Saturday, July 15, 2017
Christine M. Scartz: An Open Letter to My Recently-Graduated Students As they Study for the Bar Exam
A guest post from Prof. Christine M. Scartz of the University of Georgia:
An Open Letter to My Recently-Graduated Students As they Study for the Bar Exam
Dear Clinic Alumni in the Class of 2017,
Heartfelt congratulations to you! As my own father told me when I graduated, no matter where you go from here, no one can ever take away from you the great accomplishment of earning your J.D. degree.
Your sights are set on new goals now - passing the Bar exam and launching your careers. As the summer days speed by, you may have several questions on your mind. Will you be able to absorb all of the knowledge required to pass the Bar? And if the knowledge goes in, will you be able to get it all out in a coherent fashion on the exam? Perhaps most importantly of all you may be asking yourself, if I pass the exam and choose to practice law, am I ready to be a lawyer?
As your former clinic professor, I have the answer to that last, important question. You are ready. You will find your way to a practice where you will use your head and your heart to help all sorts of folks through all sorts of difficult times. You will be bright lights of compassionate lawyering, whether you take up the mantle of social justice work, or take on the responsibilities of representing corporate clients with global-scale expectations.
I am absolutely confident in my answer. I watched you master unfamiliar law, combine it with your clients’ stories, and advocate effectively in front of veteran judges. I observed you build relationships with clients wholly different from yourselves, and treat pro se opposing parties with respect and dignity. I witnessed the growth of your self-assurance in your interviewing, negotiation and courtroom skills, as well as the deepening of your conviction in the rightness of your choice of profession.
I am confident in my answer for some perhaps counterintuitive reasons as well. I stood with you when you figuratively stamped your feet in frustration, and when you literally shed tears of sadness and anger. I observed you make mistakes, and drown in disappointment. I witnessed your hurt when your generosity was rebuffed by clients, and your hard work was rejected by judges. Then, I saw you rebound with renewed energy for doing better. You are ready.
My confidence in my answer also comes from having seen you participate in thoughtful discussions of case law, literature, and documentaries. I listened to you offer thoughts and opinions on difficult subjects that were sometimes inseparable from your personal histories and current realities. I witnessed you display sympathy, empathy and understanding to your classmates, people who may have been strangers to you a few weeks previously, and some of whom you will never cross paths with again.
Finally, I know you are ready because even as you were my students, so too were you my teachers. Some of you were in the first class I taught upon my return to clinical teaching. To you I say thank you for your patience, kindness and enthusiasm as my excitement about our work often led me to lurch about disjointedly in the classroom and the clinic office. Some of you were kind enough to “repeat” the clinic for a second semester. To you I say thank you for the gift of your time, which helped me believe in myself as a professor and in the value of our collaborative efforts. To all of you I say thank you for your questions, suggestions, innovative ideas, and especially your honest criticisms, as these helped move the clinic work forward as well as deepen my commitment to academic pursuits that will benefit the students and clients who come through the clinic door in semesters to come.
You are ready to be lawyers. I cannot wait to see where you go from here.