unionizing US of the Reagan Era, might one become a labor lawyer?

 
You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

ElieTFirstPaper 1 - 25 Feb 2013 - Main.ElieT
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Added:
>
>
META TOPICPARENT name="FirstPaper"

How to Change the World

Systems in Society

It is no secret that there are many structures in society that are in need of a massive overhaul. For instance, one such structure is the system of unpaid corporate internships. There is an inherent injustice in subjecting students to the lowest grade of work without compensating them a dime for their time. Most simply, organizations take advantage of students who want to gain real world experience by forcing them to work for free. Of course, the system justifies itself by providing students with school credit, but this only furthers the injustice done to students. Instead of simply working for free, students actually pay their schools for the credits they receive for participating in the internship. Certain educational programs even require students to engage in unpaid internships as a core part of their curriculum, further proliferating the problem. And the worse part of all is that students find themselves competing for the best unpaid internships, further empowering the structures that employ them.

Why Don't Changes Occur Often?

Despite the injustice of this system and many others like it in society, changes do not occur often. They are so established as “the way things work” that people buy into them and cause them to proliferate until they are so widespread that they become even harder to change. Do people not notice that systems are unjust? Do they notice but not care? Do they notice and care but think it’s impossible to change things, or are they too fearful to try? Or do people believe that is it easier to operate within a system as it is? Is it somehow easier or safer to adhere to a given system and play the game within it, according to prescribed rules, rather than uproot it and expose it for what it is? I came to law school to answer this question for myself.

My Background

Before coming to law school, I was part of a system like this. Throughout college, I worked as an unpaid intern at a prominent sports agency, with the goal of working my way up within the organization. For a long time I was na´ve. I did not realize that I was being taken advantage of and I was happy to operate within the system because I enjoyed the prominence and the perks of what I was doing. But when I finally figured it out, my attitude didn’t really change. I understood that I was part of a system and that there was nothing I could do to change things. All that I could do was threaten to quit if they did not start paying me. Knowing the departmental budget as I did, I knew that the company would rather hire another intern than pay me to be a full time employee. So when I was ready to leave, I presented an ultimatum to the head of the department: hire me full time or I ghave to quit. As I expected, he passed on the opportunity. As much as I had become a part of their business, there were a hundred people in line ready to replace me. But what if there weren’t?

What Can be Done?

There is a way to change this system. For instance, if someone could unify all the college and graduate students of the world to go on strike against unpaid internships, the practice would end one way or another. Either organizations would begin to pay their interns for their work, or they would realize that they didn’t need their services and would adjust their business models. Then schools would not be able to force their students into unpaid internships. To most readers, this might seem like a completely ridiculous idea. But why?

Is it because people don’t care about this particular “problem”? Perhaps it does not have enough support to stage a revolution. Is it because, practically, this is an admittedly bad plan and would never work because it would be impossible to rally an entire nation of interns? Maybe. Is it because there is no better plan that can be devised? Possibly, but I would imagine that a creative lawyer could figure out a way to take on the system by going after certain companies for unfair employment practices. Are they afraid to upset established power structures? Probably. Or is it simply that people see value in existing within a given system rather than challenging it?

The Lawyer I Want to Be

I know that I want to be a lawyer who is not afraid to challenge the dominant system and start a revolution. But at the same time, I am unsure of its practical effects. A revolution cannot be started on a whim. It obviously has to be readily thought out and executed, accounting for every contingency, with every move planned out five steps in advance. Realistically, radical change is probably not feasible in a majority of circumstances. There will always be dominant power structures holding systems in place, and some will be harder to bring down than others. Additionally, it might not always be necessary to provoke and completely overhaul a system. If a goal can be accomplished within a system, there may be no need to uproot it just for the sake of doing so. But if my objectives are directly at odds with a system, or a cause presents itself that I am truly passionate about, I want to be able to change things. I want to be okay with the proposition of upsetting the power and to know how to do it without getting crushed. This will take a great deal of strategy and even more courage. I need to focus my law school learning on acquiring the skills and strategies to be able to operate both when revolution is necessary and when it is not, and to know when it is appropriate to employ either tactic.

To me, this is what it takes to change the world.

-- ElieT - 25 Feb 2013


You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

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