Law in Contemporary Society

I. How I learned to give a shit about things in life

II. How law school has affected my thinking

III. I like to read

IV. My worries over how my background affects my attitude towards other people, especially those less privileged

V. My patronizing attitude

VI. How I do want to learn to work with less privileged people


Most of my life, I’ve drifted through school/work without feeling much passion about anything. I went through the motions of school because that’s what I was supposed to do, I did music just because I happened to be really good at it. Etc, etc. But, I’ve been feeling a change in that regard recently, thanks to my experiences here at law school. It’s hard not to get worked up hearing about legislators’ irrational denial of climate change, screwing up the planet further. It’s hard to listen to an exonerated prisoner break down in anguish about the 19 years he lost, without tearing up yourself. And it’s impossible to not care about a pro bono client, a father whose family is about to become homeless because he lost the building superintendent job that gave him a home, a job that made saving money impossible because it paid him $400 a month. Or about a client whose son was murdered by a gang of fifteen-year-olds that broke into her home during the middle of the night. Maintaining apathy while hearing these stories would require sociopathy.

That’s what I’m really, truly getting out of law school, I think—really caring for something. (How fucked up is that, that I didn’t learn that until now?) Before starting law school, you hear all this talk about how “law school changes the way you think.” I was skeptical, but I have changed the way I think—probably not what was meant by change, I’m guessing I was supposed to become more analytical or something (I was already a scientific emotionless robot to begin with). But the change is there for me, too—almost in the opposite direction, to become more empathetic and compassionate. The stories you hear in law school are just incredible—the gruesome and darkly comic torts cases, contracts disputes over a sale recorded on a napkin, anti-discriminatory lawsuits that allow a colored woman like me to be in the position I am. These stories sustain me, and they’ve planted a seed of passion in me that I find fascinating and novel.

I learned to read very young, when I was about four. My mother had gotten so sick of my constant entreaties for her to read to me, that she got a tutor and had me learn to read. I still love reading and regularly read anything from the classics to crap fiction. I read at the gym, I read before I go to sleep, I read when insomnia strikes. I’m reading David Copperfield right now. David Copperfield had a pillows-and-bunny-filled life compared to what some people go through on a daily basis—real people have real problems unimaginable to people like Dickens or me.

It’s kind of overwhelming to think about the shit that goes down in life, probably going on right now just a few blocks from my apartment. Can those problems be solved? It would be so easy to pretend they don’t exist. Yesterday I went to Bloomingdale’s (saw Anu Bradford actually, she apparently likes Hugo Boss and bossing salesclerks around), and I bought a $1000 coat. I was trying to decide if I wanted to get the sleeves hemmed about ¾ of an inch, and the sales clerk scolded, “It’s not that bad—it’s going to be $20 to get that shortened!” She literally just saw me pay $1000 for a single item of clothing, and she thinks I’ll miss $20? Ugh, how snobby do I sound... But coming from the extremely privileged background I come from, I wonder what my “appropriate” role is, in the scheme of things in this solving the world’s problems thing. I’d rather not end up just some well-paid World Bank analyst who never sees any of the problems that I supposedly have “expertise” in.

This makes me sound terrible. But in a way I can’t help feeling a tiny bit...patronizing towards the low-income clients I’ve met so far. I think it’s partly the way they treat me, with this respect that I normally associate with the servant class (doormen, waiters, whatnot). I guess they are the same people. It’s ingrained in me to not think of people like that as my equals. I respect that they are human beings who have a right to live life with dignity, and I want to make that happen. But it’s a far cry from that to being actually personally associated with them. Is this awful? My gut feels a little funny trying to justify this. Things like how I find it difficult to respect people who lack table manners. Yeah, I’m a classist.

After being so coddled in my life, I wonder what it’ll be like to do direct service work over the summer (I’ll be working on a project on workplace justice). It’ll probably be difficult, but I’m ready to learn from the challenge. My people skills are fairly good but I’d like to know how to work successfully with low-income populations. Social skills are something my parents always emphasized, but I’m realizing more and more how crucial social skills really are. There was a girl on my Wisconsin caravan who must have Asperger’s or something, as she could not interpret social cues. I don’t care how smart she is or how good her grades are, I would never hire her in a million years! And apparently other people feel the same, as she didn’t get a job during EIP despite her good grades (that she bragged about). I was trying to think about if she were my employee, how I could use her effectively—I’ve never managed people like that so maybe it’s my inexperience, but I couldn’t think of anything she’d be good for. I guess behind-the-desk analysis as long as she never, ever saw a client. People skills!

Lots to figure out in my road to figuring out how to live life and conduct my career. Long way to go.

As with your first essay, I think you've managed great emotional honesty. You have not, I think, organized as clearly as you have expressed yourself. The outline, which retrospectively describes the path of the essay but which plainly does not set forth an organized pathway, shows the problem, as outlines usually will. There's no clear sequence or relationship among points, in either the text or the structure.

This, in a way, is what you want: an architecture that reflects imperious personal confusion. Imperious in the sense that it knows no law of organization superior to itself, confused both in its doubts about the future it is seeing, and in the alternation of old forms of condescension and newer forms of compassion.

Brave and powerful as this work is, it isn't the best you can do. There's a place for structuring and directing your self-criticism, when it can be used as a force for self-confidence instead of against it, where both your the flow of your writing and the balance of your spirits will be more equable. Whether this will also give you more of a sense of being equal to, not only concerned about, people in other "walks of life," as the American phrase used to be, I can't yet say.


Webs Webs

r3 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:23:38 - IanSullivan
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