It’s time to announce the winner of July’s Lawyer of the Month. Actually, it’s well past time to announce the winner of July’s Lawyer of the Month, but I forgot to do it before I went on vacation. Sorry about that. Since it’s late I’ll make this column free.
The winner of the July contest won in a landslide. Regular readers of Above the Law will not be surprised to learn that Elana Nightingale Dawson, a recent law school graduate who went into labor while attempting to pass the bar, won our lawyer of the month poll — even if she’s not yet a practicing attorney. That’s just how we roll around here.
But despite her comfortable margin of victory, Elana Dawson inspired some interesting debates in the comments, debates that merit additional attention….
When we first reported on the Dawson story, many commenters argued that going into labor during the bar exam can be viewed as a consequence of poor family planning. Other commenters questioned the maternal commitment of somebody who would risk being in a stressful test taking environment so close to her due date.
I’m not really willing to publicly question Dawson’s family planning, at least not in a world where a guy like Antonin Scalia is having flocks of children and yet gets to have an entire career where he gets to make decisions about other people’s family planning without ever having to endure a serious public discourse about his own choices. There’s way too much of a double standard there for me opine on when one female law student decides to procreate.
Instead, I noticed a far more interesting debate that pitted Dawson against the July Lawyer of the Month runner-up, Jose Baez. A commenter said: “Billions of women have given birth; Mr. Baez’s accomplishment was way more impressive.”
I do think that people, both men and women, tend to celebrate the birthing process well beyond reasonable levels. Giving live birth is in fact such a natural mammalian process that it’s one of the things that defines us as a class. At base, giving birth is ordinary.
And any idiot can do it. At this time, I’d like to mark Casey Anthony as Exhibit 1. Pumping out a human, while undoubtedly painful, bespeaks no inner grace or accomplishment.
Arguably, if Hacksaw McDaniel had run into the exam room, cut off Elana Dawson’s arm, and then she still finished the exam, the event would have been as laudable. In fairness, she would have still won Lawyer of the Month; finishing the bar after somebody chops off your arm would be the greatest bar exam story ever. But you take my point: enduring pain, in and of itself, is not particularly impressive.
Given the fascination our society has with baby making, getting an accused baby killer off stands out as a signature accomplishment.