A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 22 2013

What One Forgets While in Law School

It’s been so long since I’ve posted that I almost forgot how to log into this blog. I feel guilty about not having posted in so long. I hope it’s not a sign that, while in law school, I’ve “forgotten” about my longer-term commitment (and the very reason I went to law school): educational justice.

In some ways, it’s clear that I haven’t. As the best example, this past year, I was a student attorney in the education law clinic. The clinic represents children in the Boston area who have faced unspeakable–truly jaw-dropping–trauma. All of our clients are students with special needs. The clinic uses the power behind the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to advocate so that these students receive the “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) that they are entitled to. I started litigation on behalf of my client against a school district for failing to provide FAPE in various ways over many years. By the end of the semester, the situation had ended favorably and my client was in a much better school environment. The clinical experience was incredibly rewarding, mainly because I saw how the legal system could be used to protect our most vulnerable students. It was also revealing; I learned just how resource- and time-intensive litigation could be. Though I was glad to have “won” my case, in retrospect, I shudder somewhat at the amount of time and energy that went into litigation that ultimately helped only a single client. At any rate, my commitment to education was evident while in the clinic.

But in other ways, it’s clear that I have “forgotten” something. Two years ago, I started my day by reading the education section of the New York Times and Washington Post; today, I start by reviewing my notes for intellectual property and constitutional law. Two years ago, I was writing several blog posts a week on education; today, I write only an endless stream of notes on cases. Two years ago, I spent my afternoons and evenings daydreaming about creative solutions to intractable problems in public education; today, I spend my afternoons and evenings reading judicial opinions and daydreaming when I can’t parse some of the incredibly confusing language that judges use. Some part of the “spark” for education that I had is gone.

Part of this loss is completely understandable and no cause for worry. Law school, after all, is a busy beast. Moreover, this is the last chance I’ll have to be in school, so I might as well take advantage of the opportunities to learn. Finally, it’s not as though I hate IP law or constitutional law; on the contrary, I love almost every area of law that I’ve studied.

But in a mainstream law school like Harvard, it’s hard not to get sucked into the legal rat race/paper chase–one in which the pressure to “become a true lawyer” displaces or, at the very least, greatly minimizes the varied passions that one might have had before. I feel stifled. I feel like one in a long line of cookies made from a centuries-old cookie cutter. One of my law school classmates–who, like me, was both a DC CM and in the education law clinic–regularly conveys to me the same feeling. So I know my situation isn’t unique.

This isn’t an indictment of law school or legal education. In fact, I couldn’t be happier with my choice to come to law school. I’m confident that I am gaining the written and oral advocacy skills that will enable me to advocate more effectively on behalf of those who most need help in the incredibly un-level playing field that is American society.

Instead, I’ve come to the realization that a perhaps inevitable part of obtaining a JD is that the cookie cutter slices away parts of one’s identity that one would rather retain. I need to avoid this somehow.

What’s my solution? I’m going to start writing here again. Bit by bit. One post a week seems perfectly attainable. Given that I’m now far removed from the classroom–the former endless source of blog topics–I’ll have to, once again, immerse myself fully in the contemporary debate on education. Spring break has given me some time to mull and ponder.

So here begins the rebirth of A.B.C.D.E.

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2 Responses

  1. Lisa

    Very glad to see this post in my inbox today! Keep on writing!

  2. Yes! Looking forward to your posts.

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Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

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