Law in Contemporary Society
-- CMcKinney - 23 Aug 2015

Fighting Repose.


We spent a lot of time thinking about repose in this course. But as I scrawled out an essay on pay-per-view boxing in Mid-May, I hardly realized I had taken shelter under logical form. I wrote a paper addressing a simple question: Had the American public mind reacted inconsistently to Ray Rice and Floyd Mayweather? There were only two possible answers: yes or no, rational or irrational.

This was the wrong question to begin with. Not only because there was more important question to be answered about the phenomenon. If you believe there are only two options, then you have posed the wrong question. There was a larger issue. I turned away from one of the most important question posed in this course: “What is the state of your practice?”


It has been 92 days since I finished my first year at Columbia Law School. With this reprieve has come ample opportunity for reflective meditation. With this prolonged temporal and physical removal, my insecurities have lessened. Now, for the first time in months, I set rediscover the answer to that question.

Why I came to law school

I came to law school to become a criminal defense attorney. That is what I have wanted ever since I spent a summer adding record citations and making other menial contributions to a habeas petition in 2012. And, immeasurably less importantly, it kindled an interest in criminal justice in me, which drew me to various roles with criminal defenders in the years after. With time, I formed a still hazy, but indeed clarified image of what I hoped to become.


By December 2014, I had nearly lost sight of the reason I came to law school. I made it to mid-September before I was exhausted with fear. I was self-assuredly duller than my classmates, so I strained and titrated my way toward an obsessive memorization of law, legal theory, and my professors’ views of law and legal theory. Chemical dependence and mental ruin were a small price to pay for continued cover - My intellectual inferiority went largely unnoticed. Thoughts of the future I had mortgaged away to make tuition payments hardly helped the situation. And, that fall, my vision became trained upon a publicized escape route: a law firm job, secured by way of EIP.


Last fall, I stopped thinking about my own identity, purpose, and how my winning the birth lottery and moderate capabilities might allow me to improve someone else’s existence. I divorced what I had hoped to gain in law school from what I believed I had to become, what Columbia expected me to become. And then I took this course.

I realized that there was no exclusive route forward because of this class. Our discussions vigorously reminded me of that truth, and Joshua Horowitz personified it. He taught me that we can build the exact type of practice that we would want to call our own. Joshua did just that by combining a precise set of skills, an appetite for networking, and a sense of humility.


As my first year at law school has grown into a memory, my anxieties and insecurities have dissipated. I have no grounds to complain. I was benefitted by the lottery of birth. Whatever unhappiness I felt was the product of decisions that I made. No one forced me to be here.

I finished my first year at Columbia Law School thirteen weeks ago. I have frequently meditated on the kind of lawyer I want to become ever since. I have always returned to the same conclusion. I came to law school because I wanted to defend people who caught a bad break. I plan to build a practice that sustains itself by defending individuals accused of white-collar crimes, and then uses its surplus to advocate for those who cannot pay a legal bill. These individuals are owed advocacy regardless of mens rea, actual innocence, or proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

I am a strong believer that we get the world we deserve. We try to draw a line between criminals and civilians, between culpable and innocent mental states. But who is not guilty? Some just catch a bad break. And as for the state of my practice? I know exactly what I want, and now I must clarify exactly how I am going to do it. But I have a couple ideas. Construction may have stalled briefly, but I have two years to seek practical experience and engage bright peers with a similar vision. I will press forward.



Webs Webs

r1 - 23 Aug 2015 - 21:53:39 - CMcKinney
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