Law in Contemporary Society

The Decision

-- By MariaLaGumina - 03 Apr 2016

Families of Lawyers

I'm Maria Teresa, I'm an Italian-American. There are two lawyers and two law students in my family, with one more sister coming soon. When I decided to go to law school I knew that my family background had a large impact on my decision but through the theater of our course thus far I’ve been able to decode how that decision came to be and how my background shapes how I define risks and whether I will take them.

Nature vs. Nurture

It’s obvious that having a family of lawyers influenced the ease of my decision to go to Law School but I think it goes deeper than that. Families of lawyers tend to beget more lawyers but wait until you meet Italian-American families of lawyers. Values of Italians, Americans, and lawyers all overlap on a common theme of supremacy which leads to pull to become a lawyer to be ever stronger. Each of these groups individually also have traits that make becoming a lawyer more and more likely. Italians place an immense importance on families and so if being a lawyer is a family business then you will probably become a lawyer. Also, Italians like to boast and they love pride so saying that your family member is going to a top law school fills both those requirements. American’s conversely don’t place a huge importance in maintaining family ties but they do place great weight in power and money and the power and money that comes with being a lawyer. American’s also like to have a plan upon graduation. That was a pretty strong pull for me because of the increasingly frequent question of “What are you doing after graduation?” during college. If you add a legacy of lawyers it’s not a big surprise that I ended up here. The risk with this background becomes any risk that bucks a trend or changes a long accepted tradition.

Following Traditions

Throughout college I was often asked what I wanted to do upon graduation. I didn’t know about anything else so I always said “I’m not sure, maybe Law School” until application time came around and I finally said “I’m going to Law School”. There was little shock at my decision, especially since my sister made the same one two years prior. Not only was I following her but also my dad who started his own law firm. The strength of tradition is strong as is the fear of the risk inherent in challenging that tradition.

Bucking the Trend?

Given my family’s extensive background in what should happen if you go to a top law school and do well, it is not a big surprise that they expect me to go to a BigLaw? firm. The current struggle is finding how to buck the trend peaceably. I know that I want to enact change. I, like many law school applicants, made that the thesis of my application essay. Also, after some initial discomfort throughout our discussions in class I know that risk is necessary to enact change. It’s not as if risk is unknown in my family. My grandfather took great risk to come to America and make a life for his family, risking changing the tradition of living in a small town in Italy. Then my dad took great risk to start his own law firm and to leave his big law job and salary, risking bucking the tradition of law students fearing starting on their own. Even in tradition there has been subtle changes that have improved the lot of my family. Perhaps this points to the truth discussed in class that change is necessary and also it is good.

The Unanswered Question

What remains to be seen is if I will take that risk. My decision to attend Columbia Law School can be explained by my family history, cultural history, and societal pressures but my decision with what I will do with a law degree remains to be seen. I believe that what it boils down to is what degree of risk I choose. If a small risk can change the fabric of my family I wonder if a large risk could have effects even more wide-reaching.


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r3 - 15 Jun 2016 - 01:03:36 - MariaLaGumina
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