As a young boy, I dreamed of becoming a police officer or a fireman. Of course, many young boys my age harbored similar aspirations. However, I was not attracted to these professions for their obvious action and bravado. What made the people who performed these jobs special to me is that they stood up for others. They protected others when they could not help themselves. For me, they represented justice. In retrospect, I know these early admirations laid the foundation for my future interest in law.
Another strong influence in my life has been the work of my father. As a business agent for the Teamster's Union and later as the president of the Transit Worker's Union Local 100, he was always mired in important labor negotiations. My father advocated and garnered better wages, benefits, and working conditions for his fellow public employees.
It became clear to me that my father was performing a necessary, if not noble service in helping hard-working people attain a better livelihood. What was hard for me to understand, though, was that he had to fight for this. I asked him why the union was often at odds with the city. He explained that the city government had competing responsibilities to its workers, taxpayers, and the bottom line. In other words, they had to make the transit system run efficiently. The point he was trying to make is that there are two sides to every conflict and usually neither side is totally right or entirely wrong. This is a belief that I hold in the highest regard today. It can be applied to everything from labor relations, to a murder trial, and even to situations as relatively trivial as bickering neighbors.
By the time I had reached high school I was fascinated with the social sciences. I relished my...