FILLING THE MILES
WHAT I LEARNED DRIVING TO LAW SCHOOL
I didn’t know it at the time, but the way I got to law school ended up foretelling the type of attorney I’d become. Now, when I say “the way I got to law school,” I don’t mean it in some abstract, cause-and-effect, life-story kind of way. I’m talking about how I literally traveled there. Like many law school students, I lived off campus. Unlike most, I lived way, way off campus. It was a six-hour drive from my home in Louisville to class in Michigan, a drive I made every weekend for years. On Friday afternoons, I would pick my kids up from the school carpool, drive them to their dad’s house, and immediately head out. I factored in one stop for food/gas/ bathroom, but aside from that, it was a straight shot. Once there, I’d have class all weekend, then drive back Sunday night and get ready for carpool on Monday morning. As you can probably guess, I really learned the ins and outs of that stretch of highway. Very quickly, I developed strategies to fill my commute productively. In those days, there was a book-on-tape series called “Sum and Substance” that covered aspects of the law and legal system. They weren’t part of my coursework, but they gave me an added boost and were the type of thing that made me sound smart in class. I remember buying them used on eBay throughout my law school career, though by the end of it, I think I had graduated to CDs. The trips back were usually filled with calls to my mom, my family, my friends, and whomever else — even back then, I’m happy to report, I always used a hands-free headset. On exam weeks, I’d allow myself a special treat. After completing exams, I’d stop at Cracker Barrel and “rent” an enjoyable book on tape. (Technically, it wasn’t renting because you’d buy the item and then sell it back to the store. But the difference amounted to a rental fee. You get the idea.) Between these and the “Sum and Substance” series, I realized that listening to something with
a narrative thrust kept me engaged. That’s a tool I’ve used on countless family road trips since. Once, we listened to a copy of “The Last Lecture,” and upon arriving home, my daughters asked permission to draw murals on their walls, as the author did during his childhood. I tell the story of my commute to law school to illustrate that cars are so much more than a mode of transportation. They are a way to see the world, a place where you can enrich yourself, and a vessel for powerful memories. I think we all have traveled on roads that mean a lot to us, from those we rely on every day to those we may only see once in our lives. Cars, the open road, the sound of an engine — they all bring up potent images of America and the human experience. It’s not hard to see why. The miles I logged driving to and from law school all those years helped me arrive at a better place in life. That’s a pretty powerful thing. We all know there are inherent dangers in driving, but we accept them because the rewards are so much greater. Cars, mostly for the better and sometimes for the worse, are a part of the fabric of our society. When things do go wrong, in an automobile or anywhere else, you hope that society has a system in place to provide justice to those in need. It turns out that my career in law has involved playing a role in helping get justice for victims of car accidents. Given how I got to law school, I’d say that’s pretty fitting.
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