When I last lived in Arizona, I was a student at Sandra Day O’Connor High School. After living elsewhere for nearly a decade, I’m returning to Arizona this fall as a law student at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
In light of the risky job market and the considerable financial investment, some friends have questioned my decision. Not critically, I don’t think—just out of curiosity. Anticipating this, I wrote an exhaustive post on my reasoning a while back, then scrapped it completely when I realized that it was far too personal. Here’s the dramatically reduced rewrite.
This has been in the works for a while now. As an American Studies major I trained for an advanced education in the law. My favorite academic exercises have always been reading, writing, speaking, and researching—particularly about aspects of American culture and operation. I can think of few occupations that align quite so well with these strengths, but there’s more to it than that.
I’m going to law school because I want to learn to think, read, write, and speak like an attorney. I want for myself the “instinctive regard for the regular connection of ideas” that Alexis de Tocqueville ascribed to lawyers. Of lawyers, Tocqueville also wrote, “When the American people is intoxicated by passion, or carried away by the impetuosity of its ideas, it is checked and stopped by the almost invisible influence of its legal counsellors.” In this role, attorneys are guardians of the law of which Isaiah spoke:
2. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
I remember well the last interview with my mission president, the one in which I made a final accounting and we discussed my future. “Elder Taylor,” he said, with a President Barrett eye-twinkle, “don’t go to the monastery. I can see you getting stuck in books and an office tucked away somewhere. Be visible. Do something in public administration, for example.” He suggested (only half-jokingly) that I run for senator. Then he said, more seriously, “We need people who know the language of the law.” I’ve thought of that often.
An understanding of the law runs deep in my family. My dad has spent his professional life practicing law in Arizona. My grandpa served the law for decades in the FBI. In revolutionary Mexico, my great-great grandfather was known in his community as the “abogado sin titulo,” or “lawyer without title.” It’s true, I have no claim to the profession by virtue of these connections alone, but it would be a farce to say that my observation of their experiences has not influenced my decision to join them. Heck, I grew up reading my dad’s copies of Clark Memorandum (the J. Reuben Clark Law Society’s periodical). I admire these men and the many others I have met over the course of my life who have been similarly occupied.
I’m going to stop at that. The decision to study law was both easy and difficult; the process has ultimately been a school of faith. I’ve been tutored in agency and revelation and enduring to the end, and I expect those particular types of lessons to continue in parallel with my legal education. We bid farewell to our beloved Virginia, a very real promised land for Rachel and I. We hope to return someday. For now, though, we’ll squint our eyes to see ahead into the professional darkness. We’ll check our shoes, tighten our belt buckles, and take one intrepid step forward. And then another, and another, until we arrive at the next checkpoint. At that time, like now, we’ll look back and marvel at how the the indeterminate became the inevitable.