Anyone who’s taught small children knows it can be difficult to teach them how to apply generalities to concrete examples. At first, any four-legged creature is a dog. Cows are dogs, horsies are big dogs, and so on. Over time, they start differentiating their Cliffords from their Seabiscuits. It happens with people, too! Everyone is Daddy or Mama, or they see an episode of Bob the Builder and everyone’s a construction worker. But over time, they start differentiating their Doc McStuffinses from their Dora the Explorers. But sometimes, those children grow into adults who aren’t able to grasp identity context clues from the accoutrements.
The wildest thing is not that this happened. What’s striking is how often this thing that shouldn’t happen happens. This video sprang about bad sitcom writing tier testimony from viewers like mistaking a doctor with a coat and stethoscope for a janitor or a wigged jurist for a defendant. Or that time a security guard mistook a uniformed sheriff for a trespasser and pulled a gun on him. During my time as a paralegal, some random employee (who I still do not know) decided to play polite security guard and ask me if I worked at the firm as I took a call in the back where fellow employees would take calls and or cigarette breaks. Many people in the profession deal with imposter syndrome, but there is an extra layer added when that sneaking suspicion that you don’t belong there is also echoed by Sarah from accounting’s sneaking glances.
And the risk of being mistaken for not belonging where you clearly do plays out in strange ways. You may mute laughter for fear of sticking out or casually use the word quotidian instead of everyday to prove to strangers that you do the book readin’ too. Which is why it’s such a beautiful thing when you’re around people who just get it. So this is for that community of Unexpected Esquires, the Blacks, the folks who had to take out loans to take out loans to get through law school, Queer folks, stuttering trial advocates (in whichever languages they speak), face-tatted, hoodied, and wheelchaired who play underdog and bite the hell out of opposing counsel. And it’s still for you when you take the occasional L inherent to an adversarial vocation.
And the next time one of those deliberate-feeling accidents happen, take it from me. It is not you. It’s them, and you belong here for as long as you’d like to stay. Maybe one day they’ll come to and learn that whole recognition thing and achieve smarter than a 5th grader status.
Black law student in Rhode Island says deputy mistook her for a defendant [Boston Globe]
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.
Leave a Reply