Yesterday I submitted my trial brief, and what I learned from the experience was astounding: Two legal minds really are better than one.
In a matter of weeks, my partner and I were able to put together a well-analyzed defense of a Title VII Hostile Work Environment claim. The issue presented required us to delve deeply into the “Severe and Pervasive” and “Because of Sex” elements of the claim. The issues were complex, the research was intense, and the hours were long. I spent an incredible amount of time crafting an argument that would only be a portion of the final product. My partner, Ashley Basta (middle below with Maria Yaquan-Luna and Mandi Huston), was vital to our collective success and contributed expertly to her portion of the argument. Her insights on certain aspects of the law were different than mine, which was hugely helpful. And in the end, we were able to break down both elements in a way that would have been impossible to achieve on our own. While working with her, I began to see how important this community of aspiring attorneys is to the collective success of our profession.
Although I have completed only a single semester of law school thus far, I am assured that every day I go to class I am witnessing the formation of a mighty legal community.
The legal issues that our generation face are of grave importance, and there are far too many to count. Some of those that stand out in my mind include problems with the criminal justice system and mass incarceration, the reality of climate change and environmental public policy, and the evolving realm of intellectual property due to the ever increasing advances in technology. These issues are ripe for active engagement and will require a legal community mindful of the influence that we wield with our expertise. My section is filled with students who are not only diverse in legal interests, but also passionate about those issues that matter to them. These students are equipped with varied skill sets that allow them to excel.
For example, I have a friend, Adrien Anderson, who has an extremely hopeful outlook on our systems of governance. In a conversation one morning before class, she recounted the story of J.K. Rowling and her rise to literary success. She told me how Rowling, like so many in America today, was a single mother on welfare. How Rowling would not have been able to pen her literary masterpiece had it not been for government assistance. And how our own government, though it isn’t perfect, has a role in lifting so many others out of poverty. Adrien is also an incredibly adept law student. Many call her the girl scout of section 3A because she is always prepared. She plans, schedules, and knows what is going on and when. Once, she told me that she thinks of the year, as in time, as if it was a 400m track. The months are in the same place on the track year after year. I surmised that Adrien is so good at remaining organized and prepared because the world as she sees it is constant. Her skills and her perception will not only benefit her, but will also benefit her future clients. She aspires to be a corporate attorney and an advocate of corporate social responsibility. Adrien is well on her way.
I have another friend, Mandi Huston, who is one of the most tenacious people I know. She wakes up around 4 a.m. to commute from Greely to DU on a daily basis. Her legal passion aligns with her goal to put an end to human sex trafficking and her personal life story is one of triumph. On a humanitarian mission to Ethiopia, she contracted a parasite and became deathly ill. For about a year doctors did not know what her affliction was, and she even underwent a round of chemotherapy. When she was at her lowest point she had several of her close friends pray for her and lay hands on her. She was healed! Astounding. Now, I have the privilege of attending class with her on a daily basis. Her passion to end human sex trafficking may not be accomplished through her efforts alone, but I am assured that her contribution to the effort will not be in vain.
I have mentioned only three of my section mates, but there are many more who are equally as excellent. Each student has a separate goal and mission, but the passion that I sense when I am among them is inspiring. I am truly blessed beyond belief to be able to peruse my lifelong dream in the company of such a distinguished group of people.
Shaquille Turner is a 1L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Turner is feeling great about the direction life is taking him. He has successfully completed the first semester at the Sturm College of Law and will be Studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa this summer with the Howard University School of Law.