Law in Contemporary Society

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ImaniPhillipsSecondEssay 1 - 08 Jun 2017 - Main.ImaniPhillips
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-- ImaniPhillips - 08 Jun 2017

After a year of law school, I have learned two principal things about the type of lawyer that I want to be: 1) I want to be a multifaceted lawyer who advocates for underrepresented communities while exploring additional legal interests; and 2) I want to be the type of lawyer who takes risks and is constantly growing and developing in her practice.

As an African American first generation college student, access to an elite education provided me with a valuable perspective and keen awareness of inequality in our nation. As I’ve received invaluable opportunities as a result of my education, I’ve simultaneously watched members of my community remain trapped in a cycle of poverty and recidivism. Consequently, I am far too aware of the many injustices that remain the status quo. That is why I sought a legal education. I entered law school with` the hope that it would provide me with the tools to be a successful advocate for my community. I entered law school with believing that I had a duty and responsibility to use my privilege to bring about change in my community.

While the obligation that I feel to my community has not changed, I no longer feel the need to be burdened by it. The burden that I had once placed upon myself was severely limiting my personal growth and exploration. I felt a sense of guilt whenever I considered financially lucrative legal practices in commercial practice areas. It seemed selfish to consider a practice to help the already well off maintain their wealth while earning an income greater than many in my family could ever fathom. However, despite my guilt, at the start of the second semester, I found myself with an interest in corporate law and a passion for social justice. At first, I grew overwhelmed by the belief that these interests were mutually exclusive. However, I soon found a way to satisfy both of my interests. I accepted a position with a New York City law firm to work as a pro bono scholar. The Pro Bono Scholars program requires me to spend 4 weeks at the firm, performing only pro bono work and permits me to spend the remainder of my summer at a public interest organization of my choosing. For this portion of the summer I’ll be working with the Bronx Defenders. As I write this, I’ve been at the firm for almost 3 weeks and my previous feelings of guilt have almost completely subsided. In the 3 weeks that I’ve been with the firm I’ve welcomed a family from the Ivory Coast who received derivative Asylum to the United States and worked with another family to complete green card applications to become permanent residents of the United States. I’ve helped a local Harlem church lease its property to a start-up business for office space and most significantly I’ve assisted in drafting a motion to overturn a death penalty conviction.  At the same time, I’ve observed corporate transactions including the creation of private equity funds and the sale of company stock. While I am excited to spend the rest of my summer at the Bronx Defenders, I have also enjoined my corporate experience with the comfort of knowing that my interests are not mutually exclusive.

After my first year of law school, I’ve learned that I want to be a lawyer who confidently enters unfamiliar spaces and welcomes new challenges. In believing that I could only be a litigator I never gave myself the opportunity to explore other practice areas. I shied away from topics that intimidated me because I couldn’t quite understand them after an initial introduction. I convinced myself that I wasn’t interested in practice areas like tax law, intellectual property or funds. I played it safe. After my first year of law school, I’ve learned to no longer play it safe, to take risks and to be open to learning. Discomfort is necessary for growth. I look forward to growing and developing with each new challenge.

Upon my return to law school in the fall, I plan to guide my learning to develop effective advocacy skills and explore a variety of practice areas. I plan to use clinical and externship opportunities to gain written and oral advocacy experience. At the same time, I plan to tailor my coursework to introduce myself to new and varied subject matters. I still have a responsibility to use my privilege to advocate for those that are underrepresented, but I also have a responsibility to myself to grow as a professional, explore my interests and maintain financial stability.

Revision 1r1 - 08 Jun 2017 - 02:06:01 - ImaniPhillips
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