February 19, 2001
Opening your eyes to service
Jill Uiberall is a third-year law student.
I entered law school as I have begun most new experiencesbright-eyed and ready to take it on, without realizing just how much it would affect me.
I had heard the horror stories, read the books and seen the movies. Orientation
began with a scene right out of The Paper Chase: more than 200
nervous and excited students in a large auditorium with a lone professor
in a coat and tie standing before us. I fully expected to hear the standard
statement, Look to your left and look to your right; those seats
will be empty after the first semester. To my amazement, the first
words out of the professors mouth were, Your legal career
The faculty and staff of Emory School of Law had no intention of merely
educating the 200 students sitting in Tull Auditorium that day. Rather,
in addition to teaching us the law, the faculty and staff acted as positive
role models, encouraging us to become active participants and leaders
in our community. They made it very clear that we were no longer simply
studentswe were professionals, who must give back to the community
in order for it to flourish.
The concept of giving back to my community was nothing new to me. Growing
up in Memphis, Tenn., I was surrounded by a closeknit community filled
with individuals, who continually gave their time, love and support to
others. My parents not only preached the importance of helping others
and being a leader, they (more importantly) led by example. They showed
their commitment to their community through their various roles within
United Way, our synagogue, the Community Foundation, Leadership Memphis
and many others. My parents values, demonstrated by their positive
community involvement, have been driving forces influencing my decisions
in life to help others.
While attending a student organization meeting shortly after my arrival
at law school, I met a third-year law student who told me that, at a party
the year before, she believed a sedative known as the date rape
drug had been slipped into her drink. The experience prompted her to research
Georgias rape laws and look for solutions to the outdated code.
She and I joined forces with a third law student, and a short time later
we began drafting what we hoped would become Georgias new rape laws.
Professors and staff willingly made themselves available to us outside the classroom. Their guidance was essential and eventually led us to other activists, legislators and organizations in the community.
After many drafts and much editing and coalition building, the bill was
brought before last years legislative session. It achieved a unanimous
victory in the Senate but was narrowly defeated in the House during the
final hours of the session, making it necessary to reintroduce the bill
(House Bill 634) before the current legislative term.
It has been amazing to follow a bill on its way to becoming a law, but through this experience I have learned so much more than merely the procedural aspects of lawmaking. As a participant in the Georgia Womens Assembly and having been introduced to many of the amazing womens organizations in Georgia, I have become aware of a network that is remarkable in size and influence. Ive also learned the endless possibilities that await someone who has motivation and enthusiasm.
Although it is my hope that this bill will pass, if it fails, our voices
will still have been heard and will serve as a stepping stone for the
next attempt, just as those before us paved our way.
Becoming active in the community does not have to be extremely time consuming or difficult.
Choosing a cause or an activity that evokes passion and excitement is
fundamental. Imagination and enthusiasm are the keys to making a lasting
contribution. One phone call or e-mail is all that is necessary to begin
the succession of doors that will continue to open.
Opportunities for involvement are continually present throughout the
Emory community. During the month of February, the Presidents Commission
on the Status of Women Student Concerns Committee is holding a used cell
phone collection drive. The phones and parts (accepted in any condition)
will be refurbished and distributed to victims of domestic violence through
the national Call to Protect program. All Call to Protect
phones will be preprogrammed to dial 911 and one or two non-emergency
numbers (i.e., domestic violence shelters). Collection sites are located
throughout campus including, the Womens Center, the law school and
the Administration Building, and also at Oxford. The simple act of spreading
the word and gathering used phones can help save thousands of lives.
Reflecting upon the past three years, I realize that the many experiences
I have encountered have come before me in a variety of ways: by talking
to other students, by others approaching me, by seeking out opportunities,
and, largely, by being in the right place at the right time.
My expectation for law school was simpleto become a well-educated attorney. But this expectation was far too narrow to account for the incredible opportunities made available to me through students, faculty and staff, as well as through the Atlanta community. Perhaps what I have realized most is that the arms of the community are open; we, as students, must simply walk into them.