Online only - 31 October 2016
I am now in my final weeks of law school. Some of you may be, too. Others may have long or short amounts of your sentences remaining. But as the curtain closes across the stage for me, I wanted to write to you all to pass on some thoughts that have played on my mind.
I have had to give up something of myself during this degree; though, as with age, I would hope that this has been done with grace and (more importantly) with humour. It is hard to define exactly what this something is, even though its absence is felt. It is the dulling of a certain assuredness, the rendering blunt of a former sharpness; the darkening of a formerly bright visage. It may be no more than a diminution of naivety. Equally, I may never know if I am better with or without it, and it may be that other things have replaced it. But I do know that I have lost something along the way.
You each have vivid personalities, but too often these wonderfully alive beings are suppressed. You should not be complicit in their silence. As you go out into the world, pursue your personality as much as you will success. Do not seek a life spent in the security of safe harbours; you will be stranded with only boredom for company. Make mischief a priority and do it well: you will find that even a slight disturbance to the status quo can reveal a great deal of truth hiding in plain sight.
There have been flashes of tension between our student body and the law school. This is good. Students serve an important role, if not the most important role, in the checks and balances on the actions and intentions of the law school. This is so even if you feel more relevant to the cheque books and balance sheets of the university.
We have also fought each other, and in doing so have represented the best and worst of ourselves. About this we should be honest: people were wrong, hurtful and ignorant. Some were petty while some were indignant. Others felt hurt. Words, as weapons, were used wastefully and indiscriminately. This should not be glossed over or forgiven.
These battles are also important, and you should not easily forget them. The high-minded and the trivial should be approached with an equally questioning disposition. If you are not content with an explanation, an act of further enquiry should be one of impunity. If then no answer is given, or the answer is insufficient, you must feel free to walk away. Buying the empty stock of consensus puts at risk the capital of your own knowledge. Don’t be afraid to have the argument, but to win by cheap means is to demean yourself.
I have learned that there may actually be such thing as a free lunch. Not from any law school events — the expense for these is undoubtedly levied in some other way — but from caring friends in moments of need. Small acts of kindness or throwaway thoughts can make a world’s difference. To someone with more than enough, a small addition is unlikely to matter; but to someone on rough seas, it can be liferaft. Many of you have helped me to stay afloat in various ways, and I could never thank you enough. With your kindness and generosity, I am now to sail off into the professional world, with all of the treachery and fulfilment that brings.
I am conscious of the luck that has enabled me to travel this far. Though perhaps misfortunate at times, I have been blessed by a curiosity, by the capacity to hold both sides of an argument, and the desire to stand again, no matter the height of the fall. I have also experienced little sufferance arising from my gender or ethnicity; sadly, many of you may have. It is a miserable truth that my strange accent and foreign passport have done little to negatively impact my professional chances. In fact, they have likely been a great assistance. I challenge every person in similar circumstances: do all that you can to change this fact.
I leave you with this: enjoy yourself — it’s later than you think. The desire to celebrate one’s achievements is often smothered by self-consciousness or fear of cultivating in others an instinct for schadenfreude. It doesn’t matter. Whatever the stage of your legal studies, you deserve praise: enjoy how it sounds, and you will find that it helps block out the tones of cynicism.
I hope this is not the last time we speak. Though, in entering a world full of higher editorial standards than those of De Minimis, I may have to be more creative in order to attract your attention. I assure you I will do what I can. Whatever happens, I am thinking of you always.
Scott Colvin was a third-year JD student