Law in Contemporary Society

Things I Will Remind Myself as I Metamorphosize into a Lawyer

-- By LilianKlatskin - 28 Feb 2020

My statement on being creative in law school will (ironically, perhaps) be structured upon a remarkably common trope of the 1L curriculum: a two-prong inquiry. I have realized two distinct parts of what it means for me to be creative in law school: creativity in the discipline of law itself, and creativity in imagining my future as a lawyer. While it may be counterintuitive, perverse, even, to organize an essay about creativity in this basic structure with which every 1L has become intimately familiar, it is a reminder that what we should be learning in law school is how to think. As I transform into a lawyer, I will keep in mind that thoughts are not prescribed, and can use this structure to bolster and refine my ideas, not block out the outside world.

First, I will consider how I can be creative in the discipline of law itself.

Law school is a series of conundrums: Engage with them

It is quite hard to think critically or with originality in the first year of law school, which is ironic given that the legal profession is about coming up with original answers to original problems. The difficulty is that the problems we are given this year have already been adjudicated, decided, and worked out to have one right answer, the black letter law. It is then the first-year law student’s job to regurgitate that predetermined answer on an exam three months later. Success in law school, per the bounds of this institution, is thus about being able to give someone else’s answer to the questions presented to you – it is not about answering those questions for yourself.

As I “metamorphosize” into a lawyer, I will try to consider each question as a conundrum for me to actually engage with and answer for myself. I will try to think critically about the material rather than simply repeating it. I will engage in intellectual debate, and try not to fear speaking up. It is impossible that there is only one correct interpretation of any conundrum presented.

Know that the board is not wiped clean, although the institution says it is.

In answering these questions and coming up with my own opinions, I can draw upon my background. All of what I have learned and loved before I began law school is still relevant. The law is not just what a court says the “rule of law” is, but also a culmination of understandings of human nature, lived experiences, and academic disciplines.

In the hierarchy that is this institution and the legal profession, it is presumed that the first-year law student has little to no relevant knowledge, as if the years of education before law school have been wiped clean. This leads to a dichotomous idea that can confuse and suppress the first-year law student: the doctrine of “being impressive while doubting yourself.” Though it is accepted that the first-year law student knows so little that she must be force fed rules of law at astonishing speed for the curricular year, this is antithetical to the criteria by which we were evaluated to earn our seats at this school. Just one year ago we were lauded as smart and accomplished. And yet today we are crammed into our assigned seats as we are “reeducated,” slowly drained of the confidence we spent a lifetime building, and forced to compete like gladiators in the ring to the delight of the hiring partner in his shiny new office in Hudson Yards.

To regain that confidence, and to re-claim the self-assurance necessary to have imaginative, progressive, and productive thoughts, it is important that I remember and honor the things that lead me here. I like intellectual stimulation and challenge, and learning for its own sake. I like music, travel, hiking, yoga, and period dramas. I also like spending time with my family and friends. These interests and pastimes are not mere distractions from law school, but will enrich me as a person, a learner, and eventually, a lawyer.

Next, I will consider how creativity can play a role in how I imagine my future as a lawyer.

Stay human: Don’t lose your peripheral vision.

People – especially lawyers – need to remain connected and engaged humans by maintaining relationships outside of this bubble. It is easy, in the monotonous pressure chamber that is the first year of law school, to become isolated from the outside world and to drown under heavy casebooks and heavy stress. It is easy to push people away who don’t “get it,” as empathy is overlain by anxiety and by the new superiority complex acquired during the metamorphosis. But in becoming singularly focused on the professional path at all costs, the first-year law student might start to proceed with blinders on, obscuring any creativity or imagination about what that path might entail or the real human issues that form the basis of this profession.

I am in law school because I am hardworking, driven, and follow the rules (a “control freak,” Eben would say). I am also here because I have big ideas about my future, and enduring interests that I want to follow. In keeping my creative spirit vibrant, I must actively embrace those passions, contextualizing them through the new knowledge I am gaining, and better articulating them with the help of tools like a two-prong test. It will help me become a better lawyer! (Or just a better law student, for the time being).

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r1 - 28 Feb 2020 - 03:18:09 - LilianKlatskin
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