For anyone who is thinking about becoming a lawyer, or trying to make the most of their legal career, I highly recommend Sotomayor’s memoir. I also recommend it to anyone who simply wants to be inspired by this smart, caring, and dedicated woman.
I picked up this book because Hillbilly Elegy got me thinking about my law school experience, and this is another book by someone who felt out of place in law school. Sotomayor’s experience was different from mine in a lot of ways. For one thing, she went to law school years earlier than I did, at a time when her class wouldn’t have had as many women (my class was probably about 50/50). And because she comes from a low-income Puerto-Rican family, she would have felt much more out of place in law school than I did, and probably had to work many times harder than I did to get there.
Her life hasn’t been easy. She loses her father at a young age to alcoholism, and she’s diagnosed with diabetes as a child, which requires her to monitor everything she eats and give herself daily insulin injections. She makes it, in part, because she has incredible confidence in herself and dedication to becoming a lawyer. This helps her stay on a path to law school despite numerous barriers, and despite not having any family members who can show her the way. She fights to be accepted at Princeton, and her experience at Princeton helps to pave the way to Yale.
I was particularly interested in her Puerto Rican background and her interest in legal rights for Puerto Rico. She cares deeply about this issue and about her family, and researching this issue helps her to advance in law school.
I always wanted to be a lawyer, but not in the same way Sotomayor did. And when I got to law school, and faced barriers and uncertainty, I gave up on my dreams pretty quickly. Not so for Sotomayor, who fought to excel at everything she did, and when she wasn’t sure how to excel, she looked for assistance.
Like Vance in Hillbilly Elegy, she realized she needed help navigating law school and figuring out how to start her career. When role models and advisors weren’t readily available, she looked for them and sought them out. She says that she sees everyone as someone who can help her, and in that way she constantly improves herself.
And her career path isn’t a straight line either. In the book she describes how she constantly evaluated herself and her work to see if she was doing the job that felt right for her. For example, she took a position in the District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor, when most people coming out of Yale law school thought DA work was beneath them. In fact, she was able to get much more trial experience as a prosecutor than working in a high-profile law firm, and this trial experience benefited her later on.
I realized, reading this book, that while career has always been important to me, I don’t have the kind of dedication to it that she has. She’s made numerous sacrifices in her personal life to get to where she is, including an unsuccessful marriage and giving up having children. At the same time she is clearly devoted to her family and a caring friend to those she’s close to. As the title suggests, she has much to be grateful for and has a positive outlook on her life and our country.
This book made me feel, above all, grateful that such an inspiring, courageous woman is serving on our Supreme Court.