I thought this was a good quote from Professor Paula Franzesez. She posted this on her Quora page in response to a question:
This is an important moment for lawyers and law students. In this time of rollbacks to essential civil liberties, lawyers are the rule of reason’s best defense. We are trained to speak truth to power in ways that advance the aims of progress, assure constitutional safeguards, and protect against government over-reaching. We are afforded the stature and access to power that can effectively champion the underdog, the forgotten, and the left behind.
There is an art and science to “thinking like a lawyer” and it is taught effectively only in law school. I serve on boards in the public and private sectors that are comprised of lawyers and non-lawyers, and most of the difficult problem-solving is accomplished by the lawyers. I am thankful every day for the skill set that law school gave me to navigate an increasingly complex and interconnected world.
Reinhold Niebuhr was correct when he observed, “Love is the motive, justice is the instrument.” We are justice’s emissaries. Our work can be the antidote to hopelessness and restore agency to communities and constituencies that for too long have been marginalized and worse. The pernicious effects of de jure discrimination continue to be felt. There is a veritable chasm between what is and what ought to be in contexts that include the criminal justice system, housing, education, immigration, civil rights and civil liberties. As lawyers, we are trained and empowered to narrow that gap.
Lawyers achieve success in accord with traditional metrics. What is more, by making people’s lives a little easier, we achieve significance, creating legacies that transcend our own lifetimes.
I do the work of justice to vindicate the legacy and sacrifice of those on whose shoulders I stand. I do it because in these fraught times and in a world preoccupied with status, the power of a good education gives me the status that affords access to power. I know that this power can we wielded wisely, with both technique and compassion. Indeed, I have learned that one cannot be reliably sustained without the other.
I am grateful to serve the aims of social justice. I do that work as much for my sake as for the sake of the people who are counting on my expertise to make their burdens a bit lighter. We are connected by a thousand invisible threads to the whole of humanity. What we do for others we do for ourselves.
The pursuit of equality demands resilience and fortitude. It builds muscle. Often we push that boulder up the mountain only to have it tumble down. At those moments I remain mindful of Camus' choice to interpret the myth of Sisyphus through a lens of hope. Camus writes that while some might see only futility in the task at hand, he chooses instead to see the nobility of the very effort. He notes,
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."
Optimism is a daily choice. So is love. I do the work of the law so that justice might become "love made visible."