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.
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
Hoping for Columbia
USNews #4, $48,004/yr
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 firstname.lastname@example.org]