Don’t Forget Why You Went to Law School

Since I graduated from MU Law just a few short years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with many students. While it is unusual to be able to give back so quickly after going out into the real world, it is by far the best part of being a practicing attorney.

Every student I come across I make a point of asking, “Why did you go to law school?” While the reasons vary, without a single exception, there is one common theme:

“Because I want to help people.”

Sure, some go to law school with dreams of the high-rise condo, the shiny cars and the $200 steak. But even they will tell you that part of them wanted to go because they “want to help people.” Otherwise they would go be a stockbroker or business executive.

Each semester law students come to my office eager to learn and help low-income individuals with their problems. For free. In fact, these students pay to listen to me drone on about Rent and Possession and call clients to get their side of the story.

Why? Because they want to help people.

Within a few years of graduation, something changes for many of these former bright-eyed and bushy-tailed law students. Life happens. They get a job. A house. Some get married and have kids. They have bills to pay and they forget why they went to law school in the first place.

They forget to give back to the community. To those that need their help the most. To those that can’t pay the bill.

In Boone County alone, 18.4%, or 30,475 people, live at or below the federal poverty level. To put that in perspective, if you are a single person working 30 hours a week at McDonalds, you are above the poverty level. That is a lot of people who lack the ability to pay for an attorney when they need help.

So don’t forget why you went to law school. Don’t forget to help those in need. Don’t forget the importance of pro bono service.

–  Michael Carney, Housing Attorney with Mid-Missouri Legal Services