Law in Contemporary Society

From Here to There, and Where?

-- By StephenKim - 26 Apr 2018

Losing Touch

During my first year of law school, I lost in touch with why I wanted to become a lawyer: I came to law school because I wanted to work for the government and help maintain stability in our financial system. Also, strongly armed with the belief that no one should be able to use money to unfairly pilfer money from people, I wanted to prevent economic injustice from happening in the financial sector, which is infamously known as a breeding ground of economic injustice.

However, the course workload in my first year of law school wore me down. Although the legal studies were intellectual stimulating and challenging, the intellectual engagements proved to be mildly interesting, at best, because none of the subjects were related to what I wanted to practice. I came to law school to make a positive and tangible difference to society, but here I was, spending most of my time reading hundreds of pages every day in a library cubicle. Then, at one point, it hit me. I needed to make sure I was doing legal work related to financial regulation this summer.


In the early months this year, I applied to many internship positions related to financial regulation including the Federal Reserve, SEC, OCC, CFPB, and FDIC. However, things don’t always turn out the way you want them to be. I didn’t get any interviews from any of the places I applied early this year. The series of rejections shook me.

I couldn’t be jobless during my summer after first year of law school. I needed to branch out, but I wanted to do something I wanted to do. How do I know what I wanted to do? Our class, Law in Contemporary Society, discusses a lot about what law that we, as law school students, later want to practice as lawyers. Some of the questions that come up during these discussions are “Who are you?”, How do you identify yourself?”, and “What issues resonate with you?”. These questions swim inside my head quite frequently and even more so after I have been taking Professor Moglen’s class, and I have reached a realization.

Back to What I Want to Do

The core reason I want to practice law in the financial regulation sector is that I don’t want rich people to gain unfair economic advantage over others just because they have more wealth. The reason is simple, but it has also transformed into a strong whirlwind of emotion that has made me who I am today.

I distinctly remember when I graduated from college and returned to Korea. My father insisted that I clear out a day so that he and I could tour around Seoul. I didn’t know why my father wanted to tour Seoul. We often went to Seoul, which was only a 30-minute drive from where we lived, to meet friends and family. After a quick lunch at a northern Seoul district I’ve never been to, he told me to follow him for a quick stroll. By the end of the walk, I saw old houses and new apartments which all told a story. My father and my grandmother were poor when our grandfather passed away at an early age. So, they often had to depend on the community and the church for help. They also moved around and lived in many different places. Some of the neighborhoods he lived in were partly intact, but the houses he lived in were all gone. They were all bulldozed or replaced by new, taller apartments. I will never forget the panoramic view I shared with my dad, who swung a big wave around the neighborhoods he lived in. Although my childhood was also spent in a not so well-off neighborhood, that day with my Dad, along with the fact I already had a very strong relationship with both my father and my grandmother, cemented my resolve that I would strive to achieve economic justice. I want to help create a society where everyone can build a sufficient material foundation so that they can ultimately lead proud and productive lives.

From Here to There, and Where?

Now, I am on track of working for a pro bono law firm that provides free legal services for homeless and poor people. The work is not the future I imagined when I took my first LSAT or when I entered law school. But, I have never been this excited. I will be doing the work that I wanted to do as a lawyer: Striving for economic justice in one shape or form. This summer will undoubtedly shape who I will become and might change the law I want to practice as a lawyer. But, even though goals might change later on, this not mean I should not plan to guide my learning.

I plan to take classes related to law and policy, and financial regulation because I want to become a lawyer who strives to achieve economic justice. Since the summer internship will shape who I am as well, I will also take classes related to my intern experience. Also, I will talk to professors and find those whose values align with mine, professors who I can discuss my interests with and who are willing to help me when I’m charting my career path and the journey I will take after graduation. I will also attend talks and conferences, networking with lawyers who are already practicing the law I am interested in. My office hour talks with Professor Moglen made me doubly realize and appreciate the importance of people. We live in a society run by people and I need to work with, receive help from, and assist others in order to become the lawyer I want to be. If there is one goal I will achieve by graduation, it is to be surrounded by people whose values I align with, who share the same or similar goals they want to achieve as lawyers, and also who can help each other professionally to build a better society.

Word Count: 995

This draft presents the substance of your thinking clearly, and completely. It is an essay about passion, however, whose language and organization keeps at a distance the passion that is the subject.

Let's take two examples. First, the use of 10% of the essay to point out that the first year of law school involved intensive basic studying that didn't directly involve your passion for financial regulation. From the reader's point of view, this isn't a surprise. The first year of a medical education, primarily anatomy and physiology, doesn't much involve taking care of patients, and certainly not the practice of anyone's intended specialty, either. Indeed, you and the reader both know that complex practical skills evolve from a foundation of knowledge that in itself may be hard to acquire. If you want to capture what most matters to you, why not start from it, and use one sentence somewhere in the flow of the essay to point out your initial discouragement with the amount of basic learning required?

Second, let's look more at the trip with your father to Seoul that is the other major personal explanation of your passionate commitment to economic fairness. Real estate development, the generational transformation of neighborhoods, isn't—standing alone—an easy demonstration of economic injustice. In a society as corrupt in every detail as South Korea, moreover, it's not clear why one would start with neighborhood change in explaining the roots of one's passion for economic regulation. (That much of the real estate development you and your father were looking at consisted of Samsung and LG construction characteristic of chaebol control of the housing market might, however, have been a useful subject to follow up, if true, as I suspect it probably was.)

In each of these cases, and in other places throughout the essay, expressing passion rather than writing about feeling it—following the usual writer's imperative to show, not tell—would make your next draft stronger. More importantly, it will help you capture and convey that passion to others, which will be an asset of some strategic use to you in forming the connections on which you're going to build your practice and career.

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r2 - 31 May 2018 - 13:05:41 - EbenMoglen
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