It started last summer when one of my favorite and most helpful professors mentioned that she was formerly a lawyer. The class was English 300: Intro to Literary Criticism and part of our class discussion had turned towards how useful the different schools of criticism are in everyday life. She said that as a lawyer, most of what she was doing was basically critically and literarily analyzing the court documents she was given. Never before then had I ever considered the idea of being a lawyer. But when she related literary analysis to the work of a lawyer, my mind was suddenly opened to the idea.
Merely mentioning a similarity between what I do as an English major and what a lawyer does isn’t enough to convince me to pursue a law degree, though. Just because the door is open doesn’t mean I’m supposed to walk through. So what has been keeping the idea on my mind? Well, I think it’d be cool to carry around a briefcase and dress up in suits everyday. But there’s got to be something more; there has to be stronger influences pushing me in that direction, especially if it’s as expensive as law school is. So what is there?
Sometimes when we’re searching for signs of direction, signs with big arrows on them pointing us one way or another, we overlook the small arrows. We get hopeful for some major concrete sign that when the little, mile-marker-sized sign crosses our path we ignore it. We’re waiting so eagerly for an all-out shove in one direction we don’t take notice of the gentle nudges in another. The gentle nudges I’ve overlooked are my tendency (maybe even my desire) to argue and my passion for reading. Within the last year or so I’ve been so focused on the passion for writing and expecting some huge push from there that I didn’t consider the smaller nudges of reading and arguing.
I might mislead when I say I like to argue, but I think a careful definition of argument is needed. First off, there are at least two types of argument; the kind that gets heated and uses lots of yelling and the kind that is more methodically based where your goal isn’t to be the loudest but rather the most persuasive. I love the latter but hate the former. Arguing to persuade can get heated and yelling may occur, but those who are arguing are very much concerned with their tone of voice. Self control with emotions is viewed in Scripture as a very noble thing and those who argue – regardless if they read the Bible – view it the same.
I remember as far back as the fifth grade when my mother and brother were arguing that I started to recognize the difference between the two. Arguing with reason is much more persuasive than arguing with emotions. This kind of argument is evoked when I write papers and this kind of argument will be needed in law school, which has made law school all the more attractive. But before a solid argument can be made, either in a paper or in court, a careful understanding of the texts discussed is needed, which leads to the passion of reading.
Most of the books or articles that I’ve read as an English major have been metaphorical, but a few have been philosophical or rhetorical. I loved reading into metaphors and all the figural language, but the kind that has made me argumentative has been the rhetorical. The way I view the difference between figural and rhetorical (though they can be blended) is that the former argues mostly for several meaning-possibilities whereas the latter usually argues for one most-likely meaning-possibility. I tend to argue for simply one meaning-possibility. The professor that I met with today, the former lawyer, informed me that reading court documents and case files requires this rhetorical style of reading because its whole goal is to get to one meaning-possibility.
These small nudges have gone so far as to make law school just as likely as grad school or pursuing a career in writing. Before it was a coin toss between grad school and the writing thing, but these desires nudged in the third option with equal weight as the others. My conversation with Ms. Sultzbach drew upon court experience. And although I don’t recall ever meeting a judge, I’ve met with several lawyers and even a prosecutor in my time. As a foster kid, I met with a social worker almost on a weekly basis. Social workers are often lawyers in disguise, but they can also be people with different professions hired by the state, like mine was. In either case, this gives me experience on the inside of the system, which many other law students may not typically have. Law schools view this kind of personal history as very valuable, which is a bit of a stronger nudge.
Additionally in the tenth grade, I was the only witness to a dispute between two best friends. One’s parents had accused the other of sexual abuse and since I was the only witness (though I saw nothing) I was called to the stand several times for questioning. Needless to say I actually have personal experience that, as Ms. Sultzbach informed me, is valuable for getting into law school. This, I feel, is the push I’ve been waiting for and it’s been right under my radar the entire time.
Does this mean it’s my life destiny to become a lawyer and fight injustice? I don’t know, but that door has just swung wide open. At the very least, the experience wouldn’t hurt me. I still have plenty of school to finish up before I actually start into choosing my law school (heck I haven’t even taken the LSAT to get accepted), but at the moment this is where I feel the Lord leading me. The only validation I’ll ever have will only come from testing this feeling. The Bible says to test everything; sometimes, we just have to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. And if you really think about it, wouldn’t it be better to try something and yet fail than it would be to never try at all? Essentially, this is where I’m at. Two years ago I thought I’d write a book before graduating college, but now I feel that college isn’t yet done with me.