20 October 2011

Keeping work and life separate can be difficult

By John Price, Juris Staff Writer
Looking back on the September 24th Duquesne Law Centennial Gala, there were many moments that stand out reminding us of our school's proud heritage. I was especially captivated by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s address regarding what it means to be a Catholic law school. But since that event, the moment most poignant was a little speech Justice Scalia gave at the Power Center Ballroom luncheon. As a member of the Executive Board of the Duquesne University School of Law Student Bar Association, along with other heads of the law school organizations, I was honored to be invited to take part in this momentous event.

Time sheets and billable hours go a long way in defining young attorneys
During the luncheon, Justice Scalia gathered all the students in attendance for a question and answer session. Aside from talking about how to write “like Scalia” or different approaches to looking at the law, I was most interested in Justice Scalia’s thoughts on what it means to define oneself. Justice Scalia discussed how we as lawyers should not be defined simply by our work, or, even worse, by a time sheet.

My first reaction was to think that it is easy for a Supreme Court Justice to suggest that. I realized Justice Scalia was trying to state his opinion on what the practice of law should be, but in today’s legal profession this is not the case.

Law students who have had summer associate positions or currently hold part time jobs at firms realize they are identified by their time sheets. As someone who is just starting out in the profession, associates are often recognized for how much time they bill. Although I agree with Justice Scalia’s message that a law student's, and to an extent all lawyers, first priority should be to their personal responsibilities regardless of the job, we as young lawyers cannot afford to be this idealistic. As a law student and, hopefully, future attorney, we should realize that a seat on the Supreme Court is far away and starting out we will be defined by this little piece of paper. We should embrace this fact in order to better understand the rigors, responsibilities, and rewards of being an attorney.

Knowing and embracing this truth, a law student should always identify where the line is between work and life. This approach can help any law student or lawyer in avoiding being narrowly defined. So, in retrospect, Justice Scalia’s speech has made me evaluate where this line is, so that I will not only defined by my law school career, but hopefully something more.

John M. Price is currently the Vice President of the Duquesne University School of Law Student Bar Association and will graduate from the University's School of Law program in June 2013. Prior to law school, John attended The Pennsylvania State University, Smeal College of Business, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. He can be reached at pricej1@duq.edu.