Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Want to Go to Law School Because I Was On the Debate Team. Sound Familiar?

We've all come across that person who goes straight from college to law school because they think four years in College Toastmasters and winning the best debater award on the high school debate team is sufficient experience to do well in law school. As you all know, good grades and success in law school has very little to do with oratory skills. Other than optional extra-curricular activities such as moot court and clinical programs, law school has nearly nothing to do with debating and public speaking ability.

A former high school debater asked whether he should start law school immediately after college:

Q: I'm a college senior and wonder what you think about my going to law school right away, after I graduate next year. I've been interested in becoming a lawyer since high school, when I was in the debate club. My friends who are planning to get their MBA are going to work for a couple of years first. Is that something I should do, or should I stick to my plan of starting next fall, assuming I'm accepted?

Also, any thoughts of where I should apply?

And here is a portion of the B.S. response from

A: Dear Sooner or Later,

Some individuals find it beneficial to obtain work experience for a year or two, or more, before they attend law school. Others continue their education without a break. Their choice of whether to jump right in or wait, like yours, may be influenced by many different issues.

Ask yourself, first, whether you are ready for law school. Take into account not only your state of mind or eagerness to start on your career, but also your skills. Think about your abilities in all areas including research, writing, oral communication, analysis, judgment, leadership, negotiation, project management and organization. Assess whether they are at the level expected of law students. Consider, too, potential benefits of work experience that enables you to refine those skills.

Working may have other advantages. If you work and can save a portion of your earnings, you can defray some of the cost of law school or, at least, cut back on the amount of financial assistance that you may need. You may also start repaying any loans that you may have received for your undergraduate education. Leaving law school with less debt would be a plus.

Being shy certainly won't help you in the classroom when the professor uses the Socratic Method, but that doesn't mean you can't get the best grade in the class. A friend from law school was a poor public speaker and still graduated law review and cum laude while many of the slick, Billy Flynn wannabes had mediocre and poor grades.

Here is a word of advice. Don't worry about the loud mouths in class who try to intimidate everyone. It is usually the people who don't say anything and quietly go back to their rooms to study instead of running their mouths on campus who graduate at the top of their class. Law school does not prepare you to become a lawyer or argue in court. The only thing law school tests you on is your test taking ability on one exam at the end of the semester, not how well you can speak to an audience. Most lawyers will never argue in court, so the only reason I can come up with as to why law lemmings continue to believe that success in law school is strongly correlated to the debate team is due to the glamorization of the legal profession by shows like The Good Wife, Law & Order, and The Defenders.

Where to apply should be a no-brainer to anyone who reads BIDER. Simple answers to simple questions: Yale or Fail or full scholarship to a T14.


  1. These people tend to be "I love the law types" also. These poor fools have accepted the Hollywood notions of what "the law" entails. They think that they will see and experience "courtroom combat" and confrontations on par with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men." It is so sad that adults actually believe this - and the law schools and banksters are MORE THAN HAPPY to saddle them with $200K in debt for the "privilege" of educating them.

  2. You can have more debate if you go to a local bar. Go sober and you will win more than you lose. Go drunk and you will probably catch a few cases, and get to represent yourself. Law School is a lesson in sticking to "it", when "it" is a disease infested crack whore and you hope to escape a lifetime of disease/debt by protecting yourself with the condom of a possible job/happy ending. That being said, I am still going. Ha.

  3. The Yale admissions blog had a good take on the "I love to argue" people.

    Lawyers rarely argue. They construct arguments, which is an entirely different concept. Arguing generally revolves around trapping the other person, or scoring cheap rhetorical points. Making an argument is more constructive, you look at what the final product needs to be, look at your pieces, and figure out how to proceed. "I like playing with Legos" is probably a better indicator of good lawyering skills than "I like to argue."

  4. The people I found to be the best students in law school had a hard science or economics/mathematical background. Lemmings tend to think that political science, English, and history prepare you the best for law school. I would disagree with that notion. You just see more of those people going to law school because their degrees are useless for finding high income employment. A math, engineering, and economics background probably prepares you more to think like a lawyer and put together pieces of a puzzle to construct and deconstruct arguments.

  5. Where should this young person apply, it is asked? Easy. APPLY only to Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, all the way down to Michigan. Not accepted at this level? Also easy. Just don't go.

    In my view, the decision nowadays has never been simpler.

  6. I want to go to Law School because I beat up the kids on the debate team. I want to continue the tradition as I get older. I figure Law School has to be as good a place as any.

  7. Who has a better career path: The first year law student OR the first year janitor at the law school?



Blog Template by - Header Image by Arpi