We’ve all heard the lawyers jokes – heck, my Dad saw my entry into law school as his chance to try out every one in the book!
But, lawyers’ actions in the opening days of the Trump administration have been no laughing matter. Lawyers “descended” when President Trump’s executive order caused immigrants, refugees, and others to be detained at airports as they entered our country. It was a protest, it was a portable, makeshift legal aid clinic, it embodied so much good that this country has to offer. And, that offer is to everyone, including our most recent immigrants and refugees. These actions were a high point for lawyers and the legal profession.
Suddenly, the things that I learned in class were brought to life. Hypothetical examples buried in a legal textbook were given faces and names. Writing motions became practical. Public service wasn’t just a required number of hours to graduate.
Perhaps most importantly through this rapid response to the executive order was how lawyers were able to coordinate, organize and act as a force for good. I am confident that times like these reminded many lawyers, including myself (a lawyer-to-be), why they entered the profession in the first place. Personally, I witnessed inequality and injustice as I taught 12th grade government in Nashville, Tenn. I heard heart-wrenching stories as I worked closely with students who were undocumented to study the citizenship test, advocate for their political interests, and navigate the American legal system.
However, I realized that while I knew a lot about the government, I didn’t know how to properly work through legal channels to most effectively help my students.
The pro bono lawyers that worked at airports across the country embodied what is exemplary about the profession – service and advocacy. They filed habeas corpus petitions challenging the detentions of anyone they could find. Others were hard at work on a broader scale, as well, ultimately winning several temporary injunctions against the executive order.
It struck me that these methods of advocacy were only available to those with a knowledge of the law and how to use it. We, as lawyers, have a responsibility to continue to use our skills, education and experience to help. I don’t mean only in extreme situations like this, but every day.
People exercised their First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and protest, and challenged for the equal application of the freedom of religion. But, it was lawyers that were able to add the weight of law behind their protests that made change happen. The action of a few inspired the actions of many (lawyers and others, alike).
If you haven’t yet found a way to get connected I encourage you to find a training near you, or join a convoy travelling to hubs like New York City. It is a proud time to be in the legal profession!
Have you ever heard the one – what’s the difference between a lawyer and a… never mind. How about, why did the lawyer cross the road? To extend a helping hand to the person on the other side. (I imagine my Dad will advise me not to give up my day job for comedy!)