In this series of essays, Lawyers Update helps you to get into world's top law schools.
"I Want to Be a Lawyer Because. "
Sitting in an empty basement room for five hours at a stretch allows a lot of time for deep reflection. I had already gone through six months of weekly lectures by psychologists and other professionals and done countless role plays and practice calls in order to prepare for this moment, my first night manning the phones. Although it was past two in the morning, a mix of anxiety and excitement kept me jittery as I waited for my first call. In the back of my mind, I couldn't completely ignore the worry, "Why would anyone call an anonymous student-run peer-counseling hotline to talk to a complete stranger about their most personal issues?" A deeper fear (that I tried unsuccessfully to ignore) was whether I would be able to help them if they actually did call. In the next hour, both of my questions were answered. It was a call from a nervous freshman trying to recover from his parents' recent divorce and worried about classes, making friends, and fitting in at college. I was able to draw on the skills that I had learned during the intensive training and allay his fears, and by the end of that call I experienced the tremendous satisfaction of knowing that my training and preparation had allowed me to give immediate and direct help to someone in distress.
Both my experience at the counseling hotline, Nightline, and my coursework in my major in economics (including game theory) have fueled my fascination with the area of law concerned with alternative dispute resolution (ADR). At Nightline I learned to hone skills of active listening, feedback, analysis, and perception that I believe would be invaluable in the process of ADR. I was able to continue to employ the skills I learned at Nightline as well as learn more about ADR at my current job at the plaintiff-side employment law firm of Outten and Golden. As I frequently serve as the initial contact individuals have with the firm, I often find myself depending on my skills as a peer counselor in order to talk to individuals who are sometimes in very emotionally charged states after having just been fired from their long-term jobs. In addition, sitting in on weekly meetings as the attorneys discuss how to proceed in a matter, I have been able to gain a greater appreciation for the process of ADR. I have learned that individuals seldom make their objectives clear at the outset and often do not themselves have a firm grasp of their own position. A successful mediator, like a successful peer counselor, can identify what lies in the best interest of each side and encourage movement toward that goal. Moreover, every conflict or dispute is not a zero-sum game. That is, a gain for one side in a conflict does not always indicate a loss for the opposing side, as there are often conflict resolutions in which both sides can benefit. As game theory confirms, two opposing parties may make independent selfish decisions and as a consequence end up themselves worse off, while an independent outside party can sometimes find an outcome in which both parties can have a greater gain.
At the same time, my work at Outten and Golden has also taught me that there are disputes for which mediation would not be appropriate or in which it would be necessary to have binding arbitration, or actual litigation. For this reason I am eager to attend law school in order to learn the skills and acquire the knowledge that would allow me, when necessary, to act not only as a mediator, but also as an advocate and litigator. What appeals to me about Harvard Law School in particular is the possibility of receiving a strong general law education and also focusing on my particular area of interest, ADR. It is my fondest wish to be able to study with Professors [Robert] Mnockin and [Frank] Sander in their courses on negotiation and mediation. I am also drawn to the Harvard Mediation Program, which would allow me to have hands-on training and experience as a mediator. I believe Harvard is the ideal environment for developing both as a lawyer and a mediator, and if I were fortunate enough to be accepted I am confident I would be a dedicated, passionate, and constructive addition to the Harvard Mediation Program and the law school in general.