Law in Contemporary Society

Skill, Power, & Fulfillment


“Power, skill, and fulfillment.” Ever since my last-minute transition from medicine into law, I have known that this was what I wanted to get out of my professional life. For me, power and skill are closely related. Skill is the internal set of abilities that one can develop, such as perception, persuasion, and aptitude in argument. Power is the set of external factors, money, connections, and status that are necessary for one to optimally exercise their skills. Fulfillment is a more difficult concept for me. I have always known that I wanted to help people, but the challenge was to find a way to help people while doing something I liked. Thus I pursued my passion in philosophy and argument, and went to law school. Through law, I hoped to enjoy the development of my skills and power and somehow find a way to help people in the process. I hoped that through this approach, I would be able to find fulfillment.

Law School Blinders

My first semester in law school played a nasty trick on me- it made me forget why I came to law school. Through a series of events that I now describe as “corporate brainwashing,” I was manipulated and packaged into the typical Columbia Law Student. The worst part was that I thought I was avoiding this trap. I saw my friends being pushed towards a goal that I never intended for myself, and I didn’t realize that it was happening to me as well. I forgot about all my ambitions to improve the world and got right in line to sell myself for $160,000 a year. Power and skill had been dangled before me, and I took the bait without noticing the hook. I was caught, and I would be lose my freedom in exchange for a paycheck, a paycheck that was the only was to avoid being crushed by the cloud of debt that would soon hang over me.


With a little “encouragement,” I was able to see that I had been fooled. I realized that my outlandish professor wasn’t trying to demoralize or dishearten me, but was trying to show me that I was going down a path I didn’t intend – and I didn’t have to continue. I came to see there were nearly infinite options before me. There were many other ways to make money and develop myself as a lawyer, and how foolish had I been to ever think that there weren’t. I still could work for a law firm, if I happened to find one that suited my needs and would foster my development, but I had a choice. I have never been the type to self-doubt, and would like to think that I am less risk averse than most (but who wouldn’t), but the indoctrination of law school had blinded me. Then I opened my eyes. The mass “submit application here,” process does not always lead to the best path, and I had reached the point in my life where I may need to find my own.

My original plan was to maximize my potential skill and power, then go off and help people. Then I heard something that made me reconsider. “Know what is enough.” Personally, I never have. I knew that if I pursued this tactic I would become trapped in the cycle of creating a perfect resume, and that when I finally decided to apply myself to helping people I would have absolutely no practical skills. An even worse possibility was that eventually I would wake up exhausted and unsatisfied, and realize that I had done nothing other than make myself into a useful tool. I realized that to spend more time developing my potential without actually doing anything was a waste. Now, it is time for me to start helping people, and to find a way to develop my skills and power along the way. Having the potential to do great things means next to nothing if that potential is never realized.

My Path

Now that I understand my path more clearly, I can begin to focus on where exactly I would like that path to lead me. I am naturally drawn to criminal defense because of injustices I have witnessed in that field. My brief experience thus far working with the Federal Defender has reinforced this belief. The motivation that I feel knowing that my efforts can change someone’s life is exactly the passion that I had hoped to experience when I found my profession. However, I would like to think I have become enlightened enough to realize that there are always other options. I know that whatever I choose, I want to make a difference in the world. There are many ways to change one man’s life; a criminal proceeding is only one, which brings me to my final revelation.

Perhaps it is not my role to change one life at a time, although, it is certainly rewarding and it is where I will start, both this summer and next year as I work with the Harlem Defenders. Just as I have begun to see outside the law school bubble of oppressive loans and law firms, I have begun trying to see outside my personal views. The effect that can be had on a single person is profound. However, what if everyone thinks the same way? The system is broken, and I must decide if I will play within the rules, or change them. This is the question that I will continue to explore for the rest of my time in law school, and perhaps long after. Maybe helping one person at a time is selfish of me, it certainly is rewarding, even with the small effects I have had thus far. However, I cannot think of a better way to develop my skills and power while I search for my own way to best impact the world.

-- BrianHooven - 08 Apr 2013

A little grandiose in spots, where some editing for modesty may come to seem to you like a good idea when you read it over again years from now. But otherwise not a bad statement of youthful bravado and the onset of commitment. Let's see how it and you wear together....


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r4 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:23:38 - IanSullivan
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