In honor of National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, Pro Bono Net has lined up a variety of guest bloggers from law firms, legal aid organizations and elsewhere to share their pro bono ideas and experiences.Visit the Celebrate Pro Bono site to learn more about Celebrate Pro Bono.
Below, we are pleased to present a guest post from Malorie Medellin, a third year associate at Latham & Watkins.
Like all new associates, I was nervous when I began my legal career three years ago. My own insecurities in my first real job made each assignment difficult. In order to avoid my discomforts and self-doubts I focused on working hard and completing each task quickly and thoroughly. I pursued my work in a discrete, obligatory manner, addressing the issues at hand and moving on. My focus was the finish line.
Then I took on my first asylum case. I had no idea when I volunteered to work on this case that it would become such a formative milestone for me. It was a new type of law with a new type of client. I was not dealing with a contractual dispute or commercial litigant, instead my client was a young man who had endured unspeakable hardship and was trying to stay in the United States. With this case, the finish line seemed uncertain, and that uncertainty left ample room for fear and anxiety.
It was then that I realized my self-doubts and fears affected my ability to truly be present in the moment. True, I had always worked hard on every task on every case, but mentally a part of me always pined for that moment of completion. With this case I saw for the first time that the part of me holding out for the finish line, was affecting my ability to cope in the present and, more importantly, to truly be there for my client.
Releasing myself from this mentality enabled me to reach my greatest potential as a lawyer. Overcoming my insecurities allowed me to face all possible outcomes. I realized that staying present sometimes meant sitting and listening to my client’s story—allowing them to get it all out without trying to skip steps or jump to conclusions. It meant that I might not always have an answer right away, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t seek out the answer effectively.
Most of all, my asylum case has taught me about endurance—the calm and steady kind that gets you through anything. My client has taught me how to be courageous, how to be present in the face of your fears and not turn away. So now, I don’t just focus on the finish line, I look around, I take it in, and I am present. And I rest easy knowing that no matter what the outcome, I will be there for my client every step of the way.