Oct. 1, 2014
“You can’t handle the truth!” I’m guessing there are few people who don’t recognize that as the famous line hollered by Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men.” Courtroom drama on the screen, whether in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Verdict,” “Philadelphia” or even “My Cousin Vinny” is fascinating and makes a lawyer’s life look pretty darn cool.
The eloquent closing statements, the cross examinations, the surprise witnesses and the “gotcha” moments make the field seem awfully exciting. Even though I sat through a dozen performances of “Legally Blonde the Musical” (because my talented daughter was in it) it was still always a fun moment when Elle used her knowledge of perm hair care to nab the real killer.
However, while they’re fun to watch on screen, those thrilling moments aren’t exactly representative of the real life of a lawyer. I never had the desire to go to law school, but my husband did so I kind of have an idea of how real life works. He worked extremely hard in law school, agonized and studied for the Michigan and Massachusetts Bar Exams (of which he passed both), worked long hours at firms, billed clients and now is a lawyer for the state of Michigan. Yet he’s never had an Oscar-worthy moment in the courtroom and that’s just fine with him.
There are all sorts of ways to be a lawyer. Sure, there are many who spend their time in courtrooms, but you’ll also find them in company benefits offices, research facilities doing patent work, sprinkled throughout government offices at all levels, in hospitals, schools, entertainment facilities, professional sports teams, lobbying Congress, hanging their own shingles out in small towns or even serving as president of the United States.
That’s why law school has to prepare students for an entire world of possibilities. And, as the world changes, lawyers also have to be ready to adapt.
Andy Ninh is a student pursuing a juris doctor in the MSU College of Law who is preparing very well for life beyond law school. Ninh is part of the Reinvent Law program that looks at new approaches and tools for the legal profession. Watch the video in the STUDENT VIEW: Innovating for All, to learn more about his studies.
He is just one of thousands of outstanding graduate students you can find on MSU’s campus. Grad students are vital to MSU’s world-class research enterprise. A new project, The Grad Factor, will give readers the chance to meet some of these Spartan trailblazers who help keep MSU at the forefront of discovery.
Ninh collaborates with law professor Daniel Martin Katz, who is an associate professor of law in MSU’s College of Law and is known as a rebel in the legal world. He believes that many of today's law students and practicing lawyers need hard, tech-savvy skills. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Legal Rebel, to learn more about his rebel ways.
Katz is just one Spartan who might be considered a rebel with a cause. For as many causes that plague this world—hunger, disease, environmental ruin, social ills and more, there’s at least one Spartan who’s made it his or her life’s work to conquer it.
Photo of MSU College of Law by Derrick L. Turner