Law in Contemporary Society

The Kind of Lawyer I Want To Be

-- By JulieParet - 19 Apr 2013

Phase I: Good Fortune

I never had dreams of working at a top law firm, or even of attending a top law school. In college, I skated by with good grades as an English major based almost entirely off my ability to crank out a paper at 2 in the morning, never really working harder than I had to. My good grades mostly came down to a few all-nighters I spent locked in Bertrand Library, typing furiously up until the deadline, sometimes without having read the book, and somehow still pulling off an A or A- paper.

I told myself early on that I did not care where I went to law school, partly as a defense mechanism, and partly because I really didn’t. I was a shoo-in at University of Connecticut, where my tuition would be cut in half, and where I knew I could excel. It was beautiful, close to home, was ranked 50th or so among most “Top Law School” websites, and graduated the highest percentage of female judges in the state. This was good enough for me.

And then, the envelope from Columbia came in the mail, and for good or for bad, I would never be the same.

Phase II: Entering the Jungle

As I looked around me this fall, life as I knew it came to a screeching halt. I was prepared for this only as much as I could have been, which was very little. Everyone had told me how much work law school is, or how much “1L sucks.” Yet I did not appreciate the full meaning of these sentiments until I set foot at Columbia this past August.

My comprehension that this kind of perfunctory approach was no longer going to cut it became painfully acute as I began to realize what I had gotten myself into. A new language, a new environment, and a new species, where everyone is impossibly smart and each person has more drive than the next. Between the so-called “gunners” and their endless need to prove their intellect, I still question whether Columbia was the right fit for me.

It was not until this fall that I ever remotely considered myself a “minority.” But as I looked around at my fellow classmates, that is exactly how I felt. It was a hard adjustment, and one that I am still struggling to make. As I faught to adapt to this new environment, acquire a new language, all the while maintaining my sanity, I slowly began to realize that there was an entirely separate dialect that had previously escaped my attention. It was the career talk. It was subtle, but it was there. You had to listen for it; it was in the way people would say Wachtell, the way people would revere any 2L or 3L going to work for Skadden, and the bits and pieces that I slowly began to parse my way through. I still remember the first time, when I asked, “what is EIP?” and someone asked me if I was serious.

Phase III: The Bigger Picture

It is easy to lose sight of who you are at a school like Columbia, where we are all trapped inside of a tiny bubble in which self-worth seems to be measured by your grades, what journal you’re on, or what firm did or didn’t extend you an offer. It is especially easy for someone like me, who came to law school with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do, to see the clearest path and take it—go work at a big law firm—because we are taught little else.

Ironically, I came to Columbia because of the doors it would open for me. But now that I am here, they all seem to lead to the same place. Despite all of its flaws, however, I also realize that I have been blessed with an enormous privilege, one that I have been powerfully reminded that I do not deserve any more than someone else, who simply did not have the same opportunities that I have been so fortunate to have had.

I was sitting in my weekly property TA session when I received the most horrifying text of my entire life from my older sister: "Bomb just went off in front of me. I'm okay. I don't know where Hayley (our little sister, who was also at the marathon) is." I felt the blood rush from my head and my eyes instantly well up with hot, panicked tears as I ran out of the room, almost collapsing in the hallway as I pulled up my sister's number on my phone. I paced hysterically as I tried to get through, but the phone lines were down from so many people trying to call. After ten long minutes, I finally heard news that she was okay.

That night, I prayed for the first time in a very long time. I said thanks to whoever let both of my sisters escape unharmed. They, unlike so many others, were incredibly lucky. And I, unlike so many other family members, get to move on with my life relatively unchanged. But I will never forget the complete terror that I felt for those ten minutes for as long as I live.

I don't yet know what I want to do with my degree. However, I have realized now, more than ever, that I want to affect positive change in the world. Not only that I want to, but that I HAVE to—because I am no longer content to sit back and hope that somebody else does it for me.

As with the first essay, the problem with this draft is in making the connection between your record of personal experience and the ideas the essay is helping the reader take away. Here we are shown your feeling of identity dislocation adjusting to the culture of the law school, followed by an evocation of your panic when you learn your sisters have been in danger. The reader is very likely to sympathize with these feelings. But your goal is to evoke more than sympathy, and the ideas you mean to communicate are apparently more elusive. The goal in revision should be to link together more closely the fact that certain life experiences have happened to you, and the ideas you are currently entertaining about how to practice your chosen profession.

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