Law in Contemporary Society
I have wanted to be a lawyer for a long time. The story of how I came to that realization is a cute one: Harry Potter features prominently, my mother is another main character, and the rest is a mixture of my interests in politics, government, and a healthy heaping of just plain luck. But that is a story for another day. Instead, I want to discuss what I think the law is, and the things I think it can help me achieve.

For me, the law is nothing more than a means to an end, the end in this case being success. What do I define as success, you ask? Well, the day I will know I have succeeded is the day I can recline in a chair in my own living room with a cold beverage in my hand and with a wife and children that are well taken care of. Is this truly all I want in life? In truth, no – in fact the beverage is strictly optional. But raising a family and having the resources to do so comfortably is the milestone that I am aiming for in the next, say, ten years.

How will I achieve this first milestone? Through the law, of course. How exactly will I use the law to get there? I don’t have the slightest. So I guess the next logical question is what would I use the law for if I could wield it to any purpose I chose? Well, I have never been particularly interested in business, so I know I would not go to a law firm. The only thing I really would have any desire to do with the law is help people. Okay, well and good. Now which people would I help in particular if I could use the law for anything?

When I first came to the United States, I landed in Boston, MA, a city with a large population of Ugandans. During my first few months in the country, I frequented a church comprised entirely of Ugandans: some born here in the United States, but most, like me, migrants to the U.S. Unfortunately, more than half of the congregation at this church is undocumented.

Occasionally, non-profit organizations that specialize in aiding immigrant communities will come speak at this church. Their representative, always a white man or woman, will stand at the pulpit and provide details about upcoming information sessions where the undocumented among the congregation can go to receive information about the process. The congregation always listens attentively. They will even applaud on cue after the short talk. But the moment this (usually the only) white man or woman in the church has left, they will laugh amongst themselves at this new deportation trap that they believe the government is trying to spring on them.

The Ugandan community is deeply apprehensive of the government. They love this country, which is why they are so afraid that one day the powers-that-be are going to crack down and send them all back to the motherland. They have a deep-seated mistrust for lawyers, a trait that is not unique to Ugandans, but perhaps more amplified amongst them. There are only two occasions on which the Ugandans in this church usually interact with lawyers: either when one of them has run afoul of the law, or when he/she is found out by the Department of Homeland Security. Without any lawyers in the church, they struggle to find guidance on how to deal with the law and the system.

If I could use the law to do only one thing after graduation, it would be to help these Ugandans and all other people like them. The law may be a set of rules, it may be the whims of a judge, or it may be a moral code – ever changing based on whose morality we think is important at any given point in time. But to these people, my people, it is simply the difference between staying in America with their families and all that they have built for themselves, and getting sent back to Uganda.

So my understanding of the law, despite nearly a year of education at one of the leading law schools in the country, is still quite similar to that of the “bad man” in Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “Path of the Law”. It is not that I do not care about the intricacies and history of the law – indeed, I must know them if I hope to succeed at this law school. But every time I return to Boston, none of my fellow Ugandans cares for my views on legislative tort reform versus judicial restraint to reduce frivolous suits. They could not care less about fee simples or fee tails. And they certainly do not want to be bored with talk of which way I think the Supreme Court will rule in Fisher v. University of Texas. All these people want to know is whether that unpaid parking ticket will get him deported, or if enrolling at a community college will put her in the crosshairs of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

So for me, if the law were all about using it to do what I want to do (which I admit it ought to be), then I would learn it and use it first and foremost to help this community. Outside of that, I am not really sure what I would use the law to do.

As I have previously intimated, a big challenge for me, as with most other law students, is figuring out how to repay loans. So the challenge for me between now and graduation is to figure out how to do what I want to do with the law without becoming a slave to debt: a thing that I did not think was possible through any way except the firm route before I attended this class.


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r4 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:15:32 - IanSullivan
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