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Inspiration and Role Models

November is National Inspirational Role Models Month. I’d like to take a moment to praise one of my role models that guided me throughout law school and practice. Professor Shaw was my first year civil procedure professor. Civil procedure was the first ever law school class I attended. Before I go on, I should say that civil procedure is perhaps one of the worst classes to take first—it is filled with terminology that in retrospect, was not easy to understand coming from a non-legal background. In addition, Professor Shaw taught civ pro a little differently than all the other civ pro professors. Instead of starting with the seminal Pennoyer v. Neff, a case about personal jurisdiction, we read a multitude of cases about due process and notice. Take a minute and put yourself in my shoes. What on earth is notice? I notice things all the time. If I am walking, I notice the ground at my feet and the obstacles I need to maneuver around. If I drive, I notice the signs and the stop lights and the other cars. And due process? What does that archaic sounding term of art even mean? What is due and I guessed there is apparently some kind of process to it? So what on earth is Professor Shaw talking about when we read about due process and notice? He was talking about the foundation of our system of law. Due process and notice, it turns out, is the absolute bedrock of a legal system: it is knowing that someone has a legal dispute with you, and it is taking the steps to make sure that your dispute is resolved civilly and fairly.

We spoke at length about the constitution and how our legal system works. It’s always been my tendency to root for the underdog, and it seemed like due process was the literally embodiment of giving the underdog their shot at becoming the winner. A moment I particularly remember was when we were discussing a case of national importance. I remember how he nonchalantly said, not as advice but in passing, that he was surprised for not being as angry as he would have been as a younger attorney. This is no way is a reflection on his work ethic or abilities. His role was that of a professor and, as such, he had left his long days in litigation far behind. But what I took away from his comment was mindset. The mindset you needed to accomplish the things he has accomplished. The mindset it took to represent the underdog and win. You needed motivation, and whether that be anger, justice, empathy, or fire, it needed to be present and it needed to be constant. I keep his words close with me. Motivation is never far when I think of that day.

I eventually did fairly well in civ pro. Today, the sense of justice remains motivation for many of my pursuits. Due process is important to me, and I have Professor Shaw to thank for that.