No Expected Path

March 15, 2007

J.G., 2L

In the middle of second semester, first year, I decided not to pursue an Editor position on the Yale Law Journal. Ultimately, the decision was not an easy one. The Journal is definitely considered a mark of achievement and looks great on a resume, but I had to stay true to myself. I knew that legal scholarship was not my most indelible passion, and I feared the sacrifices that would have undoubtedly been made to make time for it. Most influential, perhaps, were Dean Koh’s words during orientation, “You are off the treadmill, and you now have the ability – the duty – to create your own thresholds of success.” Fortified by his words, I was no longer willing to forfeit time and effort on activities that I did not inherently enjoy simply to satisfy another person’s hierarchy of accomplishment. [You’re not allowed to point out that I matriculated to YLS. I know – my hypocrisy knows no bounds].

The necessary analog to the above proclamation is that I then engaged in those activities that do interest me. Indeed, YLS has many options and I have been able to find student groups and activities that I truly enjoy. Before coming to law school, I spent a couple of years as a community organizer in Washington, DC. There I saw the benefits of individual and group mobilization and the positive effects of empowering communities. This led me to enroll in the Community Development Financial Institutions Clinic, where I am one of about ten students working to create a community development bank in New Haven. Engaging the community, researching bank regulations, and creating innovative financial products have made for an extraordinary year and a half. I already know how well a community can respond to organizational efforts. I’m excited to witness the transformative effects of an organized community with access to capital. With no previous background (or interest, really), I’m currently our tax guy. I’m investigating how our complex tax structure constrains our activities but will still enhance our financing abilities and function. I never thought I would be interested in tax structuring or even access to financial markets. But participation in this clinic has demonstrated how essential both are to the empowerment of the communities I care most about.

For the record, I love Journal people. Some of my best friends are on Journal. The Journal provides a necessary service to YLS and the broader legal community. However, I knew it wasn’t for me. What makes this place special is that I was not unique in my thought process. There is no expected path. Yale Law School provides opportunities – ranging from starting a community development bank, to conducting human rights research with Dean Koh, to crafting a brief for submission to the Supreme Court, to representing the educational interests of all school age children in Connecticut, to being Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal – that allow each of us to pursue our own passions and cultivate our own measures of achievement.