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Seattle University School of Law
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Benjamin Sweeney

A photo of Ben SweeneyMy name is Benjamin Sweeney, and I moved to Seattle to pursue my goals of giving to the community though non-profit work and political advocacy. The experience of moving to the city was daunting but thrilling, and it did not take long for my strong sense of social justice to refine itself in ways other than well-worded social theories and bombastically-worded term papers. There's a whole host of entertaining narrative about my activism of the past year, but the endgame of it all led me here to Seattle University, where the tradition of social justice through the law resonated with me strongly. It was truly a wonderful thing coming to the realization that I could continue to work in areas that impassioned me and also use the analytical and intellectual skills that I am lucky enough to possess, as I will admit that I was once someone who held strong reservations about the compatibility of the law with social justice.

September

I can't believe this is my first diary entry as a law student. On the one hand, it's surreal that a month has already flown by. On the other hand, I have to keep shaking myself and remembering that I haven't been doing this forever.

This really came up in a conversation I just had with my younger brother over the phone the other day. He's going to be heading to college shortly and we were talking about the things you learn in higher education. I opened my mouth to give an example and was frozen by indecision; there was no way for me to describe the things I had recently learned without spiraling into tangential explanations. The conversation would have quickly turned into one giant bird walk.  Only a few weeks into law school and I was talking a different language than someone who had, only a short time ago, known about as much of the law as I had.

This was really the moment that I realized that being a law student was such an amazing opportunity. Here I was learning things that changed the way I was able to look at the world, and in a way that others simply didn't. I can only imagine where I will be three years from now, and hope that, by then, I'll have learned how to describe things a little bit better to my brother.

November

Before laws school I remember having a vague sense that I might not be able to handle jumping back into the swing of things. I had taken 'time off' after my undergraduate to get involved in the world of non-profits and really flex my activism muscles, and I was concerned that all my academic skills would be rusty and unusable.

Knowing very few lawyers in my personal life, I had somewhat bought into the idea that activism was diametrically opposed to legal studies. I think I was picturing a dreary three years stuck in a library, not actually doing any of the things I wanted to study law to accomplish.

With finals just around the corner I'm realizing that I'm the closest I've come all semester to even approaching that pessimistic perspective. While it's true that right now I am spending an enormous amount of time shut away, that hasn't been my general experience thus far.

Since becoming a law student I've had more opportunities to get out and do real work than I think I've had before. I am receiving training through workshops and seminars on how to effectively work with under-privileged communities, increase street youth access to legal advocacy, and reinforce my chosen causes with the advocacy skills I'm learning in class. It's especially valuable for me to reflect on that now, since I'm sure these contract law outlines could stand a few more hours of revision.

January

Ah, back to school after a lengthy and restful winter break. While I won't say I didn't enjoy being able to read something other than casebooks, I was quite ready to get back into the swing of things. And things are certainly swinging away right now. It seems like everything really revved up to wake students up from any left-over Winter-lethargy. Currently looking forward to a job-fair for a potential internship next Summer, an application to the board of a student-organization, and scheduling event-after-event out into late April. That, AND reading about the property law derived from the fox-hunters of the past. While some of my peers are still shrugging off their idleness, I must admit that I have been missing the pace of law school. There's really never been any other place where I feel that I can engage so many different personal aspects of myself, whether academic, political, social, or otherwise. While I'm sure I'll be thankful for a break when I next get one, for now I'm happy to be on the other side of Winter break.

February

The winter has passed us by without much notice (I am still adapting to the utter lack of snow here in the city) and here we are facing down March and the knowledge that the semester is halfway over. In a way it's reassuring that time seems to be flying by. I no longer feel quite so shaken up and tossed around by my classes, and even my upcoming memo is progressing smoothly and calmly, especially compared to my first attempts. I am sure the speed of things is also impacted by the fact that I am measuring time by the rapid pace of events and activities I have lined up outside of classes. Currently I am going to be moving from the "ACLU Panel on the Death Penalty and Diversity" point on my calendar to the "OUTLaws hosted lecture by Professor Shapiro". These increments are much shorter than you might think, and it's a good thing my weekends are geared to a nice slow setting. My only alternative would be talking someone into a "Zen Legal Theory" seminar, and I'm not sure how much success I'd have there.

March

The winter has passed us by without much notice (I am still adapting to the utter lack of snow here in the city) and here we are facing down March and the knowledge that the semester is halfway over. In a way it's reassuring that time seems to be flying by. I no longer feel quite so shaken up and tossed around by my classes, and even my upcoming memo is progressing smoothly and calmly, especially compared to my first attempts. I am sure the speed of things is also impacted by the fact that I am measuring time by the rapid pace of events and activities I have lined up outside of classes. Currently I am going to be moving from the "ACLU Panel on the Death Penalty and Diversity" point on my calendar to the "OUTLaws hosted lecture by Professor Shapiro". These increments are much shorter than you might think, and it's a good thing my weekends are geared to a nice slow setting. My only alternative would be talking someone into a "Zen Legal Theory" seminar, and I'm not sure how much success I'd have there. 

April

Could it actually be Spring-like weather here in Seattle?! Yes, as incredulous as it seems there has actually been a several nice sunny days thus far, and I don't know if I should be happy about that or begrudging the fact that the weather is luring me away from my studies. I have, luckily, found a middle ground in annoying all of my lay-person friends (they love when you call them that!) with legal knowledge while we bum around in the sun. You'd simply be amazed at how much property law you can talk about while waiting in line to buy piroshkies at Pike Place Market, or the amount of contract law trivia you can work into a park-bench conversation about comic books. Talking about torts while at a café is probably too cliché at this point, but it's still good practice. I have certainly been enjoying my newfound ability to multi-task, and it's nice to know that I can practice my issue-spotting out in the real world. Here's hoping that my legal education doesn't outpace my friends' patience!