3L over

Wow. Requirements for law school are completed. Every paper finished, every grade in, every committee stands adjourned. I’ve met some amazing people along the way, many of whom I owe great thanks for inspiring and encouraging me. They are certainly my professors and our Dean, Judges of all levels from circuit court through Supreme, and of course attorneys who work hard every day demonstrating that hard work pays off. But my fellow students with me in the trenches every day have perhaps seemed most awesome of all because I got to see them every day. These colleagues of mine are destined for leadership–I saw it on day one, and it’s more clear now than it’s ever been. They chose our school because it fit them, and dividends have been many.

My own trajectory took me on a path from leading an environmental chemistry laboratory to navigating the nuances of the legal structure seeking to address environmental problems. In some ways I’m fortunate to have been born into an era that has recognized the value of addressing those problems with statutes and agencies. In other ways it’s made me recognize we don’t yet have it right. But it has made me aware that law and policy are the chief guides to navigate the most complex problems of our time, because law is the study of decisions made that reflect our values and best hopes for a sustainable future. While not every decision is groundbreaking or forms precedent, each one is important to have been made. Real people–stakeholders–are well invested in each outcome, and the highest stakes are often the toughest to decide. I’ve never lost sight of how people are affected by each decision, and I’m glad for that.

The environment was my focus for most, if not all, of my career hitherto. But I was always most concerned about how the environment affected people. Environmental stewardship was always a matter of social justice to me, because large environmental problems tend to affect unempowered people more, and they are less able to do anything about it. People are my focus, and law is indeed a “people” profession. Following that logic, I recognized the most personal manifestation of environmental problems is withing ourselves, our bodies: our health.

Health law came to my attention profoundly by two special scholars at our school. One is a J.D., M.D. and the other is a seasoned Yale scholar in the subject. I’m still amazed I had direct access to their teaching and guidance. I will always be grateful to have met them, no just because they’re so smart, but because they’re good people who have made meaningful contributions to the field. They helped me get clear on so many aspects of health law and to gather my own thoughts on the subject. If I have success in pursuing a career within it, it’s because they guided me so well.

I wrote my capstone (something like a law school thesis) on the subject of complementary and alternative medicine and the law. I was fascinated by the gap between can (i.e. actual skills) and may (i.e. jurisdictional permissions granted to a practitioner to use those skills. In fact, it has become my mission to explore and bear out how one type of practitioner–naturopathic physicians–are to be included in mainstream primary care. For many reasons, they have been historically excluded from licensure regimes in many states, but here in Oregon they have the most extensive scope of practice of any jurisdictions. So, it feels a bit of serendipity to be placed where I can really explore that much more deeply.

So, I remain fascinated, and as I move forward I’ll be bearing out the journey by studying what naturopaths do, and the many nuances where law and medicine meet. I intend to start a blog about that exploration, which I think will be unique, and I hope enlightening both to me and anyone who chooses to read it.

For now, though, I’m preparing for the arrival of my family and friends as we prepare for graduation ceremonies. I’m so excited about that! I get to introduce a dear mentor and friend on the Court of Appeals who is a keynote speaker at our Baccalaureate. I am also being inducted into our school’s Cornelius Honor Society, a gift of the faculty and staff by which I was truly surprised and deeply humbled.

But I say this in closing, particularly because I know applicants read these blogs. I was elected to serve as a student representative on our school’s admissions committee, and I have these general observations. I believe that heeding them helped me, and that they will help you when you choose to apply to law school.

Do the best you can, and carry yourself with the highest standards. In terms of numbers, the latter matters more than the former. Engage your community, because caring counts. And be yourself–have the integrity and courage to do so, and be forthright. You do belong and are a good fit somewhere. Maybe that place is Lewis & Clark. If so, you’re in for a wonderful experience.

21 May 2013

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