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.