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We The People showed me I could be an attorney

We the People
Photo: Students from Joplin High School compete in the 2014 We the People program held at the Missouri State Capitol on January 27, 2014.

I was recently admitted to the Missouri Bar and I could not be more proud to say that I have accomplished my lifelong dream of becoming an attorney. In third grade, when kids decide their dream careers of becoming astronauts, firefighters, and police officers, I decided I wanted to be an attorney. Other than one cousin, who has turned out to be invaluable to me during this process, I had no family with careers in the legal field, so it felt like achieving my career goal was “a long shot.”

In high school, as a student of the AP U.S. Government course at Jefferson City High School, I was invited to participate in the We the People program* and compete in the annual competition. This program ended up meaning a lot to me in my journey to becoming an attorney because it was the first time in which I could assess my capacity to read, analyze and understand legal principles.

Each year, The Missouri Bar distributes a set of U.S. Constitution-related prompts to every competing school and the teachers subsequently assign them to groups of students. My group was assigned a prompt dealing with due process, specifically substantive due process. I protested our topic at first because learning substantive due process as a junior in high school is the equivalent of learning the Rule Against Perpetuities as a law student (law students and lawyers, you understand exactly where I am coming from). For everyone else, suffice it to say, it was rough. Regardless of the tears I may or may not have shed during the process, our group persisted and achieved first place in our section of the competition!

This competition success led me to a realization that I had the understanding and capability to become an attorney. During my four years of undergrad at Mizzou, I worked full-time so I could pay for classes as I took them to alleviate my school expenses, as I knew law school would create a mountain of student loan debt. It took a lot of hard work to balance school and work, but it is one of my proudest accomplishments to date.

I next began the trek to and through law school, which is a journey of its own. Unlike many people, I spent a lot of time and effort just to get past the initial hurdle of getting accepted. I took the LSAT three times in order to receive the score I needed to get into law school. Once I was admitted, I worked extremely hard and studied my tail off. I graduated from UMKC School of Law Cum Laude, passed the Missouri Bar Exam, and am now a practicing attorney.

Throughout the past nine years, I have consistently reached back to my experience with We the People to remind myself of how far I have come and how capable I am. It truly did act as a foundation for my future endeavors.

*We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, is a nationally acclaimed constitutional study program for students in Grades 4-12 that promotes an understanding of the history and philosophy of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights and an understanding of democracy and its institutions. The Missouri Bar, through the generosity of the Young Lawyers’ Section of The Missouri Bar and The Missouri Bar Foundation, serves as the state coordinator for the program. Learn more here.

Danielle-Atchison

 

Danielle Atchison is a business immigration attorney at Mdivani Corporate Immigration Law Firm in Overland Park, Kansas, and a member of The Missouri Bar. In addition to her areas of practice, she works to obtain legal immigration status for immigrant women and children survivors of domestic violence and other crimes through U-Visas and VAWA petitions as part of the firm’s pro bono efforts.

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