The Side of Law that Serves the Public

By Ellie An, CFCC Student Fellow (2019-2020)

“For with the knowledge of law, comes not just a lawyer but a public servant—someone who tirelessly works for the people—and that is someone I want to be.” This is the last sentence of my personal statement that I wrote for law school. 

As I read that last sentence now, I think I knew exactly why I wanted to go to law school back then: I wanted to improve the human condition and serve the public. Two weeks ago at our first CFCC weekly seminar, I was asked a common question, “Why did I decide to come to law school?” Although one would expect I would have a more concrete answer to such an ordinary question now than I did one year prior, I did not. In fact, I found myself struggling to formulate an answer at all.

Over the past year, my desire to become a public servant somehow changed into a desire to become someone who is a more suitable candidate in the competitive profession of law: someone who is ambitious, highly competitive, and successful. The courses that I took as a first year and the uncompromising 1L curve influenced me to see law as strictly an adversarial system — a system where there is always a winner and a loser. Perhaps because of this change in perspective, I found myself often doubting my decision to come to law school.

It was only when I was introduced to “Therapeutic Jurisprudence” (TJ), a legal framework that asks us to view the law as a helping profession, that I began to remember why I chose to pursue law school in the first place. TJ is a holistic approach that incorporates interdisciplinary methods to address root causes of problems and “focus on the law’s impact on an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being.” By reminding legal actors to think beyond the facts of the case that lie in front of them and to consider both the intended and unintended consequences of their actions, TJ aims to promote the well-being of the parties. Although I have only been briefly introduced to TJ, I have already started to feel assured that my pursuit of law school was the correct decision. I have learned that, even in an adversarial system, I can help improve the community if I make a conscious effort to practice law in a holistic way. 

4 thoughts on “The Side of Law that Serves the Public

  1. Hi Ellie,

    I can really relate to what you are talking about. I ended last year feeling the same way. Fortunately, I spent the summer working for a judge who is a huge advocate for therapeutic jurisprudence and I saw it in practice every day. I definitely think that the competitive, adversarial mindset might work in some areas of the law. But, if I want to do work that lifts people up and uses the law to bring resolution to deep interpersonal conflicts, I have to let go of that mindset. I feel so much more confident in my role as a student thanks to working for a judge, and I highly recommend it to anyone feeling conflicted about law school.

  2. Ellie, thank you so much for sharing your personal motivation for attending law school. Reading your blog post really hit home with an internal struggle I have felt myself encountering these past few months. Similar to your motivation, I also wanted to attend law school to put myself in a position that would allow me to assist my fellow community members who were in some sort of need. However, similar to the experience you have felt, I have seen that motivation shift these past few months to a focus that I am not entirely proud of – one that focuses on how to make myself the most enticing candidate to future employers. As you mentioned in your blog post, discussing therapeutic jurisprudence within our seminar lecture also made me feel much more at home, if you will, with my initial motivations for attending law school. Additionally, reading your advice to work for a judge drew a smile to my face, as I will be interning for a judge in the upcoming semester. I am so thankful for our course with CFCC to draw us back to our roots of why attending law school was such an important goal of ours.

  3. Ellie, this was such a great post. I agree with you about how law school can be such a win or lose system. I appreciate your willingness to share this because it can be a topic that most feel hesitant to discuss. I’m glad that you are able to enroll in a class that aligns with your original passion in pursuing law. It is so happy to know that one day this will all be worth it.

  4. Ellie, thank you for sharing your personal story in this post. I agree with many of the points you have stated and commend you for writing on a topic not readily discussed. Your point on law school is a “win/lose” system, really hit home. Like yourself, I often found myself doubting why I came to law school due to the competitive environment it brings along with it. I truly enjoyed reading your posts and appreciate your willingness to share your personal experiences.

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