Wide-eyed, hopeful, a little bit scared, and with big dreams to change the world. That’s how many of us enter law school. In short order, real life swoops in and your dreams begin to be eroded until they’re a little bit more in line with “reality.” If you’re in law school, and feeling this way, stop yourself right now! Even with a job market that is still struggling enormously, and mountains of debt, and the harsh reality of becoming a practicing attorney, you are still entering a profession that gives you enormous possibilities for social change. And that’s what you wanted, right? Change. (Channeling Obama’s ’08 campaign here.)
The rigors, realities and big surprises of real life can’t take that away from you. No matter where you end up, or where your future takes you, if you want to be an agent of social change, then you can be. Especially if you’re a member of the bar. I happen to work in a field that goes hand in hand with social change. Trial lawyers attempt to shine a light on unsafe or unfair business practices and try to make the world a safer place for families and consumers. But, even if you believe your job doesn’t contain this particularl component, there are still so many avenues for you to make a difference.
Pro bono work, bar association involvement, community volunteering, dial-a-lawyer programs. There are vast numbers of opportunities for every type of practicing lawyer to give back to our communities. I see it every day: a small thing that you can do as a lawyer, for someone who doesn’t have meaningful access to the legal system, can absolutely make that person’s day. Each time you help someone, or lobby for better legislation, or give your time to a legal aid organization, you are participating in social change.
And even if you don’t have time for any of that. Simply by practicing law, and bringing unimpeachable ethics, a good heart and a clear moral compass to your work every day can have a positive influence on your clients, your opposing counsel and on the outcome of any one case. Lawyers bear an immense amount of responsibility, but you can rest assured that your job, no matter what it ends up being, brings with it many incredible opportunities to bring about the change you want to see in the world.