Why do I want to go to law school? To answer this, we’re going to need to go back to one distinctive elementary school day. A little background first: I was born and raised in a single-parent household on the busy streets of Washington, DC. My mother typically worked evenings and weekends, and it wasn’t uncommon to not know where the next paycheck would come from. All of this pressure manifested itself in me as an excessive amount of uninhibited energy. I took every opportunity to goof off, and our class excursions were no exception. However, one of our trips was unique. We traveled to the National Mall to visit Supreme Court Justice Richard Wagner. I remember every detail. His unwavering presence. The court dress. The decorum. The tradition. The knowledge that the important decisions that affect us every day were happening right there. I was silent for the entire trip. Transfixed with the idea of what could be, I decided that I would do whatever it took to earn a place at that table.
With the goal of earning a law degree, I successfully gained entry to the University of Virginia (UVA). This was no simple feat. I was the first in my family to attend university, and with no connections to the legal profession, I was left clueless as to what was involved in the career I was pursuing. I reasoned that participating in moot court would be a good logical first step. Moot court at UVA, much like many other schools, is a public speaking competition. To prepare, we developed legal arguments and practiced our rhetorical skills. At first, the idea of speaking in front of an audience, even that of my peers, was terrifying. Any feelings of inadequacy were further intensified by not knowing if my knowledge of the law was sufficient enough to formulate convincing arguments. However, over time, I slowly learned to trust my instincts and that my input was valuable. When competition season arrived, we went straight to work. There was legal research to be done and oral arguments to prepare, and I resolved to do my best on all my individual assignments. I familiarized myself with what happened in the courts and researched statutes that would reinforce my position. After weeks of intense research and practice, I became conversant with my arguments, the nuances of the case, and I was able to think on my feet. In fact, being in the court felt right. It was where I was meant to be.
Knowing that a career is right for you and preparing for that career are entirely different things. Preparing for law involves preparing for life, and being able to take care of one’s self. It’s commonplace in my program to hear about the need to “hustle”. That the short-term gains are worth the sacrifice of one’s physical, mental, and spiritual health. While this is, without a doubt, commendable, I’m slowly learning that preparing for a successful law career will require a generous amount of self-care. I practice self-care through sport. I was accepted to UVA on a partial volleyball scholarship which has given me the financial support I need to study and a community to lean on. It’s also a great resource to release all of that pent-up energy. I’ve learned what it means to earn an achievement through hard work and persistence. I’ve also learned what it’s like to have a second family of people driven towards a single goal. As this year’s team captain, I’ve taken the responsibility to make sure that each and every player has the resources they need to do their best and feel heard. I will forever cherish my time with the UVA volleyball team and take refuge in the activities and the community that gives me strength.
As I reflect on my upbringing and on my time as a student at UVA, I am grateful for all the pieces that fell came together to make me the well-rounded individual I am today. I look forward to translating my experiences in moot court to the real thing, and to working my way up to a seat at one of the tables that will change the world.