Reclaiming Purpose

Thanks to Dan and Concurring Opinions for inviting me to guest blog this month.

Yesterday was my last day of office hours for the semester; my Contracts students take their Fall exam today. It was a day full of emotions. My students are, understandably, anxious about final exams and worried about their first semester grades. I realized that the next time I see many of my students, it will be in office hours discussing why most of them did not earn an A or even a B+. Those office hours are hard on both the student and the professor. I want all of my students to do well, but I know most of them will not earn the grade that they want.

And so I find myself serving the role of teacher and supporter and wondering how the first-year experience might be transformed for law school students. In Reclaiming Purpose: Our Students’ and Our Own,

Daisy Hurst Floyd discusses the ways in which “law school causes students to lose the sense of purpose that made them want to be lawyers.” She writes of specific methods that can be used to “correct this failure” and relates that she has had numerous discussions “of whether it is realistic to view work as a calling, as defined by Frederick Buechner: ‘The place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’”

To my mind, it may or may not be realistic, but it is certainly an ideal that I think we as professors should advise our students — and remind ourselves — to continually push toward. For if we use as our grounding this sense of “calling” rather than simply achievements, accolades, and competitiveness, our individual and collective lives are less likely to be full of stress, anxieties, and worries over perceived failures and more likely to allow us to face life with, as Floyd describes it, “a reclaimed sense of purpose.” The ideal should be one of daily confronting our calling as law professors and law students if we hope to move beyond the trivialities and disappointments that often occupy our daily lives and begin to do some of the hard work that we are uniquely trained to do.

This is not to say that good grades and other achievements are insignificant; indeed, such pleasures can serve to keep one moving forward. Rather, it is to say that whether or not one is rewarded or acknowledged for one’s hard work and drive, the only way to live a rich life free of unnecessary angst – especially in the competitive field of law – is to recognize that our compass should always point toward our personal higher goal of fulfilling our unique missions – our callings — in work and life.

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1 Response

  1. Sarah S says:

    Yes!!!! Such a basic idea yet so easily lost in the daily grind. Most of the professors where I attend law school do remind students of “the bigger picture,” but it’s usually during one-to-one meetings, or settings more intimate than the lecture hall. I worry that the students who never have close contact with professors might never get this message…. So I suppose we law students can remind each other to engage in self-reflection??