Sunday, August 23, 2009

God Qualifies the Called

When I was an undergraduate, I had considered the idea of becoming a political science or philosophy professor. I decided not to, since I didn't feel like I had what it took. (I don't really fully know what it takes, but for some reason I didn't think I had it.) During my senior year, I contemplated applying to law school, but I felt that the timing was wrong. I decided to go on a mission instead.

After my mission, I went to law school. (I started 3 weeks after I got home.) I was at a 4th tier school with a major inferiority complex and a relatively incompetent administration. (The teachers were good, but the deans and other powers left something to be desired.) I don't remember exactly when it happened, but sometime in either my second or third semester there, I was standing in the 5th floor foyer one foggy afternoon (San Francisco is notorious for its fog), and it hit me. Right there, surrounded by tacky vinyl couches, God called me to be a law professor.

The school I was at got put on probation by the ABA, and the administration panicked. I got caught up in a big purge and got academically disqualified. The irony of the whole thing is that my disqualification letter and my Witkin award* came in the mail the same day. I appealed the disqualification decision, and it was denied. As a result, I had to wait 2 years before returning to another ABA accredited law school.

Last year, my waiting period was up, and I returned to law school at a school much better suited to me. Gone are the foggy days and incompetent administrators, replaced by splendid sunshine, palm trees, and an institution dedicated to the glory of God. A statue of the Savior sits in the middle of campus, inscribed with Biblical reminders to come unto Christ.

On the first day of new student orientation, we met in our legal writing and research class. My professor (Professor A) asked us each to introduce ourselves and tell what we want to do with our law degree. He made commentary on each choice. When my turn came, I said that I wanted to be a law professor. He paused for a moment before getting solemn and saying, "That will be very difficult."

He then proceeded to talk about how unless someone goes to Yale or graduates at the top of the class, it's practically impossible to get hired to teach a doctrinal subject, and that anyone else who teaches will have to teach legal writing and research. I was stunned, since most people only tell me happy things like, "You'll do great," or "Go for it!"

Over the course of the year, I came to really respect this professor and his opinions. He was always honest with me when critiquing my writing, which meant a lot to me. Still, his not so stellar pronouncement about my career prospects has stuck with me. Unfortunately, legal writing and research was not my best subject.

Over the summer, when I took summer school, I decided that it was time to start talking to my professors and finding out how they got started teaching. I asked my legal ethics teacher (Professor B) what he thought, and he told me basically the same thing. I told him I didn't think I was qualified to teach writing and research, and he suggested that I specialize in an area of law that the regular faculty didn't like to teach and then become an adjunct. He suggested I talk to Professor C to get his idea. (Professor C happens to be my copyright law professor this semester, so I'm going to catch him in office hours and find out what he thinks.)

I have Professor A again this semester, this time for appellate advocacy. I've decided to brave his office for another conversation on the subject. I've been mulling it over for a few days, and I'm nervous. I'm afraid he'll tell me what I already fear- that I'm not qualified. The other fear is that he'll tell me that I am qualified, but the black marks on my academic record, as a result of my prior disqualification from law school, will make me nonetheless unhireable.

We often hear in church the popular quote "whom God calls, He qualifies", or my personal favorite rendition of the sentiment, "God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called". I had an amazing epiphany regarding this thought today during church.

We usually think of it as referring to church callings, but today when my mind was wandering during Sacrament meeting, I realized something. It's not just for church callings. He called me to be a law professor, and He will make me qualified. I don't know how it will happen, but it will. I think I have a unique contribution to make to the legal academy because my background is different from the typical professor. I can empathize with struggling students because I've struggled. I know what it's like to fall down and get up again. I know what it's like to have to work while going to school. God doesn't just want some random person off the street to teach - He wants me, and He'll make it possible.

Professor A's pronouncement of a year ago, that it's not going to be easy, still stands, but nothing worthwhile in this life is easy. I'm going to keep plugging along, doing my part, with faith that the Lord will do His part.

*The Witkin Award is given to the student with the highest grade in each section of each course. I got one in Constitutional Law II just before getting kicked out of law school.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Back to School

I'm back to school. There's something fresh and exciting about a new school year. This is going to be a really busy semester, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm a full-time student now, and I'm only working 20 hours per week. It's a still a juggling act, but it's more manageable than before.

I'm taking a seminar in bioethics and the law that I'm really excited about. Instead of a final exam, I have to write a law review article. I'm really looking forward to that. I like writing, and getting published will look great on my resume. It will also satisfy my supervised analytical writing (i.e. thesis) requirement.

I'm also taking copyright law. So far, I really like it. It's nice to have a class that isn't a re-run. I'm grateful that I got a second chance, but re-taking everything I had already taken was really unpleasant.

In the category of re-runs, I'm taking appellate advocacy, civil procedure, and the second semester of constitutional law. It's not going to be too bad. I love constitutional law, so taking it again will be fun. My teachers for all three re-run classes are great, so I'm sure I'll learn something new anyway.

I enrolled in institute this semester. I wasn't sure if I was going to do it or not, since I've already graduated from institute multiple times, but I figured that since I have the time, I should give it a try. I took a day class, since in my experience, the day classes have more of a spiritual education feel instead of a singles' ward feel like the night classes.

I'm going to try to get back to the spiritual roots of this blog in the future, instead of always talking about law school. Look for some more posts about my scripture study in the near future.