Law in Contemporary Society
"One of our clients died this morning," Paul said quietly. Before he spoke, while the interns, the other summer associates, the law fellows, and the staff attorneys were gathering in our firm's tiny conference room, I had surmised that something bad had happened because Paul had rolled up his shirt sleeves and loosened his tie. Prior to that afternoon -- all of us silent, barely moving as Paul explained what this man had stood for and why he was assassinated -- I had never seen him without a jacket. "Sure I would prefer to wear khakis every day," he had explained to the Summers on our first day, when one of us timidly inquired as to the dress code, "but we need them to trust us, and they expect lawyers to wear suits."

"They" are the rebels, the freedom fighters, the usurpers, those who fight for the premise that they have a basic human right to be free. Gaddhafi retained White and Case; the National Transitional Council has Paul and the firm he built.

I haven't opened Westlaw or cracked a Bluebook since I started, but I think I've learned more about the kind of practice I want to have and the kind of lawyer I want to be in two weeks here than I did all year. I've learned that, at least in this context, to be a counselor is not to pretend that I know what is best, but to present options about what a justice system could look like, what a Constitution might or might not include, or, in my case, what a relatively stable East African country might think about as it tries to legally protect human rights for the first time. The extent to which my client listens or utilizes the legal analysis I've provided is a function of trust (which may in turn be predicated on suit-wearing), of my ability to shed my bias for particular forms of policy and be objective, and mostly, of a very simple issue: can my brief or memo be run through Google Translate and comprehended? For this reason I can't use legal terms of art, the transcendental nonsense on which I've come to rely, so I've had to learn to present ideas for what they are. I've also learned that you can cover your nut without charging your clients, though you have to be relentlessly creative and frugal. I've learned that I want the kind of practice where I care about my clients because of what they do and who they are, so that if one were to die, it would be natural to shed my lawerly exterior, roll up my shirt sleeves, and remember our work with fondness and pride.

This isn't that different from what we discussed on the wiki and in class last semester, but it's been galvanizing to see it close up. I feel fortunate that I'm working in this kind of practice early on, because it gives me something to aspire to. Has anyone else had a similar experience this summer?

-- JessicaWirth - 17 Jun 2012

Jessica, I keep hesitating to post because all I have to say is I think this is beautifully written. Thanks for this, and I'm glad to see you're having such an inspiring experience.

-- MarcLegrand - 20 Jun 2012


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r3 - 22 Jan 2013 - 19:58:27 - IanSullivan
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