Law in Contemporary Society
I don’t think there is answer I can give that’s both honest and satisfactory to the question of what kind of lawyer I want to be. I can’t fathom how I could honestly say what kind of lawyer I want to be after spending a year taking black letter law classes. If my classmates were able to wring some meaning into what they wanted their legal careers to look like by sitting through contracts, property, civil procedure, and torts, then I must have wholly missed the point.

I wasn’t able to find out what I want my legal career to look like while reading case after case for contracts or property; I can remember perhaps one time in this past semester where a case really resonated with me when discussing the questions it brought up and the implications of the decision- Author’s Guild v. Google. But by the next day we were already moving on to estates and trusts and other topics that were important for the examination, but not for what I wanted out of law school.

All we received was exposure; the planting of these vague notions of what an area of law COULD be should we choose to pursue it. But this doesn’t translate to what a specific day in the life actually entails. There is no choice given to experience the reality of working as a lawyer; that comes later. Right now, we must learn rules and standards and various doctrines that I am nearly positive I won’t remember when I receive my license.

This may seem like a terrible system for many of my classmates, but I found this a very comforting approach personally; it seemed almost tailormade for someone like me. That is, someone who knew nothing about the law prior to taking on tens of thousands of dollars of debt to learn about it. I was unprepared to even consider the question of what kind of law I wanted to practice, and the first year showed me WHY I wasn’t prepared to give an answer.

My knowledge of law was incredibly limited coming into law school; during a meeting at work following my acceptance to Columbia, my boss jokingly referred to me as “Counselor” while assigning one of our ongoing projects. I didn’t even realize I was in charge of the project until a colleague asked for a progress update the next day. I had never met a practicing lawyer until I came to law school. I really knew absolutely nothing about the law.

Initially I came into law school hoping to be an “entertainment” lawyer- I didn’t really know what this meant, but I came to the conclusion that if I was going to law school and was interested in the music industry, that’s what I should be doing. But what did that phrase even really mean to me? It basically boiled down to the idea that I spent too much time listening and reading about music and felt I knew too little about any other field to be competitive in them. There may have been some interest in artists’ rights to their work or other aspects of producing, but very little understanding of what exactly was being done. In retrospect, it made absolutely no sense to want to go into a field without knowing what the actual day-to-day work entails.

I was told by a professor earlier this semester that if I wanted to work in an entertainment field, I should focus on copyright and employment law. He stopped to consider whether labor law would be important but decided it wouldn’t be; that would be for a field where collective bargaining is involved. But why shouldn’t the music industry involve that? Isn’t it exactly the kind of industry that we should be concerned about public bargaining? Perhaps collective bargaining could be the solution to many problems we see in the industry, it may even be especially suited for the type of workers in that field. There’s this general perception that if we are to practice law in a certain field, there’s only one way to do it. Types of lawyers shouldn’t be set into premade categories of what type of law (or even general knowledge) is applicable in the circumstance. If music has gone digital, then how that data is transmitted is crucial. And that may require knowledge of telecommunications that lies outside the law school. It may also not be helpful at all for what I want out of career, but no real thought is going to be put in to these issues if I study only along the lines of what every lawyer before me has studied.

The bottom line is that everything that I need to know about how I want my professional career to play out can’t be learned in just the law school; the multidisciplinary approach needed to work creatively isn’t something that an institution focused on job placements can provide. Not that I have problem with that model either; it would be facetious to say there’s no value in learning to work hard for long periods of time. But there’s diminishing returns past a certain point. You have to know when to stop.

So, at the end of the first year, I still don’t believe I have a proper answer to the kind of lawyer I want to be, but I am now much better equipped to tackle that question. I’ve learned how a legal career is traditionally set up, but I have also gained a grasp of other directions I can look in to create something new for my own career. I have two years to figure this out, and this is the first time I have the knowledge to properly consider the question. I have no doubt I’ll come to a satisfactory answer in that time; I have absolutely nothing more important to do.


Webs Webs

r1 - 30 Apr 2018 - 20:50:46 - AmmarMonawar
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM