Law in Contemporary Society

Time Waits for Nothing

Entering a profession where time is both literally and figuratively of the essence, I have realized that how much success I achieve in my life will be dependent on how I view time. Time places constraints on how lawyers and people in society operate. While there are instances where one has control over her outcomes, there are also periods when her results appear to be based solely on time. In turn, one's perspective on this relationship determines whether one views time as enabling or inhibiting. For much of my law school career, I have felt powerless in light of what was expected of me in relation to the time I was meant to fulfill those hopes. Recently, I have come to the realization that power isn't solely derived by time. There are other forces at work, namely preparation, that allow time to afford certain outcomes.

In Light of My Law School Experience

In analyzing my law school experience, I can't help but notice how my conception of time has changed from one of empowerment to a thought of stifling. In college, asking a professor for an extension on a paper was something that was openly talked about without shame. If a student didn't believe that her work would be of quality, she was not forced to turn it in. There was an instance when I didn't turn in a term paper until two months after the initial deadline and still received an A in the class. That's not to say that I didn't respect the deadlines that my professors set for me. Alternatively, I came to appreciate the pursuit of a particular piece of knowledge and the level of comprehension necessary to create a thoughtful analysis. I felt I had more control over my actions and subsequently, my time. Although I loved the ways in which my college experience allowed me to grow personally and professionally, it did not prepare me for how I would be expected to use my time at Columbia Law School. Columbia has shown me repeatedly that taking one's time is not the way of the world; there is a time to take in information and a time frame to use that information. Those in law school who can learn and apply this way of thinking will succeed while those who do not adapt quickly enough will not. In other words, law school wasn't going to wait for me to adjust.

How One is Controlled by Time

I have not only seen the power of time on people who practice law, but also on those who are impacted by legal and policy decisions. Lack of control in a situation can make it seem as though time is the determining factor. The Family Center, a non-profit full service agency, provides those who have been impacted by severe illnesses legal advice on matters such as advance directives, housing, and benefits. Even though, as an intern, I was more familiar with legal procedures and laws in comparison to many of the agency's clients, I continued to feel a lack of control. Advance directives are a case in point; reaching someone at a particular time had implications for whether someone's loved ones knew their final wishes before she passed away. The circumstances I have observed this summer are effectively captured in Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc? . LeBlanc? follows the young mother Coco as she lives an impoverished life and searches for government assistance that will provide her young family with a sense of consistency. Unfortunately, because of the ways in which the welfare programs are constantly being adjusted, Coco falls short or misses out on opportunities that would have been available to her had she known about the programs and applied to them earlier. Not being prepared, or aware of the various plans at the time, forces Coco to lose out. Time isn't on her side because she doesn't have the ability to use her personal actions to shape her present situation.

How One Controls Their Time

Although there are certain situations where one doesn't believe she has control over her time, there continues to be ways in which she can make time work in her favor. Within the law, time can control who becomes successful and how successfully lawyers can deal with the matters of their clients. In Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Gladwell discusses how the rise of certain law firms coincided with new trends in the legal profession. Specifically, he analyzed how Jewish law firms in New York were able to prosper in a professional environment that had previously ignored them. Since Jewish lawyers had been excluded from certain aspects of the legal profession, they developed skills in areas of the law that other law firms weren't interested in practicing. As the demands of clients changed, the skills the Jewish lawyers had acquired were suddenly valuable. Jewish lawyers may not have been in control of time but they were in control of their actions. When the time came, they were able to adjust and work with new opportunities because they were prepared. By having some level of control over what they did, they were able to take advantage of time.

Accepting Time Limitations

When I believed time created arbitrary results, I viewed it as an oppressive force. The divergent ways that time impacts one's life can create a sense of powerlessness as is the case with Coco struggles to maintain stability. Her narrative isn't exclusive; the ways in which Jewish lawyers used their skills to transition into the mainstream serves as a direct challenge. The narrative of Jewish Lawyers is one of empowerment and control through preparation. Their ability to achieve newfound success reflects the idea that time will only limit you as much as you are unable to prepare for it. Time may not wait for anything, but one can lay the groundwork and wait for time to work for her.

-- By JenniferAnderson - 19 Aug 2012


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r13 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:10:31 - IanSullivan
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