An Example Essay

There I was, for the fifth consecutive summer, at Legrandin, inside the medieval walled town of Guermantes, enjoying a four-course meal solely composed of the self-proclaimed best buckwheat crepes in Brittany. This time around I had avoided the strenuous bus ride and thrown my duffel in the back of my grandmother’s rackety old red Volkswagen to cover the 500 miles separating my native Florin and the dolmen-ridden Breton lands in northwestern France. The meal of warm crepes melding with the salty Atlantic breeze had become an annual ritual marking the crossing to the minuscule island of Méséglise.

I’ve been captivated by Les Vagues ever since I first heard about this non-profit, humanist sailing school, which emerged as part of an effort to reintegrate traumatized members of the French resistance and concentration camp survivors into civic life after World War II. The school operates on a volunteer model—you can learn to sail in exchange for giving back to the community. During my first summer, with no previous knowledge or expertise to offer, I volunteered to help repair boats for several weeks in exchange for an elementary course on sailing a catamaran. I had found no one in Florin willing to accompany me, so I packed a bag and took off alone for the pristine, rainy Vinteuil Islands to speak broken French and embark on a regimen of cold bucket showers, campaign-style tents with tarp hammocks, and eight hours a day of unsullied dancing with the winds. Some evenings, when the tide was low, after taking off the cold damp wetsuit, precisely optimizing the use of the allotted shower bucket, and doing my assigned chores, I would take a short walk across the foreshore to a rocky isle and read my favorite Orwell essays under an intensely orange sky.

Now, after five years, I had reached a special milestone. After countless hours fixing hulls, studying meteorology and sailing-focused fluid mechanics, learning to rig catamarans, and combining effort with finesse out in the water to strike an elusive balance with the extraordinary power of the elements, I was one level away from becoming a catamaran volunteer instructor at Les Vagues.

While I have always believed in being purposeful in creating an environment conducive to personal growth, Les Vagues taught me about the ways in which close collaboration with others could help me derive even more satisfaction from all my experiences. Thousands go through Les Vagues each year, and yet most attend as individuals. Somehow, after years of seeing it in action, I am still fascinated by the way Les Vagues’ philosophy acts as a great equalizer. A room of perfect strangers––students, recovering addicts, tradesmen, lawyers, disenfranchised youths, doctors, career sailors, retirees, displaced unemployed workers––all pulling boats into the water together, digging ditches, spending hours learning together, hauling the supply raft up the ramp, or taking turns cooking dinner for the base. A melee of voices singing along as I play a piano half-devoured by the elements—tunes by Cat Stevens, Jacques Brel, or Dylan.

Disenchanted with a sport often characterized as exclusive, I was instantly seduced by Les Vagues’ project, which is based on volunteerism, intergenerational solidarity, autonomy, environmental responsibility, and equality. This commitment to ensuring accessibility to an otherwise restricted scene closely resonates with my ideals, which extend to how I understand the basic principle of justice. I cannot conceive of justice without accessibility as its foundational premise. Over the past decade, the traditionally conservative legal field has been disrupted by the swift rise of technology and startups that have begun to reimagine its basic tenets. Technology can help push the limits of the legal market and bolster its expansion to better meet the needs of numerous underserved populations and improve access to justice, as we have started to see with organizations like LegalZoom or Ravel. With society gravitating towards service models that are hyper-focused on accessible and personalized client experiences, the legal industry faces an exciting challenge as we consider creative new ways to deliver services that ultimately bring us closer to an ideal concept of justice.

While I have always been fascinated by anthropology and the interplay between biology and law as the cornerstones of our societal structures, I am ultimately an engineer and also look at the world through that particular lens. For that reason, I see the role of law not only as a stabilizing foundational structure, but as a mechanism for innovation. Becoming a lawyer will put me in a position to draw from both worlds and collaborate with other creators to promote, complement, and secure their intellectual property on paradigm-shifting ideas and inventions. As biotechnology and information technologies mature and we start seeing radical social shifts, it is crucial for lawyers to play a part in establishing guiding ethical principles and ensuring the preservation of an equitable legal framework. While this is an imposing endeavor, Les Vagues taught me that, as in navigation, it is through genuine collaboration that any worthy goal is achieved. It is in the moments when you are exhausted, wet, and cold, when each member of the crew has given everything he or she can, that you find a feeling of true satisfaction and understand your individual effort as one part of a larger collective push in the service of a single goal.

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