Law in Contemporary Society

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JessicaRoSecondEssay 1 - 08 Jun 2017 - Main.JessicaRo
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Same same but Different

-- By JessicaRo - 08 Jun 2017

1L & Beyond

I did not particularly enjoy my first year of law school. It was rough. The majority of the time I was either on the verge of or already falling behind on readings. I encountered some of the most self-absorbed and self-righteous individuals amongst my peers. I am fairly sure that my already poor eyesight worsened. I smoked more cigarettes than ever.

Notwithstanding this list of complaints, I am eager to return to Columbia in the fall. I am mostly excited about the (alleged) newfound freedom that the second year has to offer, including selecting courses which cover topics of actual interest and participating in clinics and externships. I was also told that the nervous edginess often plaguing the student body is somewhat mollified but I’ll believe it when I see it.


Despite a year of having the word “biglaw” incessantly pounded into my brain, with one side touting it as the one path to rule them all while the other berates it as the devil’s work, I finished 1L pretty much in the same spot that I began with respect to the topic: ignorant and apathetic. I entered Columbia never having been exposed to the term “biglaw”; when I first heard it uttered by a classmate, I assumed it was a pejorative nickname, like “big pharma” and “big tobacco.” Overall, I wish I had heard about it less, from both sides. Although one of my primary grievances, the strenuous workload of this past year reaffirmed my initial resolve: to utilize my law degree in the public sector, specifically local government, in a position where I can effect change on the macro-level by way of policy. I did not toil this hard to ultimately end up in a job where my primary duties include helping the rich stay rich. And no one that I care about cares about my level of wealth or “prestige.” The last two guys I dated were skaters, for goodness’ sake, but I guess that’s for another essay.

While I have zero desire to be a public-facing politician, I would ideally like to work closely with the individual who does wield such power or be a part of something akin to the NYC Law Department’s Corporation Counsel. This past academic calendar, Columbia offered externships at both the NYC Law Department and the Center for Popular Democracy so I hope to participate in these, or similar, externships my second and/or third year.

That is not to say, however, that I have ignored the reality that a firm position will probably be the most readily available job offer for a student like me with no other legal experience. Therefore, I will have to dedicate the next two years to accumulating the skills and connections necessary to render me worthy of an exception to the general rule of hiring experienced individuals. Or the other option would be to plan, with much specificity and foresight, how I could most effectively use a firm position as a means to an end. With the former, the predominant feeling is that of self-doubt while with the latter, it is discomfort; as of now, I am unsure which will prevail but I am striving towards one.

To Live & Die in LA (but go to law school in NY)

My only point of real hesitation in regards to law school concerns my decision to attend a school in New York, versus one in California. Seduced by a generous scholarship and comforted by reassurances that a Columbia degree would carry anywhere, I elected to make the move eastward despite knowing with near certainty that I was to end up back in Los Angeles immediately afterwards. Like NY is to Martha Tharaud and Biggie Smalls, LA is my place. While I do not doubt the portability of a CLS degree, especially within the private sector, I can not help but think that I shot myself in the foot by physically displacing myself from my future home base for three years, a worry that is exacerbated by the ever-growing awareness of the importance of networking in the legal field.


Notwithstanding this concern, I am happy that I am in NY, at Columbia. Having spent some time in different cities and countries, I know that there is much to be gained from living in a new environment. But it also means that I will have to put forth the extra effort to foster and maintain hometown ties as well as meet the right people in NY. As someone whose eyes automatically start to roll at the mention of “networking events” or “social hours,” I know that I can no longer avoid putting myself out there and making myself known, starting with my summer at the LA City Attorney’s Office. While the city of LA employs thousands of attorneys, certain units, such as Consumer Workplace Protection where I am assigned, are very small, meaning everyone knows everyone and everything. Seeing that much of the staff has been working for the city for a decade-plus, it is essential that I prove my value during this short two-month stint as my current supervisors may very well be the ones interviewing me in the future. I will need to continue acting with similar proactivity when I return to school. Lastly, and really the easiest, is tending to my friendships with peers. Whether we are exchanging memes or notes about career ambitions, I do not think I can, nor do I want to, be without their support. After all, these are the people with whom I end up spending much of my waking hours.

So here is to surrounding myself with more like-minded individuals as we mutually back each other up in becoming the lawyers we want to be, ones who work to promote change rather than accommodating existing power structures. Oh, and also to smoking less cigarettes.

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Revision 1r1 - 08 Jun 2017 - 04:28:19 - JessicaRo
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