Student Posts

The Law School Culture: A Public Interest Perspective

Walking through the halls on a daily basis, we hear conversations between fellow classmates discussing law firms, OGIs, the overwhelming amount of confusion from readings for particular classes, and the like. I constantly find myself struggling to remember law firm names, practice areas, and attempting to keep track of the overwhelming number of firms spurring the interest of law students nationwide. I attend firm receptions not knowing what to say and staring blindly into space as if I can come up with something. I have to admit: sometimes I wish I could share the same interests and passion in the private firm culture that a significant part of the law school population shares, or at least relate to them, but I have realized that it is okay to be different.

Coming to law school has been a pleasure. However, it is quite easy to get carried away with the day to day readings, courses, receptions, interviews, etc. that detract from the bigger issues affecting this nation and the world at large. While some courses appeal to the public interest community, others have me scratching my head wondering why I am learning a subject that seems irrelevant to my future goals. It seems quite tempting to go the private route: the money, the networking opportunities, the relatively “easier” hiring process…but that is not where my passion lies. As difficult as it has been, I hope to keep on the path that brought me to this intimidating place called “law school” through access to several motivational resources, which I share below:

  1. Legal Education as a Tool: An inspiration underlying the law school education is the platform it provides individuals to be a helping hand of support to those who need it and to those who may not otherwise be able to obtain it. This thought that my law school education, despite its challenging times, will allow me the ability to help others during my future keeps the public interest spark lit amidst any law school chaos.
  2. A Supportive Community: Having a supportive community that believes in you and your goals is crucial to staying encouraged in public interest notwithstanding the difficulties it presents. Fellow students, professors, family, and friends play a constant role in keeping me striving towards my public interest goals. The feeling of being pulled in different directions during the law school experience seems normal. Having a good support system can keep you grounded and striving towards your goal of being a public servant.
  3. Staying Connected: Whether through pro bono, clinics at the school, or just keeping up to date on related policy changes and news updates, staying connected with the issues you are passionate about can help revive your public service interests. For example, I like to watch documentaries on criminal justice or human rights related issues. If I have had a long week stressed about law school in general, or am reading for a class distinct from my public policy interests, watching these documentaries helps bring me back to reality and motivates me to continue working towards my goals in public service.

 Law school is full of challenges: it can be chaotic, confusing, and sometimes makes us question ourselves. However, our passion for public service brings us together in a way that will help us make it through this journey. And as for law school in general, my favorite motto (from Finding Nemo) seems to sum it up: “Just keep swimming.”

2016-04-13 13.34.57Shanthi Rajagopalan is a first-year law student from San Jose, California: Go Warriors! She received a Bachelor of Arts in Justice Administration from Hawaii Pacific University and joined law school to help advocate for systemic change in the criminal justice system. She would like to become a prosecutor after law school and spends her free time playing sports, singing, and wishing for warm weather.

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