Cynthia Lam is a senior Johnson Scholar at Washington and Lee University, earning dual degrees in English (BA) and Business Administration (BSc) with minors in Creative Writing and Philosophy. An active leader and community member, she serves as Managing Editor of the newspaper, Special Events Chair of the Service League, Honor Advocate, Writing Center Tutor, and Tour Guide. During her junior year, she studied abroad at Oxford University. Cynthia will be attending law school this fall to pursue a career in public service.
It always came down to this.
No matter who called, what the issue was, or how the conversation went, it always
came down to this single, resounding question:
“Are you an attorney?”
I would sigh, smile, and shake my head.
No, I told them.
Not yet, I told myself.
Working at Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) this past summer opened my eyes to
the powerful position of being a lawyer. I soon realized that an attorney offered more
than just advocacy; an attorney held the promise of access, affirmation, and hope.
As an intern for the Hotline, I conducted the initial intake for low-income and
underrepresented clients from all over the state. From child custody appeals to
bankruptcy filings to landlord tenant disputes, I gained rapid exposure to diverse areas
of the law. Even though these cases came from different contexts and different parties,
all the individuals called for the same reason: to access the law.
In many ways, the law is the great equalizer. Everyone is impacted by the legal system,
so ideally, everyone should possess equal knowledge of the rules and rights which
govern our day-to-day existence. Justice, after all, should be blind to the discriminants
of color, creed, and status.
Yet that is not always the case. With seemingly endless scores of statutes, sections, and
fine print, the law is one of the most comprehensive and complex foundations of
society. Because of its intricacy and magnitude, not everyone fully understands the
system. While we are theoretically entitled to the same liberties and protections, many
individuals lack the ability to capitalize on these rights and utilize the law properly.
That is why being an attorney is such a privilege. This profession is dedicated to the
study and mastery of the law, with the goal of serving others so that they, too, may fully
access the system.
This vision of equality and justice is what draws me towards the legal field. A lifelong
advocate with a passion for helping those in need, I have always yearned to give back
to the community, to become a part of something greater than myself.
Obtaining a legal degree is one of the most powerful and effective ways of doing so.
After earning my JD, I hope to clerk on a federal or national court so that I may deepen
my understanding of the judicial system and leverage my abilities to better serve others.
With these skills and knowledge, I plan to become a public interest trial attorney,
pursuing a career in the government or nonprofit sector. Ultimately, having gained
valuable experience on both the advocacy and judicial side of the law, my dream is to
become a judge, where I can make rulings to enact long-term change.
To me, public service is more than a profession. It is a lifestyle. My desire to make a
difference drives all that I do. This sense of purpose is evident from my long history of
activism and community service, which spans across my high school and college career.
From volunteering at the Children’s Specialized Hospital to leading fundraising efforts
for our campus-wide philanthropy to serving as a university-appointed Honor
Advocate, I have embraced engagement at various levels. What unites all these
activities is my passion for helping people – defining my lifetime of advocacy – a 21-
year-old work in progress.
And now, it leads me to the inevitable next step: law school. I am ready to dedicate my
life to continuing this cause, doing what I love. I want to make my mark in this
profession and leave a legacy of service and equality. Achieving a legal degree will
bring me one step closer to my goals, helping me help others.
I long for the day when I am asked:
“Are you an attorney?”
Smiling, I answer with a single, resounding: