Friday, November 14, 2008

Remembering What Crisis Really Looks Like

With exams just two weeks away, some law students have started to lose perspective in major ways.  Despite the current world events, they have forgotten what a real crisis looks like outside our building.  They believe that papers, exams, presentations, and grades are crises of enormous magnitude rather than transitory problems with solutions. 

Law school is tough, but not as tough as life is for many people each day.  Here are four statistics to share with students who have lost their perspective:

  • 9.2 million children died worldwide in 2007 before their fifth birthday.  (UNICEF)
  • 33 million people worldwide were living with HIV in 2007.  (UNICEF)
  • One out of three city dwellers worldwide lived in a slum in 2006.  (UN-Habitat)
  • More than 14 million refugees and internally displaced people lived in tents or temporary shelters in 2006.  (Kissick et al)

Perhaps these world figures are too faceless and, therefore, have little impact on regaining perspective.  In those cases, I suggest you provide examples by filling in the blanks below for your own locale:

  • The small businessman caught in the economic downturn who owns _____________ is focused on trying to avoid filing for bankruptcy this week.
  • The single mother living in the _______________ shelter with her three children just hopes to be safe from domestic abuse tonight.
  • The homeless person at the ____________ soup kitchen is most concerned about having one hot meal.
  • The mother whose child was killed at the corner of ____________ and ____________ by a drunk driver last week just wants her child back.
  • The workers for ______________________ that just laid off hundreds are wondering how to pay the rent, buy groceries, and find another job.

If the students came to law school to make a difference in the world, they will likely regain perspective quickly by remembering all the people in their own city, in the U.S.A., and throughout the world who are waiting for caring lawyers to graduate, pass the bar, and come to their assistance.  With that incentive, these students can re-focus on preparing for upcoming exams and a future where they will be qualified to help solve the world's most difficult problems.

If the students came to law school merely wanting to earn enormous future salaries, drive expensive cars some day, and own the biggest houses in the neighborhood when they become partners, perhaps these statistics will cause them to think of others and how their legal careers could serve society through pro bono work.  They may get more perspective on what a real crisis is and get back to work with less angst over their studies.   

There are always some law students who keep their perspective in place because they live with real life crises daily.  However, living in the law school fish bowl with the same people every day can cause other law students to forget the world outside.  Those law students need to regain perspective on what a real crisis is and be thankful for the privilege of being in law school.  (Amy Jarmon)

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