Law in Contemporary Society

Defending the Theatre of Public Humiliation: Why I Would Still Go to the EIP

-- By JiMinShin - 30 Mar 2016

It is true that the EIP will probably not be the best moment of my law school experience. The word arouses inside me some kind of excitement, but at the same time tension and anxiety. It will not be my last chance to have a career after law school, but certainly an important chance. An early chance as the title of the program indicates, to be free from burden and insecurity. Yet to benefit from the program, I will have to meet over two dozens of strangers over three days, spend twenty minutes with each, with confident smile and loud voice show some “genuine interest” and “passion” for each firm, narrate my resume, and persuade them not to look at my grade but potential sleeping deep inside me when I know and they surely know that in fact I have no substantial knowledge or skill of law. As somebody said earlier, they will listen to me and skim my resume simply because I am a member of Columbia law. I will be like an abandoned property middle of nowhere waiting for some firm to claim first possession. And there is still good possibility that no firm will claim me. I felt ashamed when I went to law firm receptions which did not require resume or grade, so I cannot imagine how I will feel during the EIP. There will be great pressure, and I know I will face it.

Yet I will still go to the EIP. I will fly back from Korea as soon as I finish my summer internship solely to participate in this event. Because I believe it is still a rewarding opportunity. It is an opportunity to be compensated for my long run investment, and an opportunity to cultivate my lawyering ability.


Money matters. I know many of my American peers have taken student loans to pay for their education. I have a loan too. My parents are paying for my education. We call this “Mother Father Loan.” The truth is, they have been paying for my education overseas since 2002. I am hoping that the EIP will ripen this long-time investment into some kind of tangible, monetary form this year. It is puzzling that a law school student gets to have a job straight after 1L when he or she essentially knows nothing, but I cannot be ungrateful to firms which come to hire us, and to Columbia Law. I am thankful that Columbia is preparing this event and letting me use their name as some kind of premium ticket. It is expensive and does not guarantee me a job, but it at least increases possibility immensely, so it seems to be a fair deal. In fact, the best deal I have had so far.


A big law firm might not be the best place to start, but it is certainly a good place to learn and experience much, cultivate one’s competence as a lawyer. As Robinson said, “a real lawyer knows how to take care of a legal problem.” At big law, one will see more than enough legal problems and will have to learn how to fiercely defend the interests of various clients. Admittedly, work is hard, and not necessarily moral. A positive side of that amorality is that it makes a big law a great place to learn how to be presence and absence. Another advantage of starting at a big law is the vast number of different practice areas it handles. It opens before would-be-lawyers so many different possibilities, and intentionally exposes them to different practices. I have heard from many visiting lawyers how confident they were in what they wanted to do before going to law firm to actually practice it. Some who started as litigators found they hated litigation and moved to corporate. Some who thought they were corporate people found it boring and moved to litigation. And many of them decided what they would do for career during their 2L summer internship after experiencing real work. This includes lawyers who are still working for big firms, in-house lawyers, and lawyers who eventually moved to public interest. In that sense a big law can be an easier environment to find what one is truly passionate about, what one will do for life. It could be ideal if one realizes what he or she is destined for as soon as possible, but for some, including myself, that moment of enlightenment and determination might come later. And as I already mentioned above, many lawyers seemed to have found it at big laws.


Certainly, I would want to do my own lawyering, not somebody else’s. Nor I want to become like Wylie, a successful and competent lawyer but who does not care what law is, who is not interested in what he does and what he has been doing for living. Yet competence first, choice next. A big law would be a fine place to hone one’s lawyering skill because it will demand competence, ruthlessly. So I am looking forward to the EIP, and hope that I will secure myself a position at a big law, because I first want to become a competent lawyer, before turning into anything else. No doubt I will face some humiliation, but there might be gold in that wreckage. It will be mine.

Why would one need to defend a theater? What you are defending is your motives for wanting a summer job at a large law firm next summer, and your belief that participation in this ritual is not only how to get one, but the only reliable way to get one.

You have no actual evidence for this belief. But no Korean person could possibly fail to believe it, because these are the same rituals that would be expected in a Korean setting. Except that there are less than half a dozen firms in which it would be success to have a job, and those firms would only hire graduates of three or four universities. So all the decisive competitions can be stretched back to university entrance examinations, which can be productive of soul-destroying competition from the very beginning of school life. So it would make sense to send a son abroad, to compete in a very much more extensive competition that is not regulated by the same examinations, but in which the rituals can be imagined to be equally compulsory and equally decisive.

But just because this is a formulation that will be culturally so familiar to a Korean person as to appear inevitable doesn't mean that it's true. The actual sociology of EIP—a ritual that the employers do not need, increasingly do not want, and soon will be actively subverting, held in place by a law school structure that is unable to adapt to the changing needs of even these least disrupted of employers, let alone to adapt to the needs of students, who are graduating into a world in which large-firm employment is decisively what they ought not to do—is entirely obscure to you. You are seeing it from the least comprehensive perspective, without full information about the present or a clear grasp of the history.

But I agree with the conclusion, that it is overdetermined that you will actually do EIP; nothing on earth, not even the truth, could prevent that.

Shall we also conclude that the only purpose of being at Columbia Law School is to get such a job? If we decide that the remainder of the experience does not matter, we can economize on the investment and drive up your rate of return. On the other hand, if this is not a bargain for a job, if the soul of the human being quaintly referred to as the student has not been entirely eliminated from the situation, wouldn't we need a different essay?

Reference: Two last sentences of the conclusion were derived from the lyrics of the song by Phoebe Ryan “Mine.” Youtube link:

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r2 - 09 Jun 2016 - 13:49:17 - EbenMoglen
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