What Were the Damages in Erie?

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on November 10th, 2010 by bl1y

A few days ago I posted a video of an NYU civil procedure class performing a skit that somehow is supposed to explain the Erie doctrine.  You can see NYU’s own coverage of the event here.  Now it’s time to look at just how much damage was done.

A semester in law school, not counting exam periods, lasts about 14 weeks.  And, in each of those weeks, an NYU 1L will have 15 hours of class room instruction (see, we didn’t count exam periods because there are no classes then).  Actually, at NYU you’ll have 15.5 hours the first semester, and 14.5 the second semester, if you have civil procedure first semester (which these kids obviously did), but it’s a 5 hour class, and replaced with a 4 hour class second semester.  The weird .5 comes from Lawyering being 2.5 credits per semester, taken both first and second semesters.  I’m just going with the average of 15 hours to keep things tidy.

So, 14 weeks multiplied by 15 hours per week means 210 total hours of classroom instruction for the semester.  Yearly tuition at NYU is $44,820, or $22,410 per semester.  This is just tuition, not total expenses with books, and fees, and room and board.  So, $22,410 for 210 hours of classroom instruction comes out to $106.71 per hour.

The Erie skit, not counting the vapid gifts to the professor (his tenured position and cushy salary doing part time work is his gift, you imbeciles!), lasts about 10 minutes, or 1/6th of an hour.  That’s $17.79 in tuition dollars going to that skit.

Per student.

Now, unless something big has changed since I attended, the 1Ls are divided in to 4 sections, and each section has two different civil procedure groups.  When I was there I believe we had about 450 1Ls, and I believe that number has gone up, but let’s just call it a conservative 50 students per civ pro class.  50 students x $17.79 per student is $889.50.

$889.50 for that sketch.  To me, that doesn’t actually sound like a whole lot of money when you compare it to the total cost of law school.  But, I think going back to the per-student figure is more enlightening.

$17.79 per student in the audience, $17.79 per student performing (yes, they pay to perform in class, not the other way around), and $17.79 per student who’d really rather just get a decent education and be prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation.  $17.79 per student to watch a performance which, given most classes’s attendance policies, students were more or less required to see.

Would you have paid $17.79 to watch that performance?

Would you have financed that $17.79 with non-dischargeable debt which you will be paying off for the next 10, 15, or 20 years?  When you include the interest, that $17.79 could easily blow up to $30 or $40 dollars per student.

But even in today’s dollars, let’s look at how much $17.79 is.  Just a block from where this performance took place (assuming it was in Vanderbilt Hall, which it looks like it is) is the Comedy Cellar.  Ticket prices Monday-Wednesday are $10, Thursday and Sunday are $12, and Friday and Saturday are $18.  The shows usually last about 2 hours, and involve 6-8 comedians performing short acts.

If you went to tonight (it’s Wednesday, so only $10) your opening act would be Modi:

Then, you would listen to 5 other comics who have been on Last Comic Standing, Z Rock, Howard Stern, and written for Dave Chappelle.  After that, you’d get your headliner, Dave Attell:

And then, to close, you’d have schmuck who only got so far as having a half hour special on Comedy Central.

Of course, Comedy Cellar, like most comedy clubs, has a 2 drink minimum.  Domestic beer is $5, imports are $6.  I’ll assume they have something like Sam Adams or another good American beer, so we’re going domestic.  $20 plus tip.  Would you rather pay $22 (tipping only on the drinks, not the ticket, duh) to see these comics, or $17.79 to have your legal education interrupted with an amateur Erie doctrine skit?

Would you rather get:

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #3

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on January 8th, 2010 by bl1y

You don’t learn anything.

Most law students figure out pretty early on that they won’t actually be learning the law in law school. But, not everyone still in the application process is aware, so I’ll make the point as clear as possible:

You will not learn law in law school.

If you really are interested in learning black letter law, go pick up three things: law school text books (aka: case books), law school study guides (aka: horn books), and bar exam study guides (aka: the law). Read them on your own. You’ll maybe miss a thing or two by not having a professor explaining it. If so, just buy another study guide and get a different person’s explanations. You can get the same, if not better, education than someone going to law school, and for not more than 1% of the cost.

A lot of people are okay with law school not teaching law because they think law school teaches this other skill known as “thinking like a lawyer.” It’s some combination of critical analysis and being an asshole. You don’t learn it in law school. If you really want to hone your analytical skills, get a degree in analytical philosophy. Seriously, you will learn how to break arguments down into their component parts, put them back together, and figure out what’s missing or where things go wrong. Make sure to take a class in deductive/symbolic logic. Law school won’t teach you this stuff. For real. DeMorgan’s Law was absolutely essential to understanding one of my legal research and writing assignments, but we never had a lesson on distributing negations. A lot of people screwed up their statutory interpretations because of this. The professor didn’t know how to explain it.

You also will not learn how to write like a lawyer. Your legal writing class will be taught by a third year student who has no more than ten weeks of actual lawyering experience. If you’re lucky, there will be a real life law professor for the class too, but don’t expect her to do anything. She is just a diversity hire used to pad the school’s numbers. Mine was a lesbian and a Native American. Double the diversity points!

If you have poor reasoning skills or poor writing skills, law school will not help you. If you’re good in these departments, law school might actually make you worse.

If you think I’m just cynical, consider this: The ABA limits the number of lawyers who can teach at law schools as well as the number of credits you can take from lawyers. The vast majority of law professors cannot be practitioners (aka: lawyers), they must be academics (aka: worthless). So, you’re taking classes from people who have probably never practiced law. Good luck learning how to be a lawyer from them, or even learning how to think like a lawyer. They’ve never thought as a lawyer, so they can’t teach you how to think like one. If you get a professor who used to practice, they’ve probably been out of the game for so long that their experience will be useless to you. They won’t have done the type of electronic research and document review that will dominate your practice.

Here is a complete list of things I learned in law school:

Law students are incapable of basic math functions like adding two numbers, or simply taking one number, leaving it alone, and having it remain the same value by not doing anything to it.

Law students are really bad at learning the Erie Doctrine. (If your explanation does not involve the Supreme Court ruling on whether a law written by the Supreme Court is constitutional, you’ve missed something.)

All packages contain explosives.

How to create a zipper in Desktop Tower Defense 1.5.

Emma Watson reached the age of consent (about two years ago, varies by state).

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_g_aSy_FGX70/Sx_iDltIK_I/AAAAAAAABc8/OhcEqPqVJYo/s640/Emma+Watson.jpg
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