Are we becoming blind?
As anyone in law school knows, and anyone who is thinking about law school will find out, fall of your 2L year feels like a tornado. A cyclone of class, interviews, applications, and job hunting. We are merely two days away from fall break and I already feel like I have a full semester behind me.
In the midst of this storm, you are preparing for interviews, updating your resume and combing your writing samples for mistakes. You get to know your resume like the back of your hand, and are ready to answer any question that might come your way. Let's just put it this way...you definitely want to be candid, but you don't want to be surprised in an interview.
This is why it was odd that while I was going through the interview process this fall, I suddenly found myself going off script.
I was sitting in an interview one Friday afternoon when I was asked about my previous summer experience. Softball right. OK. I told them about my writing, about going to court with the attorneys, and the special projects I was a part of. But then, I was asked, "What was the most important thing you learned from that experience."
Before I could think about it, I said, "How to see people." Immediately, in my head, I panicked. What was I saying?! How to see people, come on. That's not a concrete answer. They are probably wondering what's wrong with me. Not surprisingly, I was asked to explain.
I explained that one of the greatest things I took from my previous experience was how to set aside what you know, and your expereinces, and place yourself in their shoes, see their life, where they are coming from, and meet them where they are. I dealt with people who had completely different life stories and life outlooks than I did. I learned how to look beyond my life experiences and look to theirs. I had gotten so used to the life I knew, the people I knew, the places I went, and the way I thought, and without knowing it, I was putting blinders on.
This past summer I took the blinders off.
Then, shortly after the interview, I see this article in the New York Times, The Fraying of a Nation's Decency.
"The prevailing American story line right now is seething anger at politicians: that they’re corrupt, or heartless, or socialist, or dumb. But the Amazon story, and many other recent developments, suggest that the problem is significantly deeper," reporter Anand Giridharadas writes.
Giridharadas questions if in the midst of the pursuit of our dreams, we are somewhere along the line losing our sense of decency, and common purpose. He fears we are dealing in cheap stereotypes, instead of valuing the individuals right beside us.
And after my experience this summer I think he is right. With personalized newsfeeds, blogs, twitter feeds, and a million specialized news outlets where we can watch the news 24-7 we are truly in danger of building blinders without even knowing it. Instead of having our views and ideas challenged, they are reinforced. And instead of looking beyond ourselves, our friends and our lives, the walls around us keep growing taller and taller.
Giridharadas goes on to write, "What is creeping into the culture is simple dehumanization, a failure to imagine the lives others lead. Fellow citizens become caricatures. People retreat into their own safe realms. And decency, that great American virtue, falls away."
How does this fit with law and being a good friend, a good sister, a good student or a attorney? We take off the blinders. We look around, and we listen. It is one of the first things to fall to the wayside when things get hectic. But what better way to support and feel strongly in what we believe in than talking with those who think differently. What better way to learn than to to step outside of our comfort zone. And what better way to serve people, whether they are friends or clients, than truly setting aside what we know, and our life experiences to truly see other people for who they are.
Learning the law is only half of what I need to be a good lawyer. To truly advocate for someone, I need to learn to listen, and to see people, exactly where they are.
Don't be a stranger.
Photo from We Heart It