Law in Contemporary Society
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Don't Become High Sadity

-- By MichaelAdams - 06 Jun 2017

Winter Break

During the winter break after my first semester of law school, I dedicated a few days to crafting applications to send to big law firms in order to get a coveted 1L summer associate position. I received multiple offers to come into the fancy New York offices to interview. I was extremely excited, cutting my break a week short to attend my first interview. Over the first couple of months of the semester I went on at least ten 3-4 hour interviews, oftentimes skipping class in order to attend. Simultaneously, I was sitting in law and contemporary society seminars while Professor Moglen passionately expressed his disdain for the rat race of corporate law. I listened intently, although I had no plans of cancelling any of my upcoming interviews. When it was all said and done, two months into second semester, and 3 offers later, I accepted one. How could I possibly turn down this type of money when tuition and the cost of living are constantly increasing? I accepted the position and continued to attend class as the professor through class teachings, readings, and office hour statements never stopped discouraging the class from feeding into the big law hype. The professor was focusing on the summer EIP, all the while I had already sealed my fate for the upcoming summer.

The First Week

During the first week of my internship I was enveloped in the lavish lifestyle and show that the firms put on to get students to commit to working there after graduation. As I took an $80 private car home after a welcome event I started to feel like a fraud. What are you doing? I asked myself. Thinking about the friends that I grew up with and the surrounding neighborhoods, I always told myself, you will never forget where you came from. It always amazed me how people from the humblest upbringing could change so easily when their income rose. There I was battling with myself about what to do.

New Clothes

I recently purchased a shirt that says “black lawyers matter”. But, I highly doubt the creator was thinking about the lack of diversity in law firms when the shirt was printed. Don’t we matter because blacks in the criminal justice system are being arrested, charged, prosecuted, and judged by white practitioners using discriminatory and disproportionately administered laws created by the majority? So, as a black attorney in a law firm, that reality does not change while I am cutting and pasting contracts in some midtown high rise. But, I have never had the luxuries that comes which such a high salary, so the allure remains. There is a statistic that the majority of students in a prestigious ivy-league law school come from upper middle class or upper class families. So after going against the odds and having the opportunities to give myself and my immediate family a better life, must I sacrifice this in order to help my community? Is it fair that the majority of students at top law schools can have more selfish aspirations because they are not oppressed? These are the questions that plagued my mind throughout the first year of law and my first few weeks at work.

Lessons of Law School

One of the first things I learned at Columbia is that the lawyer’s answer is yes and no. So yes, I do deserve to reap the financial fruits of my labor, and no, I do not get to do this at the expense of those that need me. If I truly hate injustice, then I cannot always get what I deserve.

Do The Right Thing

Maybe I should not continue in law school because then I would never be a lawyer, relieving me of the responsibilities to fight injustice because I would lack the authority to practice. However, that does not seem like the right answer to me. I have decided to return to law school in the fall, but I need a changed focus to guide my learning. Instead of loading my schedule with corporations, securities regulation, and corporate finance classes, I plan to explore courses related to civil rights, advanced trial practice, and appellate advocacy. I even originally planned on using the seminars for courses related to negotiations or deals workshops instead of the high level impactful classes that are encouraged. I also was considering studying abroad with a focus on finance and law. When I began law school I did not think twice about going down that path. But, after a year in law school, I have learned that although the money would be nice, at the very least I have to give myself a chance to learn more about how I could directly use my credentials to fight injustice instead of being dead set on the more selfish path. That is the type of lawyer that I want to be. The lawyer that is not afraid to gain knowledge and stand up for what is right using my intellectual skillset.

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r1 - 06 Jun 2017 - 03:32:33 - MichaelAdams
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