A Story

Maybe you’ve heard this one before.

I didn’t go to law school to make money. You probably don’t believe me. Maybe this next part will change your mind, or maybe you won’t believe it either.

Before law school, I didn’t realize what a lucrative profession law could be. No, really. I didn’t. I didn’t know lawyers growing up. Hell, I didn’t know rich people growing up. Here’s what I knew about lawyering:

In the mid-nineties, my dad started going to law school part-time, at night. He had four kids and a full-time job teaching. I was in middle school. He graduated in 2000 and we moved to Arizona where he took and passed the bar exam. He hung his shingle, so to speak, and started taking the occasional small case, DUIs and divorces and the like, for friends of friends and their kids. He was a lawyer. By now he had five kids and still had a full-time job teaching. And we were not rich. He wanted to use our fifth bedroom/den area as on office, but it was always too full of musical instruments and legos to invite clients in. He recorded a message on his cell phone that said “You’ve reached the law offices of ____” when he didn’t pick up. He sometimes borrowed my laptops when he went to a meeting. In 2007, he quit his job after 22 years and took a job at a law firm. That was the same year I started law school. If you’d told me that three years later I’d be working at the top of a building in downtown Chicago in an office with a view of the Sears Tower in a building with hundreds of other lawyers charging and earning a fortune for their legal services, I wouldn’t have believed you, not because I didn’t think I’d want that life, but because I didn’t know that such a place existed.

So if I didn’t go to law school to make money, why did I go? You’ve heard this story, too. I wanted to make the world a better place. For three years I studied, dreamed, and lived social justice. I immersed myself in the relevant scholarship. I took labor law and immigration law critical race theory and a whole freaking class on the Fourteenth Amendment. I wrote and published an article about how effed up Arizona is. I volunteered at prisons and workers centers. I worked with indigent kids charged with crimes and laid off workers in Michigan trying to get their unemployment insurance. I’m not saying I lived this righteous, selfless life but trying to explain why it was so easy for me make my life about fixing others. You can’t ignore the broken school system when you talk to kids every day who get in fights because there aren’t enough staff members to keep tabs of what’s going on in the hallways between classes or other kids who carry guns to school because they don’t feel safe on the walk there. You can’t ignore the broken criminal justice system when you meet with the same incarcerated men every two weeks and realize they’re not all that different from you.

I’m telling you this because my life is different now. The way my life is now, happy and easy and free of the sorrow of others, I woke up today and it was just a day off of work. I always wondered how people could live their lives oblivious to injustice and inequality. Now I know. Just move to the North side of Chicago into a ritzy condo building in a ritzy neighborhood and go to work in a big secured building. This last year plunged me (and Husband) into the depths of good fortune. I’m not saying I walk around in clouds of bliss. I don’t. But the point is that I should, because I’m that lucky.

I hate that today was just a day off. I hate that I’ve forgotten to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement in my day-to-day. I may not be able to dedicate my work to society’s forgotten at this exact point in time, but I know I can do more good. And I think I may be richer for trying.

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3 Responses to A Story

  1. Pingback: So You Want To Go To Law School | Bending the Rules

  2. Pingback: Decades | Bending the Rules

  3. Pingback: In Which I Am A Hypocrite | Bending the Rules

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