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Just a Girl With a Vision: A Letter to my 34 Year Old Self

As part of the coursework for Legal Problem Solving (LPS), all students contribute a post to this course blog. Students develop posts from a weekly journal entry, which also is required coursework. The purpose of journal entries is to invite deeper, personal reflection on the subject matter in LPS, reflection being a key component of content understanding and mastery. This course explores how human centered design and other creative problem solving methods and mindsets inform three areas: (1) the delivery of legal services, (2) how we solve clients' (legal) problems, and (3) how law students can intentionally shape their professional journeys. Each student post will touch on one or more of these three areas.

This LPS post is by Bridget Stewart, Vanderbilt Law School class of 2019.

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The picture above is me around 5 or 6 years old, this was also around the time I decided I wanted to be a lawyer.

As we grow older and experience life, it is funny how some things change while other things remain the same. I have always had dreams of what I wanted to accomplish, however, the routes that I have taken have always been drastically different from what I previously envisioned. For example, ten years ago, I was a 14-year-old finishing middle school and on the verge of entering high school. Today, I am twenty-four. If you would have asked me at fourteen what my life would have been like at this age, I guarantee you it involved planning a wedding, traveling the world, and being a high-powered attorney; instead, I am a twenty-four-year-old 2L law student. My life consists of studying, networking, watching Disney movies, and pretending to ‘adult'.

I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer and I researched this career diligently before entering law school; however, I do not think that I realized how many problems the legal industry faced in its resistance to change until after I entered school. Ten years from now I will be 34. I do not know for certain what my life entails or what it will be like. However, looking at statistics, most women seem to leave big law for less demanding career paths at about the five-year mark. Further, millennials are also leaving the big law world at alarming rates. For better or worse, I am both a millennial and a woman.

With that being said, ten years from now, I see myself as an attorney but not in the traditional attorney role. I hope to have found a niche area that I can give guidance to others on in the legal field. Further, I hope to have made an innovate change that will have my name written in history books. At the very minimum, hopefully, I am in a visible position where I can advocate and possibly change the perception of the legal system and by consequence, lawyers. When it comes to my personal life, I see myself living in my dream home, and married with children. I also see myself taking family vacations to exotic destinations every season.

One of the key themes over this semester dealt with embracing ambiguity. While this is where I see myself -now- I know that things change and I need to be flexible with planning my life. There is no way to ensure that this is how my life will turn out, and I am okay with that. While I was in undergrad I created a very detailed vision board regarding each year of my life, and I was very adamant about staying on track with my goals. But I have learned to be ​open minded about change. For example, if you would have asked me a year ago about incorporating design thinking or creativity into my life as a future attorney, I would have either looked at you with skepticism or laughed. Today those two things do not seem so remote nor difficult to incorporate. In fact, I have come to embrace them and 100% see the need for them in the legal industry. In some respects, I would consider myself an emerging advocate for their usage as well as other innovate tools.

Without a doubt, ​law school has been one of the most difficult tasks in my life. In consequence, I have often had to look back to remember why I came here. In my mind, it makes sense because the past can never change. So, while my ten-year plan may change, I hope the values underlying my decisions do not. I hope to always remember the journey that it took me to get to law school and that they are evident in my daily life both professionally and personally. Below is a letter to my future self, that I hope will serve as a reminder to these principles.

Dear Future Self,

I am assuming you are reading this from your nice corner office overlooking the city’s skyline. Is it late? Are you stressed? Probably. This letter is mainly a gentle reminder on some preliminary matters. So, take a moment because it is time to reflect and smell the roses of your hard work. As I write this, we are almost half way finished with law school (three days to be exact). I am sure in the past ten years you have accomplished a lot. Congratulations! All the sleepless nights were worth it (I hope). You spent your whole childhood yearning for this moment so take time to enjoy it. Do you remember how much you stressed about this? Everything worked out exactly as it should have. If no one else has told you this recently, I am proud of you.

Just do NOT lose track of what is important, what is worth making time for. Your first year of law school, you crashed mentally. Do you remember why? Mental exhaustion. Despite what anybody tells you, you are not a robot and humans are not meant to function at 100% productivity 24 hours a day. I hope that you remembered this and you have tried your best to maintain a work-life balance. Are you married? Do you have kids? I hope you are spending time with them, as well as the rest of your family. No one lives forever, and your family was one of your biggest supporters during law school. Money cannot make up for memories. Please remember that.

And finally, never forget to show empathy. You should be oh, so very empathetic at all times. After all, one of the primary reasons you affirmed your childhood dream of being ​lawyer was because you felt that lawyers failed to provide compassion to people. Also, I HOPE you have continued to adhere to Professor Larry’s guidance about the term non-lawyer-it should not be in your vocabulary. If you have started using it, please remove it now. If not, Good Job!

Keep Living Your Dreams!