Law in Contemporary Society

By VanessaAjagu

Past Me : The Lawyer I Was Born To Be

December 2006. I liked bright-line rules. Be in bed by 9pm, pray before you eat, respect elders. Bright-line rules meant I didn’t have to think about my actions. So when my parents told me at the age of 10 that I was going to become a lawyer, that was perfectly fine with me. If anything, I was glad to have a flowchart of my future.

August 2017. My mother loved the tour of Columbia University. Maybe it was the fact that Barack Obama studied here or that she could finally live her dreams through me, her poster child; either way, she was ecstatic.

November 2017. Exam season crept. I had spent the semester learning not to learn but to get good grades. I barely had a coherent understanding of the practical ramifications of Milliken v. Bradley or the impact of civil procedure in police brutality prosecution. I studied in the abstract, cramming so I could regurgitate information to professors. I got burnt out by the process, the conformity, the superficial construction of the law.

January 2018. People v. Goetz. It didn’t make sense to study self-defense without considering reality. The court in Goetz effectively considered race in justifying violence yet my criminal law professor barely mentioned the implicit bias involved. I started to realize that viewing everything with bright-lines comes at a disadvantage; important considerations are skipped.

February 2018. The flowchart to my future seemed more like a chore than a benefit. Why did I HAVE to be a lawyer? Why did I HAVE to work on women’s rights? Why did I HAVE to tell my professors what they wanted to hear? Why did I HAVE to do anything? I had gone 21 years doing things I didn’t HAVE to and it became apparent.

Soon, I became uneasy sacrificing free will for the ease that comes with blaming society for negative outcomes and glorifying the flowchart for positive ones. I knew that I needed to think for myself, be my own person.

Today’s Me : The Lawyer I Want To Be

March 2018. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Fulfilled. Embracing free will makes fulfillment easier to fathom. What a great climax to this story if it ended with me dropping out of law school. Ironically, I end up right where I began but with a different footing. I still want to be a lawyer but now I want to be a lawyer because I, Vanessa, want to. Not because I have to. I want to be a lawyer because I hate injustice and I know a legal education would support me in fighting injustice.

April 2018. “So, what type of lawyer do you want to be?” Exactly the type of lawyer that doesn’t HAVE to do anything. I don’t want to represent clients based on how much they can put on retainer but based on my intuitions. I hope to base my practice in doing what justice expects of me.

I want to be open to opportunities, being flexible and satisfied in with decisions. The opportunity cost of the choices I make would surely involve losses. Current me tends to close doors with regret but I hope to grow in my ability to trust myself. Prosecute or settle? Charge with murder or manslaughter? I want to make these calculated decisions without fear of failure. I want to be a lawyer, a person, who commits to her choices without dwelling on alternate what-if’s. I want to always remember that my losses aren't defeats, they are realities.

Tomorrow’s Me : Becoming The Lawyer I Want To Be

September 2018. Because I have many intersections to my identity (black, female, African), I always felt like it was my job to end racism, eliminate sexism, and eradicate corruption. However, I have learnt that my future practice is MY practice. I don't want to tick things off generic lists. As such, I aim to explore my interests when I return to law school in the fall.

In Spring, I was informed by the clerkship office that if I maintained my grades and took certain classes with a certain professor, I would obtain a clerkship. Thankfully, I know better that to think I HAVE to do anything. Aside from life's uncertainty, I'm done taking classes because I have to suck up to someone rather than because I want to learn.

As explained in my previous blogpost, I often silence myself on American racial issues because I feel the need to propel the strongest arguments before I speak. A practical solution is to enroll in Columbia’s Department of Ethnicity and Race’s class - “Comparative Study of Constitutional Challenges Affecting African Communities.” Knowledge garnered from the course would increase my confidence in speaking on race as well as give me a background into the American legal system.

Knowing I want to be a litigator, I aim to extern at the United Nations and the US Attorneys Office. By working on both international and national issues, I hope to get a clearer understanding of my preferred scale of litigation. Consequently, finding my niche would involve similar experimentation through law school and beyond.

To improve my writing, I aim to write a journal note supervised by a professor who is willing to offer mentorship. My goal is to establish strong networks within the faculty.

I don’t have to do any of the above, I want to. I want to be a formidable lawyer; I want my work to speak for me. Through trial and error, I hope to learn from my failures.

Future Me : The Lawyer I Become

July 2040. Am I living in Nigeria? Am I an immigration lawyer? Did I open a women’s rights NGO? Time will tell. Whatever answer is fine. The one thing I hope is positive is that I am living my life, fighting injustice. I only pray I get to breathe before I die.


Webs Webs

r3 - 29 May 2018 - 02:17:13 - VanessaAjagu
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