Law in Contemporary Society

-- SuzanAbebe - 02 Jun 2015



The 90’s.

Unconventional is the term I use to describe my parent’s decision to leave Ethiopia to come to the U.S. in 1993. At the time, I was three, my brother five, and my sister seven. Our home was also filled with our uncles who were all in their twenties. My dad was the oldest of ten boys, so at various points he had his brothers live with us to attend school in the capital city instead of them foregoing education in the villages where they grew up. My dad decided that he needed better than he had for his owns kids, so he and my mom left and we stayed behind. It would be two-and-a-half years later that my brother, sister and I finally reunited with my parents in Washington D.C. I often thought my dad was an impulsive person, and was angry with him for the deep-rooted feelings of abandonment my siblings and I felt from being separated from him and my mom. But over the years I have learned that he is calculated, fearless, and proceeds forcefully to get what he needs for his family. He is the high risk, high reward type of individual that I wish I could instinctively be.

The Nation’s Capital.

My mom had a distant relative in Maryland they were supposed to stay with until they found an apartment of their own. Though my father’s pride had them out of there less than a week after their arrival. They slept in various train stations in the D.C. area until my dad earned enough money from his fast-food chain gig where he quickly became manager, to get an apartment. My mom eventually found a nanny position for a wealthy Jewish family. I don’t know all of the details regarding my parent’s struggles during those years, but I know life was unimaginably difficult for them. My siblings and I arrived to a tiny studio apartment, but over the years our living quarters steadily got larger. Despite not being educated “professionals” – an opportunity they instead saved for their kids – my parents became homeowners, small business owners, and money saving machines.


My Practice?

I got a nice dose of humble pie by my dad when I went home for winter break. I could not wait to tell him that being a Columbia law student means my first gig out of law school could be $160,000 a year plus a bonus in big law! I was waiting for those kinds of smiles a father gives when he is proud of his child. I’m not sure why I even thought that, anyone who knows my dad knows he doesn’t smile unless forced. My friends have always been petrified of him that they prepped themselves to come over my house. Although I know he loves me because of his actions, especially in the moments where he is scared to lose me. For example, one time I got really sick in college, and the University thought I had the swine flu. My dad dropped everything and cut a commute of 2 hours in half to pick me up. His face that day captured his love for me no words could define. Anyways, my dad looked at me with one of his looks that make me feel silly. He said, “What is this work to make a stranger rich that is making you feel proud. You are going to open up your own practice, focus on subjects that will make you in demand.” I knew I had aspirations of opening my own practice, but that always seemed like a long-term goal. I wondered why it was so obvious to him that it could happen immediately. After our conversation, I initially wrote off my dad’s comments as typical of an immigrant mindset about owning a business as the ultimate goal. I was still so caught up that big law didn’t avail itself to just anyone.

Back to Fear.

After winter break, I began this course, where for the first time the same notions my father preaches, are reiterated by a law professor. Sad to say but it gave the idea more legitimacy for me. Earlier in the semester, you taught us about the nuts over bolts method of running a practice, and told us that your monthly goal was ensuring that your nuts stayed lower than your bolts. That same class you looked out at our class, looked at most of us in our eyes, and said that you can feel how scared we all were.

The more I analyze why it is I am so apprehensive about beginning my own practice straight out of law school, the more I realize it is largely because of that fear you picked up on. It doesn’t feel like my experience is the all or nothing kind my parents faced to make life better for us. For me, it feels like I can enter the pawn shop, get my 160k and have my community say, “hey that Abebe kid has really made something of herself” even if I am miserable OR take the road of uncertainty to being my own boss but potentially create something good. I am scared about starting my own practice, because I am scared about failure. More specifically, I am scared about hiring people who will depend on me for their livelihood. I am scared about not knowing enough and advising clients on matters that could make or break them. I am scared that I am losing my Amharic speaking capabilities and predict that a good portion of my clientele will probably be Ethiopian who will need that. I’m still not at the point where I have decided just exactly what I will do, but I think confronting this apprehensions is a start. I’m also tailoring the rest of my time in law school to gain the most amount of practical experience that I can get.

Great. So now you know where your roots are. You grow from fearless determination. From self-reliance so profound that a smile is too much dependence on the stranger who smiles back. If you were instinctively that, as you think you wish, it might be a prison for you. But to choose, despite fear, to draw from your roots, is strength and freedom all at once.

To keep your book wider than the nut (the nut is singular, as is the book, and the bolt was a beautiful improvisation of your own), it helps to have a supporter who believes as firmly as you do, and you have. That's a fortune in its own right.

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  Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
jpg family.jpg props, move 44.4 K 02 Jun 2015 - 05:44 SuzanAbebe  
r5 - 29 Jun 2015 - 21:53:20 - MarkDrake
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