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Recent reports are that law students are demanding to postpone their exams as a result of the national tragedies in Ferguson and New York.

Students who find it impossible to take tests because of news reports about injustices in our legal system should not become constitutional lawyers. Better yet, they should find another career altogether.

I am a civil rights lawyer. For 15 years, I have represented those whose rights have been trampled by the same systems at work in Ferguson, New York, and all over the country. Civil rights lawyers must work one-on-one with families whose lives have already been torn to shreds by machinery that will just as greedily do the same to the lawyer and anyone else who stands up against it.

If you are rendered so helpless by media reports of injustice from afar that you cannot even take a make-believe school test, you are not prepared to handle the real pain experienced by victims in the up-close-and-personal way that is necessary to bring them – and our country- peace.

The tests you are shirking are a sad fantasy approximation of what lawyers do – with no one’s life hanging in the balance, and without any real repercussions for the quantum of justice in the world.

When you stand up in the courtroom with a man’s life and fortune in your hands, and the only remaining hope for any justice is you, there is no reprieve. We play for keeps. You must be prepared to fight and win against inestimable odds in a system rigged against you for clients you’ve come to know and love.

If news reports about people you’ve never met suffering pain you haven’t helped carry them through leave you unable to act, then you are not fit to practice law.

On the other hand, if you read about Ferguson and New York and the long line of similar cases going back many years all over the country, and a fire was lit in you – if you want to take your exams as quickly as possible and be the first to be sworn into the bar so that you can start actually doing something about it, then get to work – your country needs you.


The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Joseph, Greenwald, & Laake P.A.

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