Reasons to Go to Law School #9-10

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on December 2nd, 2010 by bl1y

It’s time once again for another contestant to play Give Two Good Reasons to Go to Law School.  The rules are simple, you need reasons, they need to be good (enough to justify the time, trouble, and expense), and you need two of them. Our next contestant is a 0L with trouble capitalizing my entire moniker.

Dear BL1y,

Hi my name is Eric and I’ve been a regular reader of your blog and currently in the process of applying the law school. As such it would seem to me that I should at least try to defend my decision to attend. Reading your blog, as well as Bitter lawyer and Above the Law are depressing eye-opening experiences. So I thank you for that. Actually I thank you for the simple fact that reading your blog is informative, kind of like watching the daily show instead of the new though (not an insult lol, actually kind of a complement :)) Anyway usually I am a negative and jaded person myself, extremely so, but my friend challenged me to look at the bright side so i started my own blog http://brightsideoflaw.blogspot.com/ where i attempt to do the impossible and find that actual bright side in pre-law, law school when i do attend, and eventually as a lawyer. So taking your challenge is pretty much a must for me at this point.

Any way as i was saying me being the disillusioned pessimistic person that i am, i already regret my major already (two useless majors! History and Philosophy) since it gives me no actual relevant experience to pursue a career with and that brings me to reason 1 for me at least.

Reason 1: for those students who stupidly bought into the hype of pre-law majors law school is the only other path other than teaching. Now i know a person recently wrote to you saying this exact thing, that she doesn’t want to teach but this is more than that. The reason to go to law school is to give you actual career options. As a pre-law student your only choices are teach or 3 years to get another degree or 3 years for law school….  no good reasons to do any of those, but going to law school seems to me to be a better option of the three to me. Not the best reason i know. actually pretty crappy. “nothing else for me to do” but it is a real reason. yet i know you answered this one at least two times by now so you can ignore it,…

Now for a good reason…

Reason 2. To learn about the law. WAIT i know your going to respond with that you don’t actually learn Law, but i don’t care about that. As a history major i absolutely loved taking history of law classes. And as a philosophy major i loved philosophy of law classes. I know going to law school and only studying these topics won’t prepare you for a career in law, but were simply talking about a reason to attend law school, and the fact is law school is probably the best place to learn about the theory, history and philosophy of law, which is what i want to do. The academic study of law is what interests me at the moment. You simply can’t go to barnes and nobles and pick up this information the same way from an actual teacher. This reason is assuming i get into a good school with worthy professors that can teach me etc.

Anyway have fun telling me i’m wrong. The challenge itself though let me assure you was depressingly hard, which is why my reason are so lame, but whatever.

All the best

Eric

Hoping for Columbia
USNews #4, $48,004/yr

Accepted to:

University of California – Los Angeles
USNews #15, $45,967/yr (out of state), $35,327/yr (in state)
Offered $9,000/yr scholarship.

University of Texas – Austin
USNews #15, $42,814/yr (out of state), $27,177/yr (in state)
Out of state tuition waived.

It’s like Christmas came early this year. This is going to be too easy.

1. Useless Majors, Gotta Do Something

You readily acknowledge that there are in fact other options than law school, such as pursuing a masters in a more useful area than your undergraduate programs, or perhaps an MBA.  “I have to pick something” is not actually a reason to pick any specific option, and it’s certainly not a reason to pick the most expensive, depressing option on the table.  Have you considered MBA programs? What about journalism? MFA? Library sciences? Culinary arts?  There are other options than law, and almost all of them are better.

2. I Want to Study Law in an Academic Setting

I took four philosophy of law classes while in undergrad, so I understand where you’re coming from.  But, the fact of the matter is that you won’t have deep, philosophical discussions about the law while in law school.  You’ll have three years of mastering arcane and outdated rules, while learning how to deal with asshole egomaniacal professors whose only real talents are sophistry and ball-hiding.  If your undergraduate philosophy program dealt heavily with analytical philosophy and logic, you’re going to be sorely disappointed at the quality of discussion you have in law school.

I do agree with you, however, that you can’t get a deep philosophical understanding of the law from walking in to a bookstore.  Bookstores are limited by shelf space. What you need to do is look around on Amazon.com or the Barnes and Noble website; there’s a much bigger selection there.  Want to learn about civil procedure? Not just the rules, but the underlying theories behind them? Read this. There’s lots of good book you can find on legal theory that will be better than any of the classroom discussions you have. I’d suggest checking out anything by Richard Posner.

The good thing about books is you can pick and choose what you want to study.  Law school will force you in to classes you have little or no interest in, either through mandatory parts of the curriculum, or just through scheduling conflicts and bad luck in lotteries.  If you see a specific class or professor you want to take, talk to the admissions office, tell them that class/professor is a big reason why you’re interested in attending that school, and ask if they can guarantee a spot in the class.

They will tell you no, and that should give you cause to reconsider going to law school for the intellectual stimulation.  It’s not just a gamble on your career options after graduation, it’s a gamble on what you’ll even get to take while there.

But, you seem to have already decided to go no matter what I tell you, so I’ll offer you some more practical advice given you bounded rationality: check out those books I mentioned. Put them on your Christmas wish list, and start teaching yourself both legal theory and the actual rules right now.  Not only will you give yourself a huge leg up on the competition when exams roll around, but you’ll be in a better position to make the most out of law school.

Ask yourself this: If you aren’t already reading these books on your own (as in reading more than what you classes assigned to you), how committed are you to really studying philosophy of law?

Finally, it may seem uncouth, but try negotiating better scholarships.  Don’t get suckered in by what looks like a large amount of free money. That’s a mistake I made. Focus on what the final price is, not how much they’re coming down from the original. The sticker price is marked way up anyways. Only suckers pay sticker price for law school. Assume their markdown still leaves them rolling in dough. It does.

Call up UCLA (or visit in person if you can), and tell them that you are looking at Texas, which has made a very generous offer, and while you would like to attend UCLA (assuming you prefer it to Texas), you can’t justify the extra expense, especially considering LA’s higher cost of living.  It won’t hurt to ask, and even if they come down and match the price, but you choose to go elsewhere anyways, turning them down after getting a better offer will earn you a set of brass balls.

If you can bring the price to something more reasonable, consider a joint degree program. Being in school an extra year or two means you’ll rack up more debt, but you’ll also have the chance to take the classes you want, get an extra summer job on your resume (it’s easier to get an internship while a student), and graduate with better employment prospects.

[If you think you have good reasons to go to law school, and want for me to make fun of them on my blog, send your pathetic excuse for logical reasoning and cost-benefit analysis to nycbl1y@gmail.com]

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #12

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on January 13th, 2010 by bl1y

Useless Classes.

I’m not talking about the classes that are supposed to be useful but ultimately fail, I’m talking about the ones that don’t even purport to be useful. BitterLawyer.com ran a bit on this a while ago, highlighting 11 worthless classes, and I thought I’d revisit the topic, but see just how much crap I could churn up by limiting myself to only the Spring 2010 classes at the Top 5 schools.

Yale

Book of Job and Injustice. Not a class about injustice in the job market, but a class on how to use the Biblical Book of Job to understand injustice in the world. The class is basically “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” This was one of the many topics we covered in my philosophy of religion class in undergrad, which is precisely where it belongs.

Ethics in Literature. I understand the importance of having classes in legal ethics, and why some students are interested in Law and Literature (because they’re book nerds and it looks like an easy class), but Ethics in Literature? This class would be a thousand times more effective if you just cut out the books and discussed some of the more complex or intriguing ethical dilemmas (legal or otherwise) thought have been thought up during centuries of philosophical circle jerks.

Harvard

Democracy Of, By, and For the People: Reading Group. This is a class on “(1) community life, (2) self governance, and (3) accountability to the common good,” which requires students to “prepare periodic ‘one-pagers’ on mutually agreed upon topics.” Flimsy topic? Bullshit assignments? Sign me up!

Great Books: Reading Group. “This reading group is meant to be an antidote. Nowadays, law students arrive at law school having read less and less history and literature.” So what’s Harvard’s solution to this? Reading and discussing one “great book,” Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a book so great you’ve probably never heard of it. At least the class is only worth one credit. In my English Honors Seminar we read The Iliad, The Aeneid, Paradise Lost, Tom Jones, and Moby Dick. That’s how you make up for a lack of exposure to literature and history. Not with a class where “Soft drinks, wine, cheese and so forth will be provided.”

Jewish Law’s Response to Gentile Law: Internal Views of External Influences: Advanced Reading Group. Holy Moses, what a freaking waste of time. The class will “explore the language Jewish law uses to describe its own perception of its relation to Gentile law.” It’s not even a class on Jewish law, it’s a class on the linguistics of Jewish law. And what makes this an “advanced” reading group? You must be able to read Hebrew to attend. In other words: Only God’s chosen people are allowed.

The Past and Future of the Left. We all know universities tend to lean liberal, and law schools are no exception. But this class is quite literally about how students can get the party of “greater equality and empowerment” to overcome its current internal conflicts.

Stanford

Law and Creativity: Fiction and Nonfiction. I almost didn’t read this one, thinking it would be a class on intellectual property. But, I’m sure glad I did. This class is broken down into two components; in the first students “examine and discuss creative treatments of legal and professional issues in a variety of media (including film, fiction, and nonfiction),” and in the second they “submit their own fiction and creative nonfiction pieces for group discussion.” Basically, it’s watching A Few Good Men followed by a creative writing workshop where you’re critiqued by people with little or no creative writing background.

Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Another wonderful reading group brought to you by America’s higher education system. This is pure discussion group, no lecture. And to make sure it is extra useless to lawyers, enrollment is capped at 16 students, and only half of those may be from the law school.

Columbia

Biblical Jurisprudence. Every school seems to have these worthless Bible classes. This noe is sure to prepare you for legal practice by exploring topics such as “the meaning of wars of extermination in the biblical narrative” and “the binding of Isaac as it relates to other practices of sacrifice.” In other words, it’s a class that explores the bad stuff Jews did in the old testament. Or, as Profs. Fletcher and D-Kal call it, “the OT.”

Leadership for Lawyers: “This course examines the responsibilities and challenges of lawyers who occupy leadership roles in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.” Hint: It’s exactly the same as the responsibilities and challenges of non-lawyers who occupy leadership roles in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

New York University

Retribution in Criminal Law Theory & Practice. The class basically centers around one question, should we use criminal sanctions for retribution, rehabilitation, or deterrence? Doesn’t sound too terribly useless until the end of the course description: “The seminar includes in its pedagogy experiments in freeing creative voice through weekly writing and theatre exercises and includes a close study of philosophy, history, psychoanalysis, novels, and plays.”

What. The. Fuck?

The Passion of the Christ: The Trial of Jesus. “For serious learners. Tons to read and plenty of hard work. Do not enroll just for curiosity.” I think that’s code for “This is a bullshit class, but I’m trying desperately to make people think I’m a serious academic.”

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