Free Range Lawyer

Stephanie West Allen sent me a link to a law student, Jacqueline Horani, who, after her first year, found a peculiar niche that interested her greatly.  She describes it as “the intersection of community & the law,” which clarifies nothing for me, but to her credit, she’s going for it.  She needs $1500 to fund her summer tour, and she turned to Indiegogo to get it.

The title of her pitch is “A law student’s adventure through the U.S. to discover the intersection of community & the law.”  She describes it as

Did you know…

that there are over 1,500 Intentional Communities, planned residential communities where people live together under a common vision/values, in the United States alone? Almost all of these communities have sustainability as an aspect of their focus; many create local organic farms, local businesses, and establish land trusts to protect open spaces from development.

Even if you don’t live in an intentional community, the more we make it easier and more successful for their establishment, the more organic produce, locally made jams, clothing, and cheeses, retreat centers and nature preserves the world can enjoy!  Plus, the more we learn from these microcosms of community, social experiments in collective resources, the better we can re-define and re-organize how we live our lives in cities, suburbs, and neighborhoods.

This sounds more like a pitch for organic farming than law, but she eventually gets to a point that appears to have something to do with law.

Many members I have already spoken to have shared how difficult it was for them to find, understand, and afford legal information, resources, and advice needed to establish their communities.  Legally Unconventional aims to fill this space, connecting the public and legal practitioners with the resources and information necessary to navigate the laws of community.


Is there such a thing as the laws of community?  It strikes me that this is about as silly as flashmob law; no doubt property, contract, admin and perhaps criminal laws are involved, but students already learn these subjects.  The beauty of law is that it can be applied to a broad array of applications, which can include an “intentional community” engaged in organic-y stuff.

Jacqueline Horani goes on to explain why she wants other to invest in her:

What the project entails:

Me traveling across the U.S. to visit and interview intentional communities and meet with legal practitioners on the intersection of law & community.
A website where I post my blog, interviews, photos, videos, & resources.
Speaking of resources, there will be a listing of practicing lawyers communities can reach out to for legal advice.
A legal article on my research & findings, hopefully published.
AND Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram where YOU can follow the project live.

Please support my goal of pursuing law in a way that fulfills my passion and fulfills a positive social need.

The focus here is a bit, well, unfocused.  And then there’s the call to action, where she wants other people’s money to fund her “goal of pursuing law in a way that fulfills [her] passion.”  Few people are this tone-deaf and entitled, but there is also something appropriate about the nature of “her passion” and her expectation that the world exists to fund her happiness.

But, and this is a huge “but,” what I like very much about Jacqueline Horani’s indiegogo pitch is that she’s trying.  What she is not doing is sitting on her butt, complaining about the lousy job market for law students and young lawyers, or pondering whether it would prove more fulfilling to do transactional work for major domestic corporations or international corporations.

Sure, the pitch is kinda silly, but better to be silly and trying than to do nothing and, wallow in misery in silence.

And then there is the fact that Jacqueline Horani believes in something.  Even though it may not be clear what she believes in, she is willing to put her butt on the line, publicly, to pursue a path that she sees as being socially beneficial.  Whether you (or I) see it as socially beneficial doesn’t matter.  She does, and that compels her to pursue it.

So do I plan on contributing to her project? Are you nuts? I don’t even know what she’s talking about, and I can live without getting a postcard from Lake Cayuga (Far above Cayuga’s waters, there’s an awful smell…).  Her “perks” for contributors are kinda heart-warming, in a cringe-worthy sort of way, but then, it’s not like she’s trying to produce an ROI here.

But that doesn’t prevent me from admiring her motivation and tenacity, her taking charge of her situation and trying, even if inaptly, to do something she believes useful and important. Doing something you believe to be worthwhile, even if its unclear what that is to others, still beats the crap out of standing for nothing.

Maybe this will be the start of the free range lawyer, certainly what her inspiration from the Rebellious Lawyers Conference at Yale should get behind.  And if the keynote speech from my old friend Robin Steinberg from Bronx Defenders moved her to action, then it can’t be all bad.  So what if I don’t get it. I get that she’s doing something, and that’s a start.

21 thoughts on “Free Range Lawyer

  1. william doriss

    Doesn’t hurt that she’s “cute”. Nice hair, nice smile. We like those attributes.
    He/she also serves who only stands and waits.
    Yea, we wish her a lot of luck.
    No harm trying. I mean, she could go to the beach! She might make a good
    “investment adviser”? Well, then again, not if she’s into intentional communities
    and home-grown, organic jams.

    1. SHG Post author

      What would possibly make you go to “she’s cute”? So what? If that’s the first thing you notice, you need to spend less time in Provincetown. And the least you can do to make up for your inappropriate comment is send her $10.

      1. vvil

        I did, indeed, wonder what had led you to include her picture. It’s not so frequent on this blog (other than for indispensable purposes such as leather jackets and vintage cars).

        1. SHG Post author

          That was the pic she used to promote her goal. It reflected the curious mix of of narcissism and purpose. It doesn’t dawn on me that she’s “cute” or not, as that’s not where my mind goes. Your mileage (like Bill’s) may vary.

  2. Rob Robertson

    Isn’t “intentional community” just another name for “homeowner’s association”? Looks like it to me.

    1. SHG Post author

      Beats me. I have no clue what “intentional community” means, except it’s apparently not an unintentional community.

    2. UltravioletAdmin

      That’s one version. Hippy Communes, Militia Compounds, religious communities are all intentional communities, that from what I hear all degenerate into standard HOA fights.

        1. UltravioletAdmin

          Grew up in rural Oregon. Mennonites, hippie communes, militias, and cults all love rural Oregon. The Cults make apple butter now and are slowly like Oneida, becoming a corporate money making group. So maybe they are like like a HOA. However, the Mennonites have always had strong opinions on what you paint your house, the color of your curtains, etc. The Militias also have such debates about their flags, and whats too big, etc.

  3. John Barleycorn

    All I can think of is wooden boards and the aging of cheese. Cheese, all that cheese everywhere.

    It would be such a shame if that artisan combination were left to the anarchy-y-stuff communities while the organic-y-stuff communities were forced to eat regulatory interpretation without representation.

    And here I thought the growth market for newly minted attorneys was writing penalty collection letters for the board of directors of gated home associations to the renegades within their walls who let the grass grow to long, planted tomatoes in flower boxes, or strayed from the approved color chart when the mail box needed painting.

    P.S @ Jacqueline. May updating your web-page always be secondary to your zealous representation of monkey wrench wielding citizens collectives from sea to shining sea, the no-anesthesia extraction of regulators teeth throughout the land always nourish your soul, and may you never awake to a flash bang grenade during a raw milk raid.

    P.S.S If you every expand your practice to include the oppression of local bookmakers I am a damn good cook and there is always an open bar. I look forward to reading about your efforts and please do post helpful tips on your web-page. I finally finished up the the re-purposed hardwood pallet deck to adorn the guest wall tent and the zoning cops are hassling me about the permanent footings.

  4. Jeff

    “So do I plan on contributing to her project? Are you nuts? I don’t even know what she’s talking about, and I can live without getting a postcard from Lake Cayuga ….”

    But I think you’ve even done something better than contribute. You’ve broadcasted her message to a much larger number of people than probably what she would have otherwise reached. You’ve done her a huge favor.

    On a side note, I am wondering what you’ve got against Lake Cayuga or the thing above its waters.

  5. Steven M. Warshawsky

    I’m going to file a dissenting opinion on this one. When I read this story, I don’t see an ambitious young lawyer-in-training who wants to find her niche in the law; I see a wannabe community activist (or internet entrepreneur?) who has no understanding whatsoever what it means to be a lawyer. In my opinion, young people like this (and I’ve run across many in my years in practice and as an adjunct law professor) do a disservice both to themselves and to the legal profession. They do a disservice to themselves because they believe, almost always wrongly, that getting a law degree and becoming a lawyer will allow them to pursue their “passion” to make the world a “better” place. They aren’t interested in the hard and unglamorous work lawyers actually do on a day-to-day basis. So they find themselves in a profession that does not fit their interests or personalities and very often becomes a bitter disappointment for them. Perhaps I am being too curmudgeonly, but the legal profession does not need people like this, who, quite frankly, aren’t committed to the practice of law and do not take their craft and calling seriously.

    1. SHG Post author

      Your complaint about the ubiquitous and dreaded “passion” is duly noted, and I concur. I chalk it up to childish enthusiasm and trendiness. With so many extolling the virtues of passion, it’s hard for a youngster to understand that it’s just feel good nonsense.

      But even though she may be misdirected and childish, give her credit where deserved. Better that she does something, cares about something, even if it’s silly and misguided, then the alternative. There’s only so much room on the couch in mommy’s basement for Cheetos-eating whiners.

  6. Jessica Horani

    Scott, first of all thank you for featuring the post on Jacqueline; your blog is widely read and respected and when a colleague from Georgia alerted me to the post on my younger sister, I was very surprised! I think as one of your posters mentioned you have certainly given her a much wider platform than she would otherwise have and perhaps that is a good thing.

    I do understand your and some of your readers’ good natured ribbing and even confusion as to what exactly she is trying to do. I knew I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney since the age of about twelve; started as an assistant public defender at 23 and have been practicing criminal defense for the past 12 years now in Florida and NY, so my path was very straightforward and ‘traditional’ in that sense in comparison to hers. I’ve learned a lot from her while listening to her talk about what she hopes to achieve and her frustration with the traditional roles and career paths before her. She is an activist in many ways and has often spoken of the desire to open a school at some point and has a very keen interest in many overlapping areas of community, education, social rights including lgbtq issues and more.

    She does have, I hope, at least a few more years to figure out exactly how all those interests and passions can best come together and above all else she does so with the genuine desire to do something to better the world rather than just pad her pocketbook. She is not an entitled trust fund baby, on the contrary, she has made her way so far with a lot of hard work and diligence on her part and without wealthy parents footing the bill. Why should her study at NYU Law in any way diminish our profession even if she ends up not practicing law? Are we so territorial of our field that we believe the study by a young person who may not become a corporate lawyer or a public defender or a plaintiff’s attorney will dilute the worth of our legal education or expertise? How does a young person educating themselves and trying to forge a new path in any way harm any of us? I’d rather have more students like her in law school with their naïve beliefs about making the world a better place than a voracious pack of baby corporate lawyers!

    Thank you again for the post; it is above all a learning experience for her (the good and the bad) and now she has bested her older sister by appearing on your blog before me!

    1. SHG Post author

      Thanks, Jessica. Part of my purpose was to give Jacqueline a bit more of a platform (and for those who “get it” better than I do, maybe a few more donations to the cause). As I said, I have no clue what exactly she has in mind, but I respect that she wants to make a dent in the world and that she shows the gumption to make it happen. Both very admirable traits.

      I wish her (and you) the best. And I fully expect your sister to eventually follow in your footsteps, and make a great criminal defense lawyer.

    2. John Barleycorn

      Go Jacqueline!

      Don’t forget to read your way through your sisters library and never forget what that guild-ed one from Monroeville had to say via one of her characters when anyone tries to set your table, “People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.”.

      P.S. @ Jessica, next time you make the commute from FL to NY bring the esteemed curmudgeon a jar of beach sand and a few sea shells and tell him to drink more milk. One can never get enough vitamin D.

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