Law in Contemporary Society

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.

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.

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.

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.


Webs Webs

r7 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:15:33 - IanSullivan
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