Growing up, I always said I wanted to be a lawyer. Both my dad and my stepmom were lawyers and I always loved to write. When it came time to take the LSAT and write a personal statement, however, I began to rethink this career choice and decided to wait to apply.
In April 2015, right before my college graduation, I received one of the worst phone calls of my life. I learned that someone close to me had been sexually assaulted. Although the details were fuzzy, she decided to take all the available steps she could. She went to the hospital where a rape kit was performed, she reported the rape, and decided to move forward with pressing charges.
When this case was unfolding before my eyes, I constantly had more questions than I did answers. I could not understand what additional evidence the prosecutor “needed” before pursuing the case, the standard of proof—guilty beyond a reasonable doubt—meant very little to me, and the perpetrator’s ability to walk away with a misdemeanor charge seemed unjust.
Simply put, this was the most difficult time in my life. My emotions were everywhere and I felt stuck in a position where I was unable to help. But finally, I discovered the true reason why I wanted to be a lawyer.
Earlier this year, I was heading to Denver for a friend’s wedding. As I was waiting in Logan Airport for my plane to board, I went to the Hudson News in my terminal where I picked up a copy of Know My Name. Know My Name is a memoir by Chanel Miller, the young woman who brought criminal charges against Brock Turner in 2015. Ms. Miller bravely presents details of her sexual assault and reflects on the months afterwards, including discussions with her parents and sister, lawyers, and the prosecutor. Her memoir is honest, powerful, and moving. More importantly, she came forward and shared her story to help others.
Ms. Miller’s memoir reminded me of the many emotions I felt when something similar happened to someone I loved. I was upset and angry for Ms. Miller, and others who have been affected by sexual assault. But, her memoir also reinvigorated in me a desire to make a difference. While reading the pages detailing the criminal trial, I actually understood the hearsay objections being raised by the lawyers when evidence was presented. I was able to think through the obstacles that may have been faced or overcome. Simply put, I realized that law school is putting me in a position where I, too, can join the legal conversation and eventually make contributions to the profession and beyond, both during my law school days and afterwards.
Ms. Miller’s memoir continues to be one that I recommend when asked for book suggestions and I urge you to take the time to read it as well. (It can be purchased on Amazon here.) Ms. Miller sends a powerful message, but for me, Ms. Miller reminded me of why I went to law school.
Courtney Ruggeri is a second-year BC Law student who loves to hear from readers. Email her at email@example.com.