We are pleased to announce that Ava Morgenstern, a second year student at the University of Michigan Law School, is the winner of the 2016 ChapmanAlbin Law School Scholarship Essay Contest. Ms. Morgenstern’s essay was selected from 143 entries. She will be awarded $1,000 to be used towards tuition and/or expenses at the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
As an investment law firm, ChapmanAlbin knows the impact trusted advisers can have on our choices, whether their advice is good or bad. Scholarship applicants were asked to write an essay about the single best piece of advice they have received, and how it has impacted their lives and decisions thus far. Ms. Morgenstern selected this adage attributed to the ancient Jewish scholar Rabbi Tarfon: “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
Ms. Morgenstern, a summa cum laude graduate of Brandeis University, has a particular interest in immigrant rights. She finds in Rabbi Tarfon’s words the wisdom of this humility:
I must be a zealous advocate and do everything possible for my my clients. But at the end of the day, they are the owners of their lives. I do not control them; I am here to serve them.
Read Ava’s winning essay below.
The ancient Jewish scholar Rabbi Tarfon wrote: “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” These words constantly guide me as I prepare to be a lawyer. They highlight the tension between doing the best work I can, and knowing when to let go.
“It is not your responsibility to complete the work…”
I pick up the phone in a busy legal aid office. The woman on the other end is quiet. Her husband might come back any minute. He might hit her again. I tell her that she can hang up anytime and call back later when it’s safe. She thanks me for understanding. She is calling for immigration advice. As the spouse of a United States citizen who is abusing her, she wants to know how to file for her own green card. I start telling her about her rights under the Violence Against Women Act. Soon, he comes home, and she has to hang up. But she calls back another day. We start to gather her paperwork. She plans to get an affidavit from her minister. One day she asks me whether it would be better for her to stay with her spouse. Maybe he will file for a green card for her. I tell her it’s her choice, but she need not rely on him. I tell her that many women in her situation face this dilemma. Their partners abuse them, then apologize, then abuse them again. We see many cases like this, and we can help her. She understands. She will think about it. Then she calls back. She is withdrawing her application. He has apologized. He says he will file for her green card. She believes him. I tell her it’s her choice but she can always come back to us. I close her case. I wonder what will happen to her.
“…But neither are you free to desist from it.”
The phone keeps ringing. I keep picking it up and hearing those voices on the other end. Still quiet, still nervous, but determined. I talk to these women. I listen. I weigh their legal options. I help them file for their green cards under the Violence Against Women Act. I help them apply for special visas for survivors of serious crimes. Often the cases are successful. Occasionally we lose. Sometimes the clients drop out. But for me, the work is always worth it.
Rabbi Tarfon’s words often weigh on my mind. I do not have to complete the work – but neither am I free to walk away. As a law student and future lawyer, I must be a zealous advocate and do everything possible for my clients. But, at the end of the day, they are the owners of their lives. I do not control them; I am here to serve them. I strive to remember this ancient wisdom every day, as I work to be the best lawyer I can be.
The investor rights attorneys at Chapman Albin, LLC congratulates Ms. Morgenstern and all who participated in this year’s Essay Contest. If you are a current or incoming law student, be on the look-out for our next scholarship opportunity in Fall 2017.
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