Law in Contemporary Society

Four Summers

-- By JacobGodshall - 07 Jun 2017

Building Blocks

My dad builds houses. I used to work for him during the summers when I was in high school. I carried lumber and tools and sanded floors and picked up trash. I worked on roofs and in crawl spaces and in holes and trenches. He and I would start early while it was still cool. I would rest my head against the rattling window of my Dad’s old truck savoring each additional minute of sleep, wondering why I wasn’t working shifts at Dairy Queen with my friends. Contractors at the job site would often ask me if I wanted to build houses like my dad. But I wasn’t made for that work, which was okay because my dad didn’t want me to build houses either. But what I was made for I still didn’t know.

Commuter Train

In college, I decided that I was going to law school. I was working as an intern on a voter ID case in Pennsylvania over the summer. I interviewed potential witnesses and reviewed documents and prepared for depositions. Commuting into Philadelphia from my parents’ house each morning on the train, I again would rest my head against the glass. But this time I didn’t want to be somewhere else. I would later learn that there’s only two reasons to go to law school: a love of justice and a hatred of injustice. That summer I found that I had it.


I started working at The Law Firm after graduation because I thought I needed experience. For two years, I worked on deals. They had big dollar amounts, and they involved companies you’ve heard of, and there was a moment where I thought that mattered. I re-wrote my law school application essay over the summer. In this version, I no longer loved justice, I no longer hated injustice. I loved legal complexity and puzzles. I admired my hard work, my dedication to the task at hand, never mind the task. In this version, I rested my head against the window of black cars.

Stress of Weather

I entered law school already two people. One of those people was suited to law school. He put his head down and read the readings and performed in cold calls, and a job was waiting for him. He locked the other away in a cage and promised him pro bono projects. He banged his head against the glass window of his apartment until it broke.


I finish my first year of law school deeply unsure of the person I am, the kind of lawyer I will be. One of the nice but damaging things about studying all the time is that it gives you a lot of time not to think. In my disorientation, I avoided thinking about how my career path will make me unhappy. I avoided admitting to myself that my supposed love of justice and hatred of injustice alone is not enough to overcome my love of security, my fear of the unknown and my comfortable vanity. But I am thinking about them now, and to my surprise it doesn’t bring me stress but a feeling of wisdom earned.

I go to work each day and find a little bit of that passion from all those summers ago. I’m working on a fraud investigation, calling investors who got caught up in this hurricane of a man. It’s mostly elderly people who have lost everything. My stomach churns at the rank injustice of it all. They ask me if they will get their money back. I can’t tell them of course. But I keep working. I ride the subway home thinking about what I can do.

Building Again

I cannot make the same mistakes as before because next time I don’t think I can put myself back together again. I know I could return to The Law Firm if I’m not careful, and I know that it will not end well. I find myself thinking of those summers working for my dad. He has a good business. There’s no boss, no employees and no name. He builds three or four houses a year, and he goes home for lunch. At least he doesn’t have to divide himself. Maybe there’s a model here, perhaps a kernel I can use for my own practice. Low overhead, flexibility, creativity. There are things I can glean from everywhere: the public interest center, Columbia, the SEC, even The Law Firm. I have been listening and watching, but now I need to do more. I need to develop plans, grow my network, find a professor who has my back and never get too far away from justice. I know myself better now. Having weathered the past year, I know there’s something for me. I know there’s something to come back for.


Webs Webs

r2 - 08 Jun 2017 - 02:59:28 - JacobGodshall
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