Law in Contemporary Society

Being Creative In Law School: Disengaging From Self-Deception

-- By AmandaCabal - 25 Feb 2020

The Law Student's Creed

Every student who comes to Columbia Law School comes in with a creed. I know this because we all had to write a personal statement in order to apply. This essay is supposed to say something about why we want to be here and why we deserve to be here. It is not supposed to say that one wishes to study the law because one is fascinated with the intricacies of legal academia. Instead, you are expected to talk about what you wish to do with the degree itself, the law degree is supposed to be a means to an end. The very writing of this essay is an assertive act. And, by choosing to attend law school, we are committing ourselves to the vision we have outlined.

Deciding to Attend Law School Necessitates Deception

The school actively encourages self-deception, requiring essays about one’s commitment to some high ideal. It seems to be a forgone conclusion that these missions are thinly veiled lies. Or else I hope they are. Otherwise students are applying to law school with an essay whose titles read: “My Dream Job is to Spend Seven Years Merging a Small Telecommunication Company with a Slightly Larger Telecommunication Company.” The person reading these essays and evaluating our candidacy must take us at our word. Mine talked about my passion for incarcerated persons’ rights and how I hoped to contribute to the decarceration movement in New York State. I believe that this mission of mine has already been compromised by my decision to attend law school. I chose to approach my goals by spending three years accumulating debt. I will now have spent three fewer years contributing in a meaningful way to what I supposedly care about, and be more limited in the ways I can help due to my significant student loan payments.

Law Students are therefore engaged in deceit from the minute they apply. Deceit entails the conscious misleading of someone to believe that something untrue is in fact true. If my personal statement was a one-hundred percent accurate reflection about my career goals, I wouldn’t be here. No one would be. Much like a corporation, the law student is saying one thing and doing another. If every one of us has an overarching goal, some cause they care about, I would contend that there is always a better way to achieve that goal rather than spending years getting a law degree. For instance, I could be working for any one of the many nonprofits in New York State. So why aren’t I? I truly do feel passionate about decarceration, however, I failed to mention in my application that I have a huge ego that will be nicely padded with an ivy league law degree. The opportunity to make six figures straight out of school didn’t dissuade me either.

So What Now?

We’re already here, deceiving ourselves and those around us. I only wonder if there is an answer past “drop out.” This seems to make logical sense, since every second that we spend in pursuit of our law degree is another second that we’re not pursuing what we are truly “passionate” about. But being the risk averse, ego-maniacs we are, I will posit that no one, including myself, is going to do that.

I would argue that the second best option, in order to sleep peacefully at night is to actively fight against the deception, both to the outside world and to ourselves. Perhaps if attorneys and law students engaged in more open discourse regarding their careers we would find less college undergraduates convinced that the only way to participate in the environmental protection or educational equality or human rights advocacy is the pursuit of a law degree. Law Schools are fundamentally opposed to less people applying and paying to apply to their institutions, so it becomes imperative that individuals take up this mantle.

As for ourselves, we must resist the urge to continually justify our choice to get a law degree to ourselves. I think, in order to stop the self-deception, one must first recognize that we are all operating under fundamental misgivings about why we are here. I hope that in truly examining my own narrative, and realizing that it is more my ego than anything that drove me to be at this school, I can resist self-deception in the future. If I were to participate in EIP this Summer, it would only be to prove to my classmates that I am as accomplished as them, and prove to my parents that I’m a success by telling them what I was getting paid. But I could very easily justify it to myself by saying that working for a large firm would help me learn necessary skills in a short period of time and pay down my debt quickly as a stepping stone to what I actually want to be doing with my career. But if I don’t do that, if I commit myself to doing what I say I want to do, I will be actively disengaging from the self-deception that has painted my academic career from the minute I applied here. I’m not sure if this is a creative goal, or even a worthy one. But from where I stand at the present, it seems to be the only way in which to truly go about my day knowing that I am an active participant in my own career path.


Webs Webs

r1 - 25 Feb 2020 - 01:02:37 - AmandaCabal
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