Law in Contemporary Society
Here it is. Just like I handed it in.

As a history major, I read narratives differently than most students. Unlike other disciplines emphasizing narrative analysis, historians interpret unfolding events in terms of contingency and agency. Contingency, put roughly, is the state of the world in which certain actions occur; the stage on which the narrative will play out. By means of their actions, the actors that perform on that stage demonstrate their agency, which describes the ability of an individual to impact their narrative through their will or their desires. Contingency and agency work together to form the cause and effect relationship that helps to describe and understand a particular story. At times contingency and agency work in perfect alignment to produce narratives. Yet occasionally contingency and agency oppose each other. The presence of specific contingencies may make various narrative outcomes exceptionally unlikely and possible only through particularly strong expressions of agency.

Fans of college athletics are probably familiar with Rich Rodriguez, head football coach at the University of Michigan. No one could doubt his intense passion for success and for coaching as he paces the sidelines on any football Saturday. His reputation for being tremendously critical of mistakes and demanding full effort from his players preceded his arrival to Ann Arbor. Many players feared the strict discipline and grueling conditioning regiment he would institute in the program, and as a result several scholarship athletes decided to leave the University, hoping to find tutelage under a different coach with lower standards. Despite this man’s intimidating presence, on a cold February day of my junior year I suited up and took the opportunity to try out for his team.

Telling this tale in terms of contingency and agency is essential for understanding why I grabbed my old worn cleats and submitted to Coach Rodriguez's imposing will. I admit that contingency created the ability for me to try out, as this possibility relied on Coach Rodriguez’s decision to enlist walk-ons in his program. Yet ultimately I was there because of the strength of my personal agency. I was not compelled to try out as a result of a bet, nor did I feel any pressure to do so from my peers or from my family. Out of the thousands of athletic male football fans who attend the University of Michigan, I am proud and will forever be proud that I was one of only fifty prospects who battled aside nerves, doubt and fear to display my abilities to the coaching staff. I don’t mean to milk the story – I didn’t make the team, but I dared to show them everything I was capable of.

My agency has manifested itself in academic forms as well. Before my freshman year at the University, I was confronted with a difficult decision – choosing which language I would study to fulfill my four-semester requirement. My time spent learning French in high school had revealed a handicapping contingency – I struggled with mastering foreign languages. Yet another contingency eased my burdens; an exam was administered that allowed students to preempt the full requirement. Placement test results in hand, I should have been relieved to know that I would only have to tackle my greatest academic weakness for one year, but I had different plans. I loved classical history and literature, and I wanted to learn Latin in order to be able to understand Virgil’s venerable Aeneid in its original text, or to read Caesar’s original immaculate prose describing the Gallic Wars. My academic advisers warned me that Latin was regarded as a challenging language to learn, and, considering my past struggles, the classes might overwhelm me. My fear of failure, however, was overcome by my agency; I was determined to learn Latin. A quick glance at my transcript will reveal that by selecting Latin I earned the lowest grades I received as an undergraduate, but I do not regret the decision. Despite many frustrations and long nights of study, those two Bs in advanced Latin recitations my sophomore year are two of my greatest accomplishments. My personal agency was able to overpower the contingencies that opposed me.

Concerned and overwhelmed by contingencies, some liberal arts majors passively fall into the lap of law school. They worry that they lack marketable skills and may fear what obstacles they will face in the job market without technical or scientific training, which may push them to feel that a career in law would be a safety net. My application, in contrast, comes to your desk not on account of contingencies. I will not come to law school because it was a choice I was supposed to make, nor will I attend because I fear the alternatives. Instead, I make this choice because after spending time discussing vocational matters with lawyers and researching the legal profession, I have learned that law is an ideal fit for my love of writing and research, my desire to become involved in work that requires attention to analytical detail, and my ability to work diligently until I have derived new meaning from existing text. I want to learn to think like a lawyer and, upon graduation, to practice the law. I am driven to law by my agency.

-- AndrewCascini - 15 Apr 2010


Webs Webs

r1 - 15 Apr 2010 - 21:53:38 - AndrewCascini
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