Why I want to be a lawyer

Yesterday was the last day of my summer internship at LAF. LAF is a large legal services provider in Chicago. The attorneys there provide legal representation to indigent clients who cannot afford any other help.

LAF is separated into different practice groups, such as Children and Family or Immigrant and Workers’ Rights. I was in the Housing Practice Group. My group represented tenants facing eviction, termination of housing assistance (e.g. Section 8 vouchers), and denial of assistance. Some of my clients were on disability. Some worked minimum wage jobs. Some couldn’t work because of health issues. All were terrified about becoming homeless.

My clients have experienced great hardship. One stopped working because she had had a miscarriage and was dealing with health issues. One didn’t pay his rent because he needed to help pay a family member’s rent, who had been living in a homeless shelter for six months. One had been denied housing assistance because a criminal background check showed that he had a pending arrest. Turns out, that background check was inaccurate.

As hard as it was to work on these cases, it reminded me why I came to law school. Some of my classmates love thinking deeply about legal doctrine. They read court opinions for fun, argue about policy and jurisprudence, tinker with the intersections of law and other disciplines. That’s all wonderful, and I am grateful to be at such an academically vibrant school. But that’s not why I am here. I am here because I want to use what I know to help others. Not to speak for them, for they are capable of speaking for themselves, but lending my voice to theirs so that they will be heard.

I may never reach the pinnacle of my profession. I may never become partner in a major law firm, argue before the US Supreme Court, become a widely regarded legal academic. I may never make a lot of money (my starting salary out of law school will probably be $50,000; my classmates going into major law firms will start at $160,000, a level that I will probably never achieve in my whole career.) That’s OK. They have their own stories to live, and I have mine.

3L starts Monday. Looking forward to a good year.

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