Thoughts as I Begin My Second Year of Law School (2L)
“Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intercede.”
— Isaiah 59:15-16
Before leaving my summer internship, my supervisor gave me a “devotional readings for lawyers” titled No Higher Calling. Although I am merely a “2L” who has barely started the second year – which means I’m not even an infant yet in the legal profession, just a second-trimester baby in the mother’s womb – I must wholeheartedly agree that there is indeed no higher calling.
I am still a little skeptical about the oft-repeated adage that 1L is the hardest year in law school, especially because this upcoming year is really not looking any easier. But 1L year was definitely tough, and not just academically. I was pretty burnt out even before second semester started. I could only take so much of the “read – go to class – read – go to class – read some more” cycle, which loops on until you take the one and only final that determines your grade and, consequently, your life.
Yup, somewhere along the way, I lost sight of what is important. I wondered to myself: what if my grades aren’t good enough? What if the school I chose to attend isn’t prestigious enough? What if the opportunities I had chosen aren’t the ones that will lead up to a distinguished career?
“Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed–and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter.”
— Ecclesiastes 4:1
This summer, I was tasked with conducting the necessary preliminary legal research to pave the way for the organizations venture into China. It was perfect: exposing the short-comings of the Chinese government? Sign me up!
It’s only too easy to turn ridiculing the Chinese government into a hobby, but I was quickly struck by the gravity of the realities: Chinese border guards collude with North Korean border guards to profit from trafficking North Korean women into China for prostitution…corrupt government officials disguise forced youth labor camps as government “internships” (talk about getting surprised on the first day of work)…an estimated 100 million women are missing from the Chinese population because of infanticide and sex-selective abortions (government-mandated in many cases)…! The list goes on and on. Even without ever setting foot on Chinese soil, these facts gave me a glimpse of the oppression that was taking place under the sun – and the tears of the oppressed.
And then there’s the picture posted at the top of this entry. It’s a simple picture taken with a cellphone on the streets of Beijing (by a fellow CFC alum), yet this pictures has so much to say: the contrast between the modern, affluent cityscape and the struggling migrant worker – the hard labor, the sense of alienation, the surrounding apathy… – especially considering that the ultimate difference between the migrant worker and that lady in the center of the picture with the designer bag (fake though it may be…) is the hukou status (class – or caste even, as some call it) they were born with. You can’t help but wonder – is anyone interceding for him?
Let me not be blind with privilege
Give me eyes to see the pain
Let the blessing You’ve poured out on me
Not be spent on me in vain
Let this life be used for change
— “I Will Go” by Starfield
Thankfully, at a retreat toward the end of the summer, God, through the things I “saw” throughout the summer and through the retreat’s prayer times, sermons, and the rebuke of an old lady who prays a lot, put everything back into perspective: “Should your life be measured by what you achieve? Or by how you spent it for me?”
In the words of the Starfield song, even the privilege of being able to attend law school in Washington, D.C. had blinded me. A migrant worker – scorned and despised by the wealthy city dwellers walking around him, abandoned by his government, exploited by the job market, and away from his family – pulls a cart through the streets of Beijing for a meager pay, and I’m here worrying about prestigious jobs and renown?
I can dream about becoming a big-shot judge, a renown litigator, a famous champion for the oppressed – yes, I can settle for pursuing excellence. But I pray – for my second year in law school, but also for the rest of my legal career and the rest of my life – that I would pursue obedience. For I know that to aim for obedience is to aim for perfection – and to aim for excellence is to aim for something less.
He hath told you, O man, what is good. And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
Indeed, there is no higher calling.