Law in Contemporary Society

Dear Fall 1L Me,

-- By RafaelMiranda - 17 Apr 2024

As I conclude my second year of law school, there is one item that ought to be discussed with more disdain: the private sector 1L summer associate offerings.


To preface, I worked at a law firm before I started law school for around 3.5 years. Graduating from UC Berkeley in 2019. The firm I worked at focused on complex commercial litigation and white-collar defense (interestingly it was founded by the former lead prosecutor of the Enron Case, John Hueston). I chose the firm because the type of work they did sounded interesting to me (and they offered me a job before the other 2 places got back to me). While the details of the job were somewhat non-transferable, I received a phenomenal insight into the daily lives of low level big law associates. I felt the firm hired a variety of personalities, there were neurotic meddlers, "nice guys", passive-aggressive types and others who were united in that they were drawn to a boutique litigation firm after working or clerking somewhere else first. Most of them practiced work which they felt was highly uninspiring and many quit after working for just one year (part of their hiring model for annual recruitment one partner quipped to me). Thus I came into law school pretty unamused with the "BigLaw" career as a substantive category.

The Private Sector Dynamic in Morningside Heights

While It would be naive for me to say that coming to Columbia it was unexpected that there was a high amount of institutional reverence to the "BigLaw" legal industry, I was rightly shocked by the amount of people coming into 1L with standing offers from firms they worked at over the summer.

Too Soon?

One of my issues with this practice is the speed. Students just started learning the fundamentals but if you are already locked in for a job the coming summer—I believe there is a tendency to lose incentive to really engage in the doctrine for the sake of it. To use the terminology from the class, I believe this dynamic only speeds up the "tuna-canning process", at what point do we start applying to law firms along with law school admission applications?

Institutional Issue:

If students come into law school with outstanding offers, what exactly is the point of a 3 year education? Furthermore why is it inappropriate to question why the move towards an even earlier summer associate hiring process should be seen as a bit odd as opposed to an "opportunity". I've asked several associates & partners at firms how they feel about how much earlier the EIP process is compared to when they were in school and most responses don't consider any un-intended effects of this system over the course of the next 10-20 years.


I was surprised by was the amount of dishonesty displayed across the board. Phrases and words like "Collegial","respectful of your vacation days", "respectful" become buzzwords as if any of JD candidates haven't come in already at least somewhat aware of the relentlessness of the majority of "BigLaw" summer associates. Perhaps what's equally concerning is the dishonesty I have with myself. On one hand, I can confidently I wouldn't outwardly choose to work in "BigLaw" at as it exists right now. On the other hand, even an adjusted pay rate of $60/hour seems enticing at least for enough time to pay off loans and acquire some savings. However therein lies the dishonesty that I've come to struggle with...we've discussed how money functions similarly to addictive drugs in our brain which is why it's conflicting to think deeply and tell myself "Yes Rafael its only 3 years and then you'll exit and then you can pursue what it is that you wanted to pursue". Of course, the question of thinking on what I actually want to pursue is either so implied that it is buried or never really explored (because in either case, those paths could be done after a stint at Paul, Weiss).

This of course is a fairly typical mind path for many people in law school, especially at Columbia.

My Future (Hopeful)

Long Term:

I knew coming into law school that I wanted to do litigation. In an ideal world, I engage primarily in civil litigation involving police brutality lawsuits and wrongful conviction lawsuits while also maintaining a smaller criminal defense practice. I plan to become a prosecutor first, primarily for the trial experience and secondarily for the credibility for issues related to civil suits against government actors (such as police officers, security guards etc.). Perhaps one of the biggest reasons I desire to embark on this path is the delicate focus on person to person interactions. I agree with the sentiment that lawyering is a people centered category of work and I feel plaintiff side civil litigation is notably even more based around client interactions.


I'd like to stay long term in New York City/New York State. Primarily because the NYPD is the largest police department in the Nation, which unfortunately means there is higher frequency of police abuse. As budgets for police officers get inflated at the cost of more substantive community-saving measures like libraries, its my prediction that more people will be subjected to unlawful police brutality in New York City and I'd like to be there to help assist families in attaining some form of compensation for the trauma they've suffered.

--+++The Path

2 That's why the first question about any practice is "Where?" You see that the choice to practice in New York City introduces a cascading series of consequences that fundamentally affect everything else. You could choose to establish the practice you want in many other parts of the US much more easily. Perhaps that's part of the invitation to think through. In other respects, the sort of academic program and network building you should do in law school is pretty clearly indicated. But "Where" brings with it "With Whom?" and "How much," and therefore remains central to the planning of your practice.

Thank you and while I could choose to establish a practice in other parts more easily, further investigation brings me back to NYC. Is it feasible enough to justify the "where" on the basis of the "whom"? What I mean is that New York City has a police department larger then the U.S. Coast Guard. With that comes plenty of instances in which unreasonable police violence against civilians occurs at a much higher rate. Could there be other places in the United States I could practice in? surely, however I think remaining in New York City for me remains central to how I'd like to shape my practice. Note my revisions to this essay were minimal, I do think I have more to think on but I do believe that my where is New York City (at least after living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and now currently Johannesburg, South Africa)

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Webs Webs

r11 - 30 May 2024 - 02:57:17 - RafaelMiranda
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