1L Winter Memo

I’ve made a habit of logging my Facebook posts on this blog, since Facebook isn’t a great place to search for content. It looks like I missed this one from February 2014, so I’ll post it here now:

I have a major assignment due next week. Because of how I chose to prioritize my time the past few weeks, I am incredibly behind. I am fairly certain that my end product won’t be very good, and that most likely I will receive a low grade.
I will confess to feeling some stress over this, but I am actively choosing to shift my thinking. The truth is that one bad grade is not determinative of my future. I can learn from it and move on. Furthermore, regardless of whether I got a stellar or a horrid grade on the assignment, I would still be incompetent as a legal writer. This sort of skill takes practice. I’m sure that the first 10, 50, 100 writing assignments I produce as a lawyer will be far from amazing.
Yet I still recognize a subtle panic that comes over me when I think about this assignment. Perhaps this too is part of learning how to be a lawyer, how to manage this panic. Because in the future, it won’t be my grade that is on the line. It will be a parent’s right to child custody, it will be an entrepreneur’s dreams for her business, it will be a prisoner’s plea for exoneration. In the future, clients will say “I don’t understand my rights, so I’m putting everything in your hands.” This is an awesome responsibility. Learning how to manage my emotions now is a crucial key to serve my clients well.

The Justice Conference 2016

I’ll be attending the Justice Conference again this year on June 3-4 in Chicago. The Justice Conference is presented by World Relief, an international development and relief organization founded as the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals.
I attended the conference last year and left truly inspired. Of course, big conferences alone cannot solve systemic injustices of racism, poverty, and slavery. The work takes work. But conferences can spark movement and inspire ideas.
If you’re interested, you can check out videos of previous conferences. Past speakers include N.T. Wright, Noel Castellanos, Lynne Hybels, and Shane Claiborne. I particularly want to highlight the talk by Bryan Stevenson, the founder and director of Equal Justice Initiative, who speaks about how faith animates his work in representing people on death row. Last year also featured musical performances by David Crowder and Rend Collective.

AMBW

I was at a comedy show several months ago. Two black women were on stage, dressed in heavy coats, pretending to be two old black men. Cracking jokes, having a laugh. Then they said something that caught my attention. “You know which people are most likely to marry later in life? You know which people have the hardest time finding a date? Asian men and black women. They should get together and make themselves some cute blasian babies!”
 
This bit came to mind because I came across an article in Vice exploring the world of “Asian Men Black Women” dating. The article considers several reasons why Asian men and black women are considered undesirable. Asian men are seen as reserved, passive, and unmasculine, while black women are seen as domineering, aggressive, and difficult. I found particularly striking the data from OK Cupid which indicated that while black women reply the most to messages that are sent to them, they get the fewest replies themselves. So small informal communities Asian men and black women are forming. Although fetishization is an issue, there is a certain beauty to these relationships.
 
When I read the article, I thought about the racial tensions that existed between Korean Americans and African Americans in Los Angeles, especially after the 1992 riots. I was only five years old at the time, and we were not living near where the riots occurred. But those events brought to the surface deep animosity between Korean Americans and African Americans. I hope that things are better, but I honestly don’t know.
 
My friend Albert Alby Wang once commented to me about the beauty of interracial relationships, because they represent the heart of racial reconciliation. These relationships naturally have more difficulties, both from suspicious voices outside and misunderstandings within. But that also presents an opportunity for love to flourish and overcome trials. Of course, I would caution against pursuing an interracial relationship purely as an object lesson in racial reconciliation. “I love you because I’m Asian and you’re black” isn’t a formula for a winning romance.
 
Would I date a black woman? I’m not dating anyone at the moment—the explanation for the complete absence of any sort of romantic endeavors in my life is best saved for another post. I believe that my parents would be open to it, although I do know that they would prefer a Korean woman. I think my extended family in Korea wouldn’t even know what to say. For myself, I’m open to the idea, maybe more open now than I would have been several years ago.

About OCI

Let’s talk about OCI.

OCI, or On-Campus Interviews, happen in the fall before the second year of law school. Dozens of employers come to interview students for jobs for the following summer (summer after second year). The vast majority of these employers are large law firms that employ hundreds of lawyers (referred to as BigLaw firms). These are firms that retain big clients like Apple, Boeing, or Caterpillar. These are the firms that pay their associates the most money; starting salary is $160,000, or $3,000 a week. For students strapped with debt, these jobs are quite attractive, and the vast majority of my classmates go toward these firms. At the end of the summer with the firm, most are offered a permanent job after they graduate, which most accept. This means that after only one year of school, many of my classmates knew where they would likely work after they graduate.

As you can imagine, competition for these jobs is fierce, and OCI is a very stressful experience. The interviews on campus last only 20 minutes, and interviewers are usually meeting with candidates back-to-back throughout the day. You need to make a strong first impression. Confident handshake. Winning smile. Thoughtful questions. Successful candidates are flown out to callback interviews at the firms to meet with more interviewers.

I went into OCI thinking that I wanted to work in the technology industry. I have worked in the industry before (although not from a technical standpoint), and believed that I could learn a lot from the experience. I spent countless hours researching firms and thinking up questions. I forget how many OCI interviews I had. Maybe 15? Maybe 20? The process was very stressful, and I had to find creative ways to deal with the stress. Right before an interview, I told one of my classmates that I sing to let off steam, which led to an impromptu rendition of “Love on Top” by Beyoncé, right on the spot.

OCI is stressful because a job is not guaranteed. Out of OCI, I got two callbacks, along with two other callbacks that I got through reaching out directly to the firms. None of those callbacks converted into offers. I got shut out at OCI. The story we hear in the first year is that the only people who don’t get offers have bad grades, are terrible interviewers, or have miserable social skills. My grades were not the best, but were OK. I don’t think that I’m a bad interviewer, but that’s hard to tell. And I think I have decent social skills.

I was pretty bummed after I got shut out of OCI. I couldn’t help second guessing my decisions. Maybe I should have studied harder. Maybe I should have done the writing competition and tried for a journal. Maybe I should have gone to another school.

But then I talked to my parents. They said to me, “We were surprised that you did OCI. We were expecting you to pursue public interest. Remember, we came to this country so that you would have the freedom to do what you love and not have money dictate your choices. Money should be the least consideration in where you work.”

My parents are pretty great, especially because I know other parents (particularly immigrant parents) who would say something different.

My experience at OCI got me thinking about why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. I wanted to be a lawyer to gain skills to directly help others, particularly those who have no resources and no voice. I wanted to be a lawyer to live out my faith: care for the weak and vulnerable, the abandoned and oppressed. This path has led me in my current direction of pursuing a career in direct services, particularly in the intersection between housing and criminal justice.

In retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t get an offer from OCI, as going to work for a BigLaw firm would not have been the right fit for me. Maybe it’s a good fit for other people. I know that for some people, the financial pressures are real, and the salary of BigLaw helps them support their families. I know that I’m fortunate to have parents who are financially stable and support my decision to pursue a career that will probably not pay very well. And I know that for some, the work of BigLaw is appealing, and they would choose to work there for a fraction of the salary.

But it’s not for me. And that’s OK.