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thoughts & essays   |   jeremy lee

Creative Expression & Law:

Thoughts on how Law School and the Bar Exam Consume the Best

in Us and why We Should Take Care to Preserve Our Passions


The results of the February 2022 administration of the New York Bar Exam were released on a Wednesday. Two blurry days later, on a notably pleasant Saturday morning, I found myself – not figuratively, but indeed quite literally found myself – casually strolling the bustling sidewalks of New York’s West Village starring at a stranger through the viewfinder of my camera. In that moment I was struck, dumbfounded, bewildered, astonished, yet at the same time comforted, by the realization that my deepest and most cherished form of creative expression had been resurrected from the depths of a deep, all-too-consuming abyss we summarily refer to as law school. Being on the tail-end of my final semester here at Columbia, but, probably even more significant, having received news of a passing score on the bar exam, had burst a dam I failed to fully understand was even there. The purpose of this essay is to explore the myriad ways law school and the bar exam can slowly, but exponentially, consume the best of who we are. What I hope to achieve is convincing others, but also myself, (i) to recognize the insatiable appetite of the law, (ii) to avoid losing oneself to such a ravenous creature, and (iii) that maintaining a closely held creative expression can ultimately make you a better lawyer.



Weight, Principle, and Law:
The Presence of Taboo in Adjudication


This paper sets out to explore and defend the presence and operation of a phenomenological adjudication model proposed by Duncan Kennedy in his 1986 work: Freedom and Constraint in Adjudication: A Critical Phenomenology. In that piece Kennedy identifies various legal reasoning tools judges can employ to dispose of a case in a manner which suits their conscious, or moral, or political convictions, but ultimately contradicts what the law prescribes. These tools are skillfully balanced all along a spectrum of freedom and constraint with a constant and objectively necessary thumb on the scale which demands constraint – that is, the mere application of what the law prescribes. Thus, in order to elicit some freedom and move away from the social, political, and legal demands of constraint or what the law prescribes, judges can enlist a plethora of generally prohibited tools to finesse their written opinion in a way that obscures what quite simply amounts to judicial activism. Such tools as identified by Kennedy involve the manipulation of facts, legal virtues, principles, and precedent, among others; each of which holds a particular weight in a given context and exists within a settled boundary. But for the deft, discreet, and ambitious judge, the weight of legal principles and virtues, their context, and their settled boundaries are malleable resources poised for adaptation. I refer to the utilization of such tools as “judicial taboo.”



First Principle:

The Greatest Decision We Never Made 


. . . should we pursue a future that (1) accepts the inevitable death of our planet and make the most of the time that remains or (2) engineer our way to multi-planetary existence? The purpose of this essay is to explore some features of each option with the intent of persuading the reader to consider how one shared consequence of both, i.e. boredom, would impact their life, and society at-large. Some may find the magnitude of a first principle perspective such as this grandiose and prohibitively unfathomable; in such case, I respectfully disagree and ask for at least a minimum effort in considering, maybe even accepting, the truth of Earth’s destiny despite the fact you will likely never have to encounter the effects in your own lifetime.



No, Really, Let Me Pay—I Insist:

Can a Subscription Model for Technology Platforms Help Preserve Privacy?


“It’s free and always will be.” Hard to fathom that I once felt relief at the sight of this reassuring tagline when logging in to Facebook. Along with other early users, I signed up during Facebook’s relative infancy, at a time when the website was restricted to college students with a valid “.edu” email. As a freshman undergrad attending university out-of-state I had a particularly active engagement with the social network. I missed my friends, most of whom had remained in-state for school, and Facebook gave me a fun, free, quasi-teleportation device to stay up-to-date and in-touch with them. Indeed, I felt social fulfilment from the engagement Facebook provided, but also a sense of dread. I could hardly afford my books for class—what if this fulfilment I’d come to rely on decided to charge for the service? At the time, the tagline, “It’s free and always will be,” helped alleviate that fear. Ironically, however, fifteen years and an eruption of exponentially dangerous privacy concerns later, the “free” use of services such as Facebook is now the source of dread.



Aggregate Patterns:

The Purpose Behind Analyzing Human Behavior


The ability to recognize patterns in human behavior has long been a tool used to shape desired results. Indeed, the fields of social psychology and behaviorism have shown, scientifically, that human behavior can be influenced and modified. Today these patterns, when analyzed and applied effectively through technology, have the potential to shape society with unprecedented precision. The central theme of this essay is questioning the purpose behind aggregating, analyzing, and modifying human behaviors as they relate to capitalist or humanist interests.

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