Nita Durazo English 475

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Nita Durazo

English 475

Professor Nazar

21 July 2016

A Voice for the Voiceless


As someone who is constantly unsure of herself, finding a career for me has not been the easiest decision to make. I scoured my life clean of details attempting to find the slightest morsel of interest that might lead to a potential career choice. Turns out my love for reading paid off when I found the interest I had been looking for in a book. Within the 502 pages of Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter, a book written about the Charles Manson trial, I envisioned myself interviewing key witnesses, stating my substantial findings in court, and more importantly found myself completely captivated by the field of law. I became fascinated with the finality of law and the prospect of defending people who felt voiceless. Within the last few years I have tried on many career choices but none of them fit nearly as well as being a lawyer does, it fills my need to assist those who feel like their voices are ignored. Although I am excited to start my new journey towards my career there are still many things I need to discover about becoming a lawyer and whether it is a suitable career choice for me.

What I Know/Assume/Imagine

When I chose this career path there was a lot of ideas and assumptions I had regarding becoming a lawyer. I assume my educational journey to becoming a lawyer will be about seven years long, four years getting my Bachelor of Arts degree and another three getting my law degree. I believe in law school is where I will begin to focus on what specific type of law I wish to practice. With all of these laborious hours being spent in school, I know having a family of my own will be put on hold. I know lawyers make a prosperous living about $80,000 - $100,000 a year, but quite frankly the salary did not have an effective role in choosing this career for myself. I hope to discover what being a lawyer truly entails including matters like job tasks and essential skills required in order to be a successful lawyer.

The Search

One of the first matters I researched was the educational requirements needed in order to become a lawyer. According to ONet, a government maintained internet site that lists thorough information regarding career choices, most lawyers are required to have a Bachelor’s degree as well as a Juris Doctor degree which is acquired at law school (“Education”). Thinking of law schools I want to go to has been exciting but I still have not made any decisions as to where I might apply. When I first decided to pursue a career in law, I understood the long educational journey that came with it. It is daunting knowing that I will spend a minimum of seven years at school because that seems like such an extensive period of time, but there is a stronger sense of how rewarding those years of school will become. In order to gain further understanding in regards to pursuing a career in law, I conducted an interview with Jessica Smith, a public defender based in Santa Clara. Smith talked thoroughly about her education and brought to light how important it is to prepare for the LSAT, a test used by law schools to determine admittance, and the Bar Examination, a test taken near the end or after law school that is administered in each state to determine whether or not someone is capable of practicing law. Smith started studying two years in advance before taking the LSAT and studied vigorously for the Bar Exam, which included a preparation course as well. The thought of having to prepare for such tests is quite intimidating, but also helps me understand just how competitive this field is. Being someone who will have to put themselves through school financially, I am worried as to how I will make the time to study effectively for these exams while working and affording the expenses that come with taking preparation courses for them.

In addition to educational requirements, I wanted to consider the desirable skills looked for in lawyers. In our interview, Smith stated that truly listening to others is something often overlooked by lawyers because they are so wrapped up in trying to make their own point “that they forget to really listen to what the Judge or opposing counsel is saying or NOT saying.” This indicated to me that a lawyer must be a well-rounded person. A lawyer is someone who can not only effectively speak but also listen effectively as well. Public speaking has always been a struggle for me. The process of having to learn how to speak confidently in front of others will be a toil and honestly the prospect of even learning to do so is unnerving. As stated in ONet, some other sought-after skills are complex problem solving, critical thinking, and administrative skills (“Skills”). The ability to take information and attempt to piece together situations in order to present an effective case is key. Also being able to keep record of interviews, clients, and trials is crucial. Lawyers often look to other trials to help them figure out cases they are currently dealing with and having proper records assists them with that. I look forward to possessing and utilizing my critical thinking skills. My mind is constantly working and being able to put that work to use, especially one of such importance as helping others, will be very worthwhile. In regards to the administrative skills, I already have prior experience in an administrative work environment, so I am confident that I will be able to provide those abilities into this field of work as well.

In conducting my research, I found that lawyers are bombarded with many job tasks. During our interview, public defender Jessica Smith explained that her career does not follow a certain schedule, so there are no typical days to describe. She’s always performing tasks such as jail visits with clients, working on motions, and conducting hearings and trials. This made me realize that being a lawyer entails vigorous work that is very time consuming. This career requires you to stretch yourself as thin yet effectively as possible. I worry that I will allow myself to be negatively consumed by my work, in turn causing me to despise my career. Another concern of mine is spreading myself too thin to the point where my work becomes ineffective in helping others. In his book Philadelphia Freedom: Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer, David Kairys, a lawyer who specializes in constitutional law, states that lawyers establish and promote liberty, fairness, and democracy (394). I feel as though this is the most important task a lawyer performs. Every lawyer has the mission to facilitate justice, whether it is to defend an innocent person or prosecute a guilty one. Coming to the defense of people is the reason lawyers spread themselves so thin trying to accomplish everything in their power to do right by their client and the very reason my passion for this career emerged. If I were to pursue this career, I feel as though the very thought of being able to provide justice to those who feel like their voices are not heard will motivate me to get through the lengthy and tedious tasks needed to accomplish that.

Although my research has taught me a considerable amount regarding a career as a lawyer, it has also exposed a few concerns and fears. The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a government website that, like ONet, gives informative details pertaining to fields of employment one searches for. This site states that although the employment within the field of law is expected to increase that does not mean the competition within that field will decrease. This is because the amount of law students graduating is greater than the amount of employment opportunities (“Job Outlook”). When I chose this career I automatically knew that I entered one of the most competitive fields possible. With competition comes pressure and one of my biggest fears is to diminish under that pressure rather than prevail. During our interview, Smith stated that a constant career challenge is trying to “effectuate justice in a system that is skewed against justice. It can be hard to feel like you are trying to move a mountain with a stick.” As exciting as representing someone in the court of law can be, it gives me a great deal of anxiety because someone’s life will be placed in my hands. Nothing is perfect and that includes our justice system as well. Some lawyers will fight for justice with injustice and no regard for anything but a win in their favor. More often than not those lawyers are rewarded. This concerns me because I understand how easy it is to get swept up in competitiveness and the last thing I want is for my work and my character as an individual to be compromised because of that.

What I Discovered

Once I had conducted my interviews and gathered the crucial information I learned about pursuing a career in law, I knew I had many factors to take into account prior to making a decision. Overall, not only had my research confirmed what I already knew about education, it taught me the required skills needed to be a successful lawyer and also raised new concerns regarding this career. I discovered that being a lawyer is immersing yourself in a very demanding and competitive field. I have come to know that lawyers are not above using injustice to their advantage and some will do just that. Regardless of how challenging and demanding this career is, becoming a lawyer is exactly what I want to do. The struggles that come with being a lawyer are a worthy price to pay for helping others. I believe assisting those whose voices are drowned out by the legal system is a virtuous way to spend my life. Vincent Bugliosi, a prosecution lawyer once mentioned in his book that a lawyer’s main client is the People “and the People are equally entitled to their day in court, to a fair and impartial trial, and to justice” (166). I intend to spend my life providing that to the voiceless people who deserve it.

Works Cited

Bugliosi, Vincent. Helter Skelter. New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1974. Print.

Kairys, David. Philadelphia Freedom: Memoir of a Civil Rights Lawyer. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008. eBook. Web. 10 July 2016.

“Lawyers.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2016 – 17 Ed. Web. 10 July 2016. .

Smith, Jessica, Personal interview. 9 July 2016.

“Summary Report for Lawyers.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2016 – 17 Ed. Web. 10 July 2016. .

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