04 Juni 2008

Law School - Terrible Mistake

I enrolled in law school directly out of college because I hadn't the foggiest idea what to do with my bachelor's in English and Political Science, I was good at writing and arguing, and so forth. Unlike many of these posters, the decision was not at all at the behest of my parents--in fact, for diverse reasons both of them tried to talk me out of it! Despite a low LSAT and a so-so GPA, I was able to attend a fairly prestigious (if not Top Ten) law school because my undergraduate degree came from an Ivy League university.

Almost from the start, I loathed law school. It was tortuously boring; the classes were mostly about grandstanding and intimidation, and my classmates were the usual hypercompetitive, humorless dweebs who populate law schools. I was in my early twenties and didn't really understand what kind of person I really was--I had convinced myself that I was the lawyer type, and as a result I couldn't figure out why I hated it all so much. In the first semester's exams, the overall results were a disaster (see below), and right afterwards, as my grades hovered just above academic-probation levels, I quit. But six months later I lost my nerve and returned, and of course everyone praised me for not being a Quitter, à la Dick Nixon.

Throughout the rest of my time at law school, I remained a gigantic nervous wreck, increasingly hostile and bored stiff. In three years, I gained forty pounds (I'm male, BTW--it afflicts both sexes). I never "got it"--consequently, my grades never "clustered" and instead roamed all over the place. I was probably the only person who came close to an AmJur in some classes (Jurisprudence and Advanced Constitutional Law) and attained near-honors level in Contracts and Wills, while almost flunking others, such as Civil Procedure, Bankruptcy and Sales (which is very similar to Contracts). Criminal Procedure (Miranda, etc.) was my favorite class; I put in loads of time, yet barely passed it. In short, I never got over the panic and anxiety of First Years, and every exam was like tossing stuff into a mysterious black box--I could never figure out why I did well or poorly.

Somehow, I managed to pass the bar exam on the first try but it did me little good. I found law practice even more anxiety- provoking than school had been. My class standing was so low (right between third and fourth quartile) that a firm job was out of the question. I tried to go solo but couldn't make head or tail of it. I finally gave it up about four years later.

Every undergraduate, and everyone contemplating law school, ought to spend a minimum of 40 hours per week for 50 straight weeks in a genuine law firm environment. It doesn't matter whether one is doing paralegal work, fetching coffee or just tagging along. You need to know and understand precisely what lawyers do on a daily basis. If, after that, it still appeals to you, then go ahead. I would bet that if this kind of practicum were made a mandatory prerequisite, law school applications would drop by over fifty percent and we would no longer be speaking of a "glut" of attorneys. Remember, one attends "law school," not "lawyer school." People majoring in literature, political science, history or even business opt for law school while under the delusion that they will spend their days making brilliantly crafted arguments in court and discussing the pros and cons of upcoming legislation and public policy while eating 4-star dinners in penthouse restaurants overlooking the skyline. In reality, they'll be spending 65-90 hours per week in a cubicle under fluorescent lighting, gulping warm Diet Pepsi and poring over 7-point print on debentures while licking a maniacal senior partner's boots (or stilettos). Or they'll be haggling with insurance adjusters and doing half of the "clerical" work themselves while putting up with vicious, greedy, deceitful and vengeance-obsessed clients who won't pay up, as well as resentful, sullen court clerks and incompetent, corrupt judges who resent having to do any work at all and therefore begrudge the attorney his very existence.

Yes, you may, may earn lots of money, but chances are you will have no time or opportunity to enjoy it, and whenever you do sneak off for a bit, the Blackberry, email and cell phone won't be far away. Time and Litigation wait for no one. A lawyer I know, under forty, has already endured three heart attacks and has a permanent prescription for Lipitor. And he's one of the lucky ones--he actually likes his job!

In the years following, I have had all manner of strange experiences, including Navy Boot Camp and riding in a small ship in 20-foot swells with 60-mph winds, standing by a terminally ill man as he passed on, and even a root canal, and none of it has been remotely as frightening or revolting.

As Sammy Davis, Jr. said on "Baretta," DON'T DO IT!


At 09 September, 2011 18:04, Blogger West said...

Hey man, I feel you. I'm a recent grad and I really think it was a terrible, terrible, awful, waste of time.


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