Law in Contemporary Society

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GregorySuhrSecondEssay 1 - 04 Jun 2017 - Main.GregorySuhr
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First Semester

My first year at law school taught me the power of inertia: the tendency to remain unchanged. From day one, I followed the mantra I heard at orientation: “You were all successful in undergrad. Just do whatever you did there, and you will be successful here.” Now that I look back on it, unless our orientation speakers meant we should binge drink and skip all of our classes, which I have yet to try in law school, I am not sure what common undergraduate practice they were beckoning to that would translate to laying the foundation for a legal career. But in the first semester, I did what I thought they were suggesting; I did everything I was told needed doing. I read every case, every footnote, took reading-notes, read those notes before class, took notes in class, and forgot it all by the next day. I prided myself on my “work ethic.” "First one in, last one out," I would think to myself, all the while accomplishing nothing worth carrying with me to the following year.

One of the first few days of second semester, I heard a girl talking on the phone in JG. She was advising somebody on a contract. I could tell it was a long-term project, because she was referencing several pieces, coordinating many moving parts. She looked relaxed, the kind of relaxation that comes with complete command. Maybe she was a 3L, and it was unreasonable to compare myself to her. Still, I could not help but to feel that she was building something, while I was not. She had something real to say, and all I had to say was a regurgitation of that day’s reading. That moment killed me. It was not the moment when grades came out, nor the moments where job interviews were granted or denied, but that moment when some girl talking way too loud on her phone forced me to reflect on what I had to show for sixteen weeks of hard work. While checking off the boxes of somebody else’s lesson plan, I failed to develop my own career plan. I was happy to drown in reading so that I would never have to think more than five days ahead about where my life was going.

Inertia (The Opposing Force to Your Semester of Advice)

I vowed to do something about it. I had a whole semester of time to revamp how I approached law school. I told myself I would seek out advice from experienced attorneys, really lean on that Columbia network people always talk about. OR I could read every case, every footnote, and so on. I knew the latter option too well to give it up that easily, it allowed me to go into auto-pilot, and it came with its own ready-to-use plan. So, in an effort to prove just how passive I can be, I fell right back into my first semester routine, suppressing how it had just lead me to a sense of being soul-crushingly underwhelmed. You can guess how I felt when 1L ended.

My Point

I remember you telling us that we cannot get good at something by never doing it. This was illustrated cogently by my 1L experience. However, despite the tone of my essay, I am fairly hopeful. 1L made me angry enough to believe that transforming my approach is absolutely imperative. I can already see a change in my behavior at my summer job. I asked my supervisor to grab coffee a few days ago, because he has done impressive things with his career and I want him to have my back when I leave. I bothered a judge in the cafeteria today, just to shake his hand and introduce myself. I am not sure what I wanted from him, neither is he, but it was big for me to do that, instead of just imagining doing it (baby steps). Still, some days I am less inspired. I stay at my desk and avoid thinking of how I might go about drawing value from an office full of accomplished attorneys, content to over-research for my brief instead. That is inertia.

With a couple hundred words to spare, I will get to the point: what kind of lawyer do I want to be? I guess I could have written about possible practice areas or my plan for social change, but I do not have a strong grasp on those yet (see first essay). I feel that the biggest obstacle in my legal career right now is my complacency. I felt writing this rant would better benefit me down the line when that complacency comes creeping back in.

I want to be a lawyer that knows how empty it feels to toil away at creating nothing of his own. I want to remember how it felt to spin my wheels for 32 weeks, 12 hours a day, only to come out the other end without having added value to myself. I am nearly certain that means I need my own practice. 1L taught me that, although it feels safe to do so, I am not satisfied checking off the boxes of somebody else’s plan. I need my work to be an extension of myself, which seems most attainable by starting a private practice. I am not exactly sure what it looks like, all I know is that I can start to draw it by examining experienced lawyers. So, I will keep shaking the hands of judges in the cafeteria. I will keep asking the experienced attorneys in my office to get coffee. I will keep forcing myself to collect applicable advice and valuable allies until that behavior becomes natural. When I come back to school and the same pressures sink in, I will have to make the same choice I made after 1L winter break: blindly follow the syllabus or make myself known to the circle I have been invited into. I should reread this essay then.

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Revision 1r1 - 04 Jun 2017 - 19:16:23 - GregorySuhr
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