his coming fall, I’m heading to law school. I couldn’t be happier to finally be living out this long-time dream of mine.
I am passionate about a variety of social issues: immigration, health care and gun regulation to name a few. This past year and a half, a series of experiences and encounters that I had while living in the Bronx made me a bit more focused on New York City tenants’ rights and the laws protecting them. I hope to use my law school experience and degree to help create protective housing policies for the people of this great city–especially communities of color and other marginalized groups. In my dream NYC, universal sustainable housing is the norm.
My excitement is mixed with nervousness. This may be in part due to the notorious first semester workload, but even more so because I am worried about how the experience will impact my goals.
Earlier this year, I read a brief essay by American lawyer and activist Dean Spade that discussed some ideas for the average bright-eyed, bushy-tailed social justice warrior (read: myself included) to consider before choosing to attend law school in their noble quest to change the world. Two of his points really concerned me.
I was worried, firstly, by the idea that most legal work maintains–rather than transforms–systems of maldistribution, and, secondly, by Spade’s description of law school as a very conservative training and rarely a critical intellectual experience.
He emphasizes that in law school, you are forced to work within an academic setting ill-suited for the aspiring activist:
Culturally, law school is a place where white masculine norms and behaviors are exacerbated.
Spade says that you are indoctrinated with rules and ideas which leave almost no room for critical thinking within the classroom, and the first year especially has little to no practical use in the actual practice of the law. He also points out that United States law is designed to uphold oppressive systems of power, so any work engaging in it will ultimately do the same.
Even those who enter law school hoping to change the system ought to be wary, says Spade, who says that it took him years to unlearn the unconscious biases and tendencies that he picked up at UCLA School of Law:
I think no activist enters law school without having been changed and been made more conservative.
As someone who respects Spade and his work enormously, this was all a bit scary to read. So, how am I making myself feel better?
That’s where blogging comes in. I’ve already begun blogging about tenants’ rights, and I intend to continue throughout school and when I practice.
I’ve come to realize that blogging is one of the most grounding practices that someone with my interests and goals can pursue. I think this will prove to be even more true as I progress in my career.
If I’m blogging for NYC tenants–or even fellow lawyers–in 10 years, I’m going to have to extract myself from the formality and logistics of the legal world in order to do so. And that’s exactly what I want.
Remembering who I am trying to help and why I’m doing so will always be of the utmost importance to me. It’s an opportunity to write in a conversational tone about the topics I care about and what I feel should be happening in the legal world surrounding them. And once I’m a lawyer, it’ll be an opportunity to speak bluntly on these topics, without jumping through the hoops of legal language or political correctness.
Most importantly, blogging provides a way to check in with myself. Keeping this up regularly throughout and after law school has become even more imperative to me upon reading about the unconscious biases that Spade says people develop in law school.
In short, blogging is a way to remember who I am, avoid the potential pitfalls of a law school environment, and focus on what I want to accomplish as I dive into this next chapter of my life.