This is a guest post from Loy Webb, an amazing poet and socially conscious young woman who I have met along the way. In her own words: “my main goal in life is to follow the lead of those who came before and leave the world a little bit better than I found it.”
I want to give the disclaimer that my experience is my experience. Not everyone goes through what I went through. I can only speak for myself, and what I experienced:
When I began law school, I was so full of hope and held high expectations. However, slowly and painfully that hope and expectation began to wane. From my observation, the first year law student is taught that, in order to survive, you need to develop a Darwinian mentality. As a result, you end up with a “one cheese and thousands of rats mentality.” I am not suggesting this mentality is only applicable to law school; this mentality can be applied to any area of thought. Because I was always taught that you cannot compete for something God has already given you, I couldn’t understand some of the mentalities and attitudes that were prevalent. The backstabbing, the fakeness, the hoarding of information, the “I have to pull you down to lift me up, etc.”, took a huge toll on me emotionally. The emotional drain drove me to the point that I dreaded attending school.
Finally, a course that I took last semester made me realize why I had been so disappointed with the law school experience. It was the last day of class and our professor handed out an article on the perception of lawyers, making the argument that the credibility of the profession has gone down. As he reviewed the article with the class, I recalled a show that I watched three years earlier called “Lock Up” that comes on MSNBC. It’s a show that crosses the barriers of prison walls and provides an intimate look at the lives of prisoners. One particular prisoner stuck out to me. He had a tattoo on his arm that said 13 ½. The interviewer asked him what it stood for. The prisoner said, “12 jurors, 1 judge and a half ass lawyer.” After the professor concluded reading the article, I raised my hand. I shared this story with the class and explained that such thinking is truly how people perceive most lawyers. I asked myself why and the answer became simple: we are so focused on being good at what we do that we overlook being a good person while doing it. I explained that I not only want to be good at my profession, but be a great person while doing so. The profession deserves that, my clients deserve that, and my legacy deserves that.
My professor was obviously touched because he pulled me to the side and thanked me for the comments. Other classmates came up to me and shared my professor’s sentiments.
I find that I am often the outlier, presenting a perspective that stands away from the pact. There’s a picture of President Jimmy Carter, with Bush I and II, President Obama and President Bill Clinton below.
When I saw this picture, I immediately identified with President Jimmy Carter. I have felt like him my entire life. People considered him a “better man than he was president.” He was guided by his morals and his ethics. Sometimes, when that is your guide, it puts you at a professional disadvantage. Still, that is a risk, like President Jimmy Carter, that I am willing to take. I urge you in everything you do, to always remember this quote: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Don’t let people tell you that in order to be successful, only you can be good at your profession. No, you can be good at your profession, and a great person while doing it.
Loy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.