Reason Not to Go to Law School #30

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on February 5th, 2010 by bl1y

You’re expected to tip your professors.

That’s right, after giving professors your money through tuition, buying $130 books full of cases you can get for free online, and then buying study guides to learn the stuff your professor decided your tuition dollars didn’t cover, you’re expected to give your professor and end-of-the-semester gift.

Here’s the e-mail I got about it at the end of my first semester, sent from the girl we elected our SBA representative:

Subject: End-of-semester business

It’s a long-standing tradition at the law school that each 1L section present its professors with two gifts (one gag gift and one real gift) and a large card signed by all students on the last day of each class. Though I’d rather not have to, I have the extreme (dis)pleasure of having to collect money from all of you to purchase the gifts for our four Section 1 profs.  The SBA recommended donation is $5 from each student.  I know it’s the end of the semester and loan money is running low, but it’s only $5 to thank our profs for putting up with our photoshopping, game-playing, Google-talking, email-checking, online-shopping, AIMing-during-class BS.  So, tomorrow before class, during the breaks, and after class I will be taking your money.

Also, I’m accepting ideas for gifts.  The gag gifts should somehow relate to each professor.  Furthermore, since I don’t have Neuborne, I’ll need a little extra help with this one.

See you in the AM.
- Deb

The SBA, one of the most useless student organizations in the history of useless student organizations, actually has a recommended donation?  Let’s do a little quick math.  Each section my year had 110 students in it.  110 x $5 = $550.  Not counting our small Lawyering sections, we had 4 professors (each section was subdivided into two Civil Procedure subsections with different professors).  $550 / 4 = $137.50.  That’s more than the bonus I got my first year as an attorney.

And what did the professors do to earn this?  We know it wasn’t teaching the material in an interesting or efficient manner.  No, apparently we’re supposed to pay the professors extra money because they’re so boring that doing anything else online is more interesting than listening to a lecture we paid thousands of dollars to hear.

What a crock of shit.

Reason Not to go to Law School #30(a): You have to put up with bitches like Deb who think professors deserve extra money because they suck so hard at their incredibly easy, overpaid jobs.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #19

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on January 21st, 2010 by bl1y

Your professors are stealing from you.

After going through undergrad, most students have caught on to the highly unethical practices that dominate the text book industry.  A few professors get together, write a text book, and then it is sold to students all over the country at a huge price.  Then, to destroy a used book market (which generates no new royalties for the professors), every 3 years or so, they change the page numbers, add another 50 words of text, and release a new edition.  You probably could get by with a used book after a new edition comes out, but book stores won’t buy them from former students because it’s not listed as being used in any classes.

In law school the situation is worse, especially if you go to a top school (because professors at prestigious universities are more likely to be writing the text books).  Law schools, taking advantage of the terrible job prospects during the summer after your first year, hire law students at an incredibly cheap rate to do the vast majority of research and editing of text books.  After the first edition, most of the work is just making sure that the cases cited are still good law and scanning the legal horizon for any major developments.  This is pretty much all done by the research assistants.

In the end, text books are little more than compilations of opinions (written by judges) and articles (written by someone other than your professor).  Only a tiny part of the text is unique to that book.  The rest can be found on WestLaw or Lexis.  And, as a law student, you get free access to these databases and (at some schools) free printing.  So, a professor could very easily just give out a syllabus with the cases and articles listed and let you go get them for free.  But, instead they decide it’d be better if you spent $100+ a pop on the books.

To make matters worse for students, the text books rarely explain the materials clearly.  This is why supplements and study guides are created.  A lot more professors write study guides than text books, and their gear them towards the material they teach in their classes.  So, you’re fairly likely to be buying a study guide written by your own professor.  Again, the better your school, the more probable this is.

I don’t have any problem with professors, acting on their own accord, publishing materials that fill in the gaps of what text books don’t explain.  What I do have a problem with is professors not providing these material to their own students for free.  The students in your class are already paying tens of thousands of dollars for you to teach them.  So why should they have to pay extra money just to buy a book that explains what you’re supposed to be teaching them in the first place?  You shouldn’t have to pay your professor twice for one class.

So, we have a system in which students are forced to buy text books containing material they could have gotten for free, then they pay a professor to teach them, but the instruction is so poorly done that they need to buy a supplement, written by that professor, to understand the class.

But there’s still one important piece of the text book rip-off puzzle.  Most students are taking out loans to pay for law school, and this includes their text book expenses.  And, most of them are planning to pay off their loans by working grueling, unsatisfying jobs as attorneys.  On the other hand, professors tend to have pretty cushy jobs.  Short hours and low stress, all they’ve given up is law firm salaries.  So, they get that money from you.  Instead of working for a firm themselves, they’ve decided to get a piece of the action by ripping off hundreds or thousands of students each year (depending on how widely distributed their books are), and letting those students get the money by working at law firms.  Awesome.

Just to show that there really is a better way to do things, here are three real life examples I experienced:

One of my law professors actually did away with the text book and gave us a list of cases and articles to print ourselves.  So, yes, it can be done.

In undergrad I took several philosophy of law classes in which we read pretty much the same things law students read.  The professor had the school book store print up course packs that were sold at about $15 each.  The price covered the printed costs and a license to a couple copyrighted works.  We paid for only what we needed and saved a ton of money.

My other philosophy professors made a point of not teaching from books they had written, because they thought it would be unethical to force us to buy their books.  Law professors could do the same; write a text book, but then teach from a book written by someone else.  Only once was there a potential issue with my undergrad classes.  Ironically, it was Honors Ethics, and the last name on the book was the last name of the professor.  The book had actually been written by his father, but he still thought there was an ethical issue in assigning it.  However, he cited two facts that overcame the problem.  First, the book only cost $20, so it wasn’t a big burden on the students.  Second, it was the most widely taught ethics book in the country at the time, so assigning it had little to do with self gain, and more to do with it being a damn good book.

So, when you find a professor has assigned his own book for a class, feel free to raise you hand and ask him, point blank, if his book the absolute best book on the market, and if not, why has he chosen to profit from assigning an inferior text.  …And then make triple sure your class is graded anonymously.

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Reason Not to Go to Law School #10

Posted in Reasons Not to Go to Law School on January 12th, 2010 by bl1y

Boring professors.

As reported on AbovetheLaw.com, professors are increasingly likely to ban laptops in their classes, and some schools even have their lectures halls set up to block wifi signals.

Professors have a laundry list of reasons for the policies, but two always top the charts: (1) students tend to transcribe the lecture instead of think about it, and (2) students goofing off tend to distract other students. These are both pretty lame reasons.

Transcribing v. Thinking

Yes, many students do tend to get into a transcription-trance during class. But, we’re perfectly capable of reading over our notes later and thinking through issues then. Most classes stay on big topics for days or even weeks, so it’s okay for a student to have an interesting idea a class later. Hell, they’ll probably realize it wasn’t that interesting and decide not to waste time with it, whereas if they weren’t transcribing the lecture they’d have more dumb thoughts pop into their head to inspire them to raise their hands and annoy everyone else.

And, while I can go back and think about your class afterward, what I can’t do is go back and hear your class verbatim.

If you want students to do more thinking and less transcribing, then don’t simply lecture, engage us.

Distracting Others

This has a much easier fix than banning laptops. Simply say at the beginning of the semester that the first two rows are reserved for people who think they might be distracted by what’s happening on their neighbor’s laptops and declare those rows a strictly no-goofing off zone. It’s not just laptops that can be distracting, so a professor worried about distractions should ban distractions, not just laptops. I find the girl who spends all class knitting far more distracting than the one sitting next to her doing online shopping or playing on Facebook.

What it really comes down to though is that professors tend to just be boring and their lectures often add little of interest. We’ve already read the cases, the comments in the books, and the study guide written by our professor. Most of us are only in class because the ABA set an attendance requirement for your credits to count (and some professors really will threaten to withhold your credit for missing class).

In undergrad I had one professor (for several classes) who had one simple rule for attendence: if you don’t come to class, you will fail. He never kept attendence though. Never checked to see who was there and who wasn’t. The lectures and class discussions were just so incredibly useful than come exam time, if you hadn’t been in class all semester, you’d be screwed. And he tought philosophy of law classes, so I think it could work in actual law classes pretty well.

Or, as one of Mystal’s professors told his class, “If you are more entertained sitting at home after you’ve already paid to attend my class, the fault lies with me.” Professors aren’t concerned with students transcribing or distracting others, what they’re concerned with is competition. Even after spending twenty or thirty or even forty thousand dollars a year on classes, we often still don’t care and it’s a blow to their egos. If you want us to pay attention, be more interesting, instead of banning the competition. It’s not my fault that your anecdote about vodka sauce or the Backstreet Boys just isn’t as entertaining as surfing pro-anorexia (thinspiration) websites:

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