Joseph Tracy is a third-year student at Florida State University College of Law and a participant in the Rumbergerkirk Summer Program who is proud to be the first in his family to pursue a law degree. An avid fan of national parks where he enjoys hiking, Tracy spoke with Attorney at Law Magazine about his laborious climb towards a career in law.
AALM: We always hear how demanding law school can be and time is precious. How do you manage your schedule?
JT: Juggling school, work and everything else definitely has its challenges but I’ve found that I have gotten better at it over time. I find it much easier to get on assignments early and break them up into manageable pieces. That way you don’t feel like you’re drowning and have time to finish everything.
It helps a lot if you enjoy what you’re doing and you’re doing it with people you like. I’ve been lucky to make a lot of good friends in my classes and co-curriculars at FSU Law, so going to them is usually something I look forward to.
When I’m working, I try to maximize my efficiency, so I always try to go to a distraction-free environment. That became a lot harder when the pandemic hit and we were stuck at home, but usually the study lounge at my apartment is a good place to knock out some law school readings. There are also plenty of coffee shops that I’m a regular at. It’s just about finding study habits that work for you.
AALM: What have you found to be most challenging about law school?
JT: Being a first-generation law student, it is hard to know what area of law I want to practice. I am overcoming this challenge by being open-minded and taking on as many projects from as many practice areas that I can. I am lucky that RumbergerKirk gives me the opportunity to get that level of exposure that I need.
AALM: Do you have any “heroes” you try to emulate or have been inspired by?
JT: I’m inspired by my dad and the way he approaches his career. He is a doctor and growing up I’ve been able to see his strong work ethic first-hand. He always does the little things the right way, day in and day out, and holds himself to a high standard. He never complains even when things at work are tough. I feel very lucky to have been exposed to that and I hope to emulate those qualities in my career and in life.
AALM: If you had the power to change something in our legal system what would it be?
JT: I don’t believe people should be jailed for offenses that do not directly harm other people. Incarcerating people for things like drug possession for personal use is much more socially destructive than it is beneficial. Following the law is important, but at a certain point it is more important to step back and analyze the actual effect of these laws.
Incarcerating someone is a severe penalty. Its primary purpose should be to protect society at large from the incarcerated person. The deterrent effect should only be a secondary purpose. With that in mind, it does not make logical sense to incarcerate people for crimes that do not have a victim.
Even if you think it’s fair to punish drug users with incarceration, the fact is it still has a very negative effect on society. Going to jail often creates a permanent blemish on a person’s record. This makes it difficult for them to ever maintain a stable job, pursue higher education or ever truly reintegrate into society. This, in turn, inspires more crimes of even greater severity. These laws are bad for the individual who gets jailed and bad for society as a whole.
AALM: How do you feel that as a society we are doing with regards to improving diversity and inclusiveness?
JT: It’s inspiring that more people are embracing diversity and celebrating the differences between people. Everyone can learn and grow from each other, so this approach of more open-mindedness and inclusivity is not only the right thing to do, but it makes us all better, more well-rounded people. I hope to see this trend continue.
AALM: How do you relax? Do you have hobbies or special interests?
JT: I love watching sports. Recently almost every day after getting off work I go home and watch the NBA playoffs, which helps me relax. In terms of hobbies, I like to run. I also enjoy listening to podcasts, especially history podcasts. Whenever I have a few days off I love taking road trips to national parks and hiking until I’m exhausted. In the last year I’ve been to about 10 parks. I can’t get enough!