On the eve of taking part in my second full swearing-in ceremony, based on passing my second bar exam (Wyoming), I need to compose this Open Love Letter to my Law School: the University of Nebraska College of Law.
First of all, I meant absolutely everything I said in my I PASSED! post. My law school experience nurtured a first-generation college student into a first-generation lawyer. I have always been the person who questioned the status quo, and law school gave me more tools to ask how the judicial branch in particular, but the government and its systems generally, impact people daily. I spent years working in law schools nurturing the next generation of public interest lawyers, always building into my advising components of helping my students and alumni understand what their role in the system would be. I began that journey in law school with my professors, friends, and classmates.
Law school was where I began to truly articulate my deepest values. In terms of moral, political and social philosophy, I am a communitarian. I find liberalism prizes individuality too highly while libertarianism too ineffective for protecting the weakest of our society. Even though I am imperfect and an evolution in execution, law school was the space where I began to consider my role in the various communities to which I belong – my family, my friends, community and professional organizations, neighborhood, to name a few. I found it humbling and inspiring to see the College of Law community in action in so many ways — the bench, the bar, mentoring, teaching, raising families, challenging the status quo. But also the generosity that continues to enable graduates to avoid the crushing debt loads I have seen at so many law schools across the country. I began to much more fully understand the importance of that generosity through my interactions with my professors, friends, and classmates.
Law school gave me diverse opportunities. I began to articulate my leadership philosophy and management style. I continue to refine delegation, and allowing others to do it “their way,” especially in volunteer settings. I continued to develop my sense of hidden hierarchies, and how the smaller the organization, the more tricky that can be to navigate. My law clerkships, civil clinic and family law practicum participation, and mediation course deepened my listening and facilitation skills. I led groups within the building; traveled the country to represent myself, my classmates, and my school in competitions, the American Bar Association, and the Hispanic Bar Association; and I took part in campus activities. In each of these opportunities, my professors, friends, and classmates provided me with perspectives, insights, and feedback that continue to influence my thinking and actions today.
I have always told my students that when you graduate from law school, you are a lawyer. You may still be unlicensed, and you may decide to never practice (or cease practicing at some point, or even come back to it when you least expect it), but you will always be a lawyer. Lawyers think a little differently, but we have a role in helping the world become a better place. In helping our communities understand the role of the judicial branch, which is sadly so often misunderstood. Law school changed each one of us, in ways that continue to develop as we partake in community and family life. Thankfully, I have my professors, friends, and classmates with me on that journey. And for that, I will always love my law school. Thank you for allowing my foundations to sink more deeply and expand. Thank you for helping me become the lawyer I dreamed of being as I applied to law school. Is there anything sweeter than becoming who you were meant to be?