what moves you

Getting up every morning. You’re about to spend the next 8, 9, 10 plus hours doing something, somewhere for a living. People are motivated by different things, be it money, power, recognition…maybe some are motivated by work itself, just the feeling of accomplishment after a good, hard day’s worth of production.

What “moves” you?

Being “moved” is not to be compared with being “motivated”, for the latter can easily fizzle as the root of the motivation fizzles over time and circumstances. On the contrary, what “moves” you is permanent, a permanent fixture or engraving powerful enough to send chills down your spine every minute you send doing it.

As a lawyer and law student, the only time I felt “moved” to do something was while volunteering at a local legal resource center, a pro bono service center for economically challenged Asian Americans with limited English capabilities. All I did was answer phone calls to right down facts for new cases.

But what moved me was listening, listening to the pleas of desperate individuals grasping for the last strand of hope in their varied struggles. Most lawyers do not deal with real people. Ok, we do meet people. Our clients are millionaire CEOs, and some of us may interact with other well-educated lawyers and so on. I don’t know about my colleagues, but at least until now, I have not yet been “moved” in dealing with the legal struggles of multinational companies and their CEOs.

*     *     *

It was just another day of volunteering at the legal resource center. Checking the voicemail, returning calls, taking notes, opening case files.

She was almost 80 years old and spoke absolutely no English (like most of our clients). She was a victim of immigration fraud; someone had asked her to pay him tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for an eventual green card. She had given him her life savings, in hopes of starting a new life in the States. He took the money and disappeared without a trace. She had called our office out of desperation, telling me that she already tried the police to no avail.

Legally, there was nothing she could do. The police had already closed the case due to a lack of evidence, and even her last resort of referring the case to the FBI seemed feeble. It was my job to tell her that she had no options of recovering even some of her savings. At times like these, I feel an odd connection to doctors who face the reality of telling patients that they have cancer or some other incurable, deadly disease. Cruel.

She just wanted someone to listen. Someone to tell her tale of sorrow, horror, and anger. Strangely, I felt honored to be that someone on that cloudy afternoon. We spoke for almost two hours; she did most of the talking. Following her life’s footsteps, my heart raced through a myriad of emotions: her sorrow, her disgust, her anger, all became mine. I couldn’t do anything for her legally. But I did what needed to be done: listen.

We parted ways on the phone, unable to make any promises of relief, not even a referral.

*     *     *

The following was just one example of what moved me during my time at the legal resource center. Interaction of people was what moved me. Hearing their life stories. Listening. Knowing that I was their last resort of hope, then using my unique background and abilities to alleviate their struggles.

Our profession is unfortunate in that corporate lawyers make the most money, even though their clients are “corporations”, which are by no means “people” (no matter what the Supreme Court might say). That’s where the money is. Lawyers dealing with real people (the public defenders, the human rights lawyers) barely make a living.

Let’s be honest. How many of us lawyers are “moved” by our work, day in and day out. Some of us are stuck in debt and with no options. It doesn’t matter what our passions are; we’ll go where the work is, where the money is, and we are told to be thankful that we even have paying legal jobs.

There is no right or wrong answer to this dilemma. The issue is simple: what moves you?

할머니…그 때 더 도와드리지 못해서 죄송해요. 부디 마음의 평안을 찾으셨길 기도합니다. 항상 건강하시고..오래오래 행복하게 사세요..

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