Why I want to become a lawyer: #WCSymposium Blog from Ethan Parent ’16

Most Americans have a decidedly negative view of those who practice law. Due to the perceived increase in frivolous lawsuits and money hungry lawyers, the legal field has become the sixth most disliked career path according to Gallup polling.

So, why would I want to continue to trudge through the rigors of law school?

I want to help people. Yes, you read that correctly.

As a species, mankind faces a plethora of potential global catastrophes: nuclear terrorism, water shortages, extreme weather, genocide, mass extinctions, and cyber warfare. I want to be a voice of reason in the midst of any struggles to come. I want to make an argument so strong for privacy rights that no government agent has any wiggle room to dilute the truth. Perhaps one day I will work for the Office of Legal Counsel to ensure that the United States never again allows torture in the hope of gaining intelligence on the enemy. There will always be multiple interpretations of every law. As responsible citizens, we must be sure that our interpretations bend toward justice for all.

The second reason I plan to attend law school is to change people’s perception of the career. Not all prospective lawyers see dollar signs glittering in the horizon. Many of us see the potential power of a legal career as our access point to being agents of positive change. Dr. Laura Donohue, for example, has used her vast knowledge of the law to testify before Congress on the illegality of bulk metadata collection, and other questionable government practices. Lawyers like Donohue give me hope that the word lawyer can mean more than what people perceive today.

This year’s Symposium and my experience at Westminster College deals directly with these issues. I want to reach the higher echelon of law professionals in the U.S. I believe that my time at Westminster College has given me the basic tools to do so, if I work hard enough. Whether I am accepted to an elite law school or not, I have no doubt I will become more than a well-educated ambulance chaser.

–Ethan Parent ’16

Professor Laura Donohue will offer the opening plenary session for the 2015 Hancock Symposium, “Security vs. Liberty: Balancing the Scales of Freedom,” on Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 8:45 a.m. The event is open to the public and will also be available via live stream. Read more about Donohue and other Symposium speakers here.

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1 Response

  1. John McFarland says:

    Ethan-
    I think it is great that you want to become a lawyer but think you are too cynical about lawyers.
    I graduated from Westminster in 1962 and Washington University Laws School in 1965. I practiced law in two large firms for more than twenty-eight years and taught a couple of courses at the law school before undertaking a second career which I have now enjoyed for twenty-two years. I found that the overwhelming majority of lawyers I came to know were conscientious, hard working people who were not motivated primarily by money. Of course every profession and occupation have exceptions.
    I suggest that another reason for you to attend law school, and arguably the most important, is the education you will receive. The study of law teaches a thought process which is extremely valuable regardless of what occupation you later pursue. I have heard the law degree described as the “terminal liberal arts degree”, and we Westminster fans are all strong believers in the value of a liberal arts education.
    Best wishes as you pursue your legal education. I would be pleased to visit with you if you ever want to discuss law school or legal careers.

    John