Law Pre-Grad Intern Thomas Just
A Defining Experience
Some experiences are indelible and some are arbitrarily forgettable. This essay will focus on my cumulative experiences as a Law School intern in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin during the fall semester of 2010. The profound conclusions drawn from this program will undoubtedly prove to be invaluable. Through this paper I hope to crystalize the conclusions drawn from this incomparable program through careful and rigorous reflection.
There are rare moments in one's life where an awareness of the moments of significance takes on an inimitable decisiveness. These fleeting moments of time take on a surreal experience where the individual realizes that this is a juncture in life that will prove to be definitive. A rushing sensation that this moment will have profound echoing consequences grips the experience. Most of reality however consists of thousands upon thousands of passing moments that contain little to no import to the rest of one's life. These insignificant moments once passed are lost forever. They inevitably proceed into the anonymous abyss. There are however also definitive moments only recognized as such retrospectively. In either case, these select points in time are the raw material from which one fashions and shapes an all important narrative. This narrative then acts as a normative lens through which all of life is seen and interpreted.
Fairly early on in this semester was when I realized that this was a defining experience that would undoubtedly have a lasting impact on not only my academic career but also my life beyond the academy. In fact, I can remember the exact moment I came to this epiphany. I was sitting in Professor Justin Driver's office in the University of Texas Law School conducting the assigned faculty interview. I had emailed him several times endeavoring to set up a convenient time for us to sit down and talk. However, I never heard back from him. So I simply added my name down for a slot on his office hours sign-up sheet outside his office door. I had also prepared a list of questions; but trying to craft a series of inquiries for someone with such an impressive resume is a daunting task to say the least. Needless to say I was a bit nervous since I had no way to predict his reaction or gauge the quality of my questions. That feeling of anxiousness, however proved to be entirely unwarranted. He immediately greeted me with excitement and told me that he was thrilled when he saw my name on the signup sheet. He further commented that I had already displayed one of the indispensable qualities of an attorney; namely tenacity and perseverance. As the interview progressed we began to quickly dive into the complicated and fascinating nuances and intricacies of the law and society. I immediately began to become excited as his answers fascinated me and begged further interrogation. I remember thinking that these are the conversations and questions that captivate and engage me on a level nearly unrivaled. We ended up running out of time. So he gave me some reading material and asked me to come back and see him once I had done the reading which I eventually did. As I walked out of his office after that first interview, I realized I was hooked. I knew then that I was definitely headed to law school.
I think it is important to not only remember definitive experiences, but to also examine what made them so important and unique. In the example above there are several contributing factors that created such an irreplaceable episode. First there is something to be said for being afforded access to someone with such a distinguished career and resume. That gravitas has the effect of lending a certain amount credibility which is a requisite ingredient in my case. I needed that in order to evaluate the encounter with the sincerity needed to create the desired ripple effect. Furthermore, the reaction of Professor Driver should not be minimized. The fact that someone such as himself not only gave me his time but more importantly took me seriously is something that undoubtedly positively influenced me. That sincerity coupled with his expertise allowed for a discussion of the law that I was able to take seriously. Moreover, the maieutic approach taken by Professor Driver revealed my own latent interest and talent for all thoughts and questions legal and ethical. Once recognized, this nascent interest quickly produced a conscious realization that seemed to have simply been laying dormant within me. This is truly a unique gift. If it had been otherwise, I would have suspected that it was not truly my own, but rather a foreign transference of mere passing interest.
Some conferences are a colossal waste of time; others are inspiring! In October I was fortunate enough to attend the annual "Shaking The Foundations" conference at the Stanford School of Law. This event brings in, without hyperbole, the most preeminent legal scholars, thinkers and innovators from around the country. Often times the crude caricature of an attorney pejoratively frames them as devoid of all virtue, singularly intent on amassing as much individual wealth as possible to the detriment of all others. This conference purposefully runs counter to all those ill-informed stereotypes. This seminar seeks to explore and illuminate what it means to be a lawyer of substantive consequence furthering the progression and defense of civil liberties in the service of advocating for a a more fair and just society. I believe the greatest nugget of truth bestowed upon me by this event was the corrective challenge to the proper understanding of an attorney's role within society. To perceive the practice of law as merely a means to amass personal affluence is to profoundly misconstrue the indispensably noble role that an attorney plays in preserving and promoting equity and justice for all. The practice of law should always be framed in the quest for justice. It is the place where all people are to be recognized as equals regardless of birth, wealth, fame, gender, sexual orientation, race, creed, religion or lack thereof.
This conference had several unique factors contributing to its incredibly positive effect on my perception of the legal profession. First, it is astoundingly awe inspiring to be face-to-face with the greatest legal minds in the country. There is something irreplaceable about that personal physical encounter with these scholars that allowed me to realize that they too, are human. Hearing their stories and journeys that created them to be who they are today taught me that they were not simply born legal geniuses. Many of them came from humble beginnings. They have simply worked incredibly hard to achieve truly remarkable accomplishments. It may seem trite but this seemingly simple fact penetrated my proverbial skin, leading me to the cognizance that I too can reach the same heights. Furthermore, hearing the cutting edge legal issues that these exceptional individuals deal with is not only inspiring but eye-opening. They exposed to me to the incredible amount of work there is to be done in order to correct certain prevalent systematic injustices within our society. To see the men and women of such great talent choosing to spend their time and expertise defending and promoting the rights of those least privileged within our society is to put on full display something irresistible to me. That is something that offers me a unique vehicle through which I can use my distinctive talents and abilities to positively contribute to something larger than myself. That is something in which I can believe and fight for.
My mentor Seth Sanders is a second year law school student at the University of Texas. His contribution to the beginning of my legal education is one that I will be forever grateful for. Throughout this semester he has continually gone out of his way to expose me to as much of the legal world as he possibly could. The road to law school is a long one, involving seemingly innumerable hurdles. The knowledge of these hurdles in my future provided by my mentor will prove to be invaluable. One of those hurdles involves discovering for oneself what kind of law school you want to attend. This involves determining what it is exactly that you want out of your law school experience. This is not simply a matter of trivial preference. This decision and process will have lasting impacts on my legal career that extend far beyond my time as a student. This process, however, has already begun under the excellent tutelage and guidance provided through the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program. Furthermore, this program has exposed me to what life is like as a law school student through numerous conversations with actual law school students. This has provided me with the knowledge of what to expect when I become a student in a rigorous legal program.
In conclusion, the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program is truly unique and has already begun to make its impact felt within my life and academic career. The knowledge and exposure gained through this program is demonstrably indelible and inimitable. This program has proven itself to be a defining experience with profound implications for not only me but hopefully society at large. It has inspired me to pursue a career in law with an eye towards enriching and improving the society in which I was produced. It is an experience that years later I will look back on and be forever grateful