Class of 2010
We sat at two opposite tables in the courtroom. As an intern for the district attorney, I sat at the prosecutor’s table. He was on the other side, the defendant on felony drug charges. We were the same age, and as he entered his guilty plea, I discovered we had once attended the same grade school.
As I looked at the only other women in the room—his mother and sister—I was struck by how what we were doing in that courtroom would change their lives. I had heard both of them sobbing earlier in the hallway as the defendant made his decision to plead guilty to the charges. When I mentioned their puffy eyes later to the men sitting on my side of the courtroom, none of them had noticed. They had been looking at a guilty defendant. His guilt was undisputed, but for me, he and his family had become far more than the file I had spent hours reviewing the day before.
This experience, and my other experiences as an intern, impressed upon me the importance of pursuing the truth while seeing the people touched by it. I first discovered this not in law, however, but in the field of journalism. As a writer, copy editor and finally editor-in-chief of my college newspaper, I looked for the truth, and usually heard a different version from every person involved. A story over the battle for the commencement speaker had members of student government telling me that their opinions were never considered, while the president of the college called me hours before the printing deadline with information “off the record” about how the speaker had really been chosen. So at the last minute—for nearly everything in our paper seemed to happen in the few hours before the deadline—I would craft a story that tried to balance the different perspectives. And I would do this while answering the questions my staff had about the front page headline or the caption to a picture. While sleep became a luxury on deadline nights, I thrived in that newspaper office. There was a thrill in telling a story truthfully while at the same time straightening out a million other details to lead my staff toward achieving our final product every week.
Yet I learned that my desire to find the truth and the story while considering the people around me extended beyond individual articles to the daily functioning of the paper. Past editors had been notorious for exhausting their staff members, who would feel underappreciated and quit mid-year. I came in determined to make our office an environment where our editors could develop instead of burn out, but do so without giving up our commitment to be a reliable source of information on campus. We maintained that commitment, winning seventeen awards at the state level, including a second-place award for general excellence. But I was prouder of the fact that every single editor, except one who left for personal reasons, stayed on staff through the whole year. We had created an environment where we could both improve the issues we produced and develop relationships with each other as people. I consider learning to balance pursuing our paper’s purpose while developing the people on staff to be the most important lesson I could take away from my time as editor-in-chief.
What pulls me toward law is the opportunity it gives not only to search for the truth, but to see the real people and lives involved. And while I do not know which table I may sit at as counsel in a courtroom—or if I will even be sitting in a courtroom much at all—I do know that the draw of finding the story and serving people will never fade for me. I look forward to allowing law school to shape me and to give me new skills for bringing those desires to a career in the legal profession.