Law in Contemporary Society

Creativity Inside and Outside the Law School

-- By XyzloLee - 28 Feb 2020


Like many of my peers, I came to law school without a plan to practice in a specific field. I presumed Columbia would provide me the tools and influence to obtain a “successful” employment outcome, however I defined it by the end of my time here. The future has not been promising so much as it has been promised, however. Result alone would not mark a successful three years for me; I wanted to learn what I wanted to get out of law school and received how to get what the school expects students to want. My SJI counselor told me during our first meeting that I should find an area of law I enjoyed, then work toward a job in that field this summer. I asked what would happen if I didn’t know how to pick between multiple disciplines; she responded that I could “just pick any of them [for 1L summer] and it would work out.” Leaving her office, I did not feel counseled.

Creativity in law school can be defined as doing what others are not. Expanding my scope of interests rather than specializing in a given field demonstrates creativity because it is the opposite of what students are told to do. For me to be creative at Columbia Law School, that entails exposing myself to the widest variety of opportunities possible within the constraints of law school life. Those opportunities arise both inside and outside of campus, across a variety of subjects, and are presented by a diverse group of people.

People and Places

Taking advantage of New York City’s unique collection of people and places has been my primary goal during 1L year. I worked hard during my undergraduate years to attend a law school where landing at the median of the grade distribution assures me that I will get at least an interview at the places I want to work; I see no reason to extend that period of neurotic study three more years. In the two years I took off between my time at Boston College and Columbia, I took a job that allowed me to explore as much of the country as possible. I walked around beautiful gorges in upstate NY after tutoring in Ithaca, played poker with a view of the beach in San Diego, ate the best whole-hog barbecue I’ll ever have in Tuscaloosa, and learned how much I didn’t want to ever go back to Baltimore or Spokane. New York has more museums and art galleries than any other city I’ve visited, more slices of pizza than I can ever try, and more than twenty million people that I’ll never meet. Getting a feel for the environment lends me creativity precisely because it is unrelated to class. I do not want to develop ideology or beliefs in the bubble of Jerome Greene Hall, far removed from the people and spaces that policy goals impact.

Ideas Within Spaces

So far, lunch has been my favorite “class” period in law school. The food is alright – even cheap pizza is still pizza – but to hear from an array of speakers on any subject tangentially related to law has opened my mind to what might be possible with a law degree. I don’t care for a career in Brazilian domestic litigation but listening to Judge Adriana Cruz speak about racism and patriarchy in Brazil’s judiciary inspired me to think about how issues that plague the United States legal system are not necessarily inherent to the American ethos. And more recently, I got to listen to a talk about ArbiLex? , a data tool founded by Harvard Law and MIT students that uses probabilistic modeling to give its clients a “competitive edge” in selecting arbitrators for international disputes. I thought more about how lawyering in the modern era might work with technology in that fifty-minute lunch talk than I did during my entire first semester.

The ArbiLex? talk struck a chord with me not because I believe their technology is particularly ingenious (although based on my miniscule knowledge of international arbitration, its practical application seems promising) but because I think creativity in law school, especially in a competitive setting like Columbia, might come from the intersection between 21st-century technological advancements and the centuries-old methods of law practice. Over the last three years I have worked closely with “solvers” – computer programs designed to simulate toy games that resemble poker to create an estimate of what game theory optimal play might look like – in advancing my poker career. My time thus far at Columbia has convinced me that such solvers might be a perfect match for negotiations or mediations; they too are games of incomplete information where parties try to maximize their own expected value. Furthermore, analysis of large data sets could inform lawyers as to what arguments tend to be successful in given jurisdictions, what principles courts tend to rely on, etc. How technology might impact our study of law is an area of law I want to learn more about, but doing so within the confines of a rather strict 1L schedule and dearth of electives on the topic will require some creativity.

Some confluence of learning as much as I can outside the law school and exposing myself to a variety of sources inside the law school (through classes, professors’ office hours, lunchtime talks, or conversations with other students) will inevitably spark creativity in how I think during my time in Morningside Heights. That to me seems the point of being creative in law school: it will allow me to develop skills, ideas, and connections that will benefit me here and eventually allow me to continue being creative in my long-term practice.

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r1 - 28 Feb 2020 - 19:42:21 - XyzloLee
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