Friday, October 12, 2007

Humility: The Pursuit of Understanding

Pursuing a legal education has imbued a sense of self-confidence in me. I have felt “at home” in the legal academy in a way that I have not experienced before, I believe I have found my calling and I couldn’t be happier. It makes this life-long nerd, finally feel comfortable in her own skin. However, the self-confidence is limited to feeling as though I am in the field I am best suited for, not that I know what I need to know, I have only just scratched the surface of learning the law. This distinction illuminates to me the paradox of simultaneously experiencing self-confidence and inferiority.

The law is vast, dynamic and intricate; I am in awe of those who have earned the right to be called experts in any area of law. My feelings of pride for being a part of this profession are felt as acutely as my realization of my own inadequacies, and I am humbled. Humility, however, is a place of strength. It was Socrates who made the point that there is wisdom in knowing there is much we do not know.

This profession demands its practitioners to continually learn and grow in their understanding of the law. Perhaps this is what makes the academic community so rife with energy; there is no stasis in legal education. My hunger to know and to understand is not something that can ever be completely satiated, there will never be a point in time where I know “enough.” Sure, I can get to a point where I know enough for a discrete purpose, but that is a microcosm. It is humility which makes the good trial lawyer comprehend the nuances of his opponent’s case, thus enabling him to win. To recognize different points of view and seek to understand an issue from opposing sides is to acknowledge our myopia and seek to overcome it. The importance of humility can never be underestimated in the practice of law; humility rejects complacency and requires continual growth. Continued learning is our responsibility and duty, it benefits the client, and that is what this profession boils down to. Whether you are in the academy and your client is a student or whether you are in practice, the law calls us to pursue that which we do not yet know.

1 comment:

Alison M. Kilmartin said...

Humble litigator = effective litigator . . . an homage to Professor Dannin. Well put. Though I have yet to litigate, as Anne of Green Gables said, "I can imagine what it would be like." I imagine that in litigation there has to be a combination of sincere humility which allows you to see the arguments, and extreme confidence which allows you to effectively make the arguments.