Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Law School Experience: It's Miserable, Not Cerebral.

I've been in correspondence with a 1L that is having a miserable time in law school.  I promised him that I wouldn't post about his situation specifically, but I thought I should post about the law school experience because it doesn't come up often--since we focus on the end result and the lack of a return on the investment so much.  However, it should be noted that the law school experience ... leaves much to be desired.  Of course, that's the understatement of the century.
First, it's not a cerebral experience.  Having majored in political science, with a minor in History (worthless, I know), I hoped for a similar experience in law school. I too thought I "loved the law."  I guess I was slightly enamored with deep political discussions and somehow related that to the law and learning the law and the Socratic Method.  So, upon attending law school, I was deeply disappointed.  Deep discussions on Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Mens Rea weren't that interesting.  It wasn't actually interesting at all.  I felt like those topics weren't deep or significant enough to warrant the extensive discussions dedicated to them.  Other classes, like "Gifts and Stiffs" were too rule oriented and practical to be deep.  I guess my Professor didn't want to waste his time and ours on lofty discussions when it was a really practical class.  Never mind the fact that we never drafted a will--so it was practical and impractical all at once.  And don't get me started on Greenacre, Whiteacre and Blackacre.  The Rule Against Perpetuities wasted hours upon hours of my life.  In the end, we found out that most states abolished it.  All or most?  Who the fuck cares?  It never comes up, EVER.  What the hell was the point of that?
Then there is the "competitive" aspect.  Remember, I went to school pre-Internet.  As part of our Legal Research and Writing Class, we had to use a particular book in the library.   That book disappeared within an hour of class.  And it didn't show up again until after the assignment came due.  Then, there was the study guide debate.  Everyone in my school claimed to be creating their own outlines.  However, they all had hand picked the best study guide and secured the best outline from classes of yesteryear and squirreled them away.  So, if you ever asked which they would use, you'd be demeaned for wanting to use something so low as a study guide.  EVERYONE uses study guides.  Why would anyone lie to you about that? Oh yah, the bell curve.
Also, joining a study group was hellish.  I asked someone who was nice to me in class if I could join his.  He told me that he couldn't extend the invitation to me because the other members of his group wouldn't approve.  I felt like Elle from Legally Blonde. There are actually so many parallels between her and I that it's embarrassing--but I'm not Blonde, but I have a silly small dog.  The perceived "smart people study group" [hereinafter "SPSG"] pulled a stunt before finals that I'll never forget.  We all used to study at this big coffee shop near campus. It was two days before the final and the SPSG showed up to to the cafe with no books.  They ordered Lattes and sat down in the middle of the cafe yakking it up for a couple of hours while all the law students in the place were trying to study.  It was a clear attempt to tell us that they were confident and prepared and we were not.  If that's not low, tell me what is?
Lastly, having attended a large state school for undergrad, for my law school experience I longed for a small private school.  I thought that law professors in a small school would have liberal office hours and know you personally and be invested in your future.  WRONG.  I have never encountered such mean professors.  If you looked down the hall way with all of the Professors' offices, it was a line of closed doors.  And most of them didn't want to speak to you ever.  My Civ Pro professor set up 7 minute appointments with us before the final.  Yes, 7 minute increments.  My appointment was at 1:00 p.m. I knew I had to be early, cause she was a cunt badly in need of a good lay.  She was such a wound up person that she shook with the tension.  I was on way to school, and on target to arrive about 10 minutes early. On the way to school, someone rear ended me.  The police came immediately, and I drove my wrecked car on campus, parked and sprinted to my appointment. I arrived at 1:04.  She said, I'm late and I've waived my opportunity to speak with her and shut the door on my face even though I was waiving the accident report in front of it.
So, although I did fine, I hated the law school experience.  It was the most degrading and demeaning experience of my life.  I was a confident and intelligent person in college and I certainly am now.  But it took me more than few years to recover from the blow to my self-esteem that law school dealt me.  I left feeling like a shell of a person.


  1. I absolutely despised law school; but I actually enjoy the practice of law.

  2. I think the internet has changed things quite a bit. At my top 20 school, it really didn't take much to get someone to email you an outline. In fact, the school has a public database of them.

    I think the best thing about the internet though is that you can buy books like Siegels and E&E's so that you can actually practice the concepts before taking the exams. If you have those, you don't need to waste your time with study groups.

    As for talking with professors, I never felt the need to do that and I doubt it would have been helpful.

  3. Anon 1230

    I agree with you 5000 percent

    The gatekeepers of the profession set the worst example in higher education

    Go away law schools.....

  4. I hated a lot of law school - not all of it, but a lot of it. But I was a returning student with a very clear idea of what I wanted to do with my degree. Between the day-to-day experience of law school, followed immediately by having to study for the bar, followed immediately by worrying about the huge loan debt you've run up, you'd better be damn sure, before you go to law school, of exactly what you're going there for.

    20 years ago, it could be a place to go when you had a liberal arts BA and didn't know exactly what you wanted to do with it. Not any more.

  5. FROBlog weighs in on the glorious aftermath:

  6. I guess the situation in law schools in the USA and in Singapore is very different. I'm studying law now, but it is an undergrad degree. It's 4 years though. There are no such things as study groups here, we have friends we study with, but that's all. For the more important books, my library usually has two copies, some of which are in a special section where you can only borrow them out for two hours at a time with expensive fines. My professors are incredible, they spend as much time with us as we need them for. Most parents pay for the children's education here, or pay first then expect their children to pay them back when they start work, so we don't need to pay interest to evil banks. I think it's time for some much needed reforms in law schools in the USA.

    I do agree with your point about learning things that are hardly practical or have been abolished already, it is truly redundant to have spent those hours studying and reading like mad.

  7. If the function of a law school is to demoralize and subjugate its students with the aim of dehumanizing them, then the spirit of Law is itself damaged and undermined. The nature of the law is, intrinsically, to hold out and hold up the highest principles of morality and honor. We do no service to our students who come to the study of law not only to read the law but to practice the upholding of these standards which are the highest known to society, by creating this type of environment. If we cannot maintain that most valuable asset, our human and humane qualities, then we do ourselves and them a terrible disservice which will eventually damage our society, if it hasn’t already.
    By teaching law students that being devoid of spirit, of good will and compassion, even creativity, is a... necessary function of lawyering we are creating a group of automatons, ready to do the bidding of any lowly clerical job, or serve the criminal without a second thought for consequences or ethics. Abrading the keen mind constantly over time with rough and crude methods of teaching does nothing to sharpen the wit or intellect. It only dulls the soul, eroding its natural inclination for what is good and what is true.
    If law school becomes a hate-machine, churning out unfeeling lawyers who have been drained of their individuality and their innate sensitivities by corrosive mediocre teaching methods, then we have ruined the very essence of Law. It then remains nothing but a vicious and cunning battleground of formulaic exchanges and rules. Law in essence and law in practice turn out to be very different animals…but do they have to be?

  8. From what I hear, having sex in the law library can be rather joyful. Especially, if you can get into one of those small study rooms. Other than that, it is one giant soul-crushing experience - and the pigs are nice enough to charge you $35K per year for it.

  9. Another great part of law school is the 100% final exam. At no point during the semester will the professor provide any feedback about your work. The prof may place a prior 'A' grade final exam on reserve in the library. But that's it. I few times in law school I asked to have a professor to look over a practice question that I wrote out. I always got the same asinine response that they were "too busy." "Too busy" doing what? They re-use the same case book each year, publish on one esoteric topic that's pertinent to maybe 6 people in the world, and take all of Friday off. I can't believe law profs get paid more than baristas at Starbucks.

  10. Perhaps your failures can be laid in some measure at your own door.

    You believe that you deserve class privilege and power--and happiness in a creamy dollop on top--for having "done things right." (I.e., conformed.)

    You chose law to get power.

    Yet you revile those with power over you. You vibrate with resentment that your professors had the power to ignore you. You deserved their attention and regard--after all, you are so much better/Deeper than they!

    You make up sexual fantasies about them when they thwarted your expectations, which brought your ego weaknesses to the fore--and the best you can come up with is calling them women's body parts.

    Hm, your failures and resentments and "disenchantment" (as though life is supposed to be enchanting) couldn't have anything to do with YOU, now, could it?

    Well, it will be interesting to read your blog, and find out what happens when an obviously failed adult fails at the admittedly failed institutions of law school and law. I'm afraid there are all too many such people, blaming the world for their own failures and seething in resentment and anger. Particularly in your generation, which was told by its parents that it farted rainbows and would save the world.

    Maybe you could try trade school. Though I do realize that someone as Deep as you, and as Gifted, and Special, would have a hard time with the humbling experience of fixing what's broken rather than complaining about it and expecting a reward.

  11. You're obviously a law professor. Go grade an exam.

    Go back to your dirty little study where you're tenured forever because YOU couldn't make it in the real world.

  12. @11:47

    Go back to your crayons after you've had your milk toast. And when you copy and paste your next article submission, please don't do so literally - we're all out of Elmer's and it's only October!

  13. Law school was a terrible experience designed to traumatize all the students. I guess it was to get you ready for the practice of law, especially as a litigator, since it taught you to bullshit because you didn't actually know anything. At some point you realized nobody really knows anything, except the select few that have the outline for the course. For a great outline, you can read directly off of it because the questions never changed.

    But the risk of doing that is of course other people will know you have it, and might bother you for it. So it was smarter to make a few mistakes purposely and waste time and act like you figured something out.

    The best way to do it is alphabetically or by row. That way you know ahead of time when your turn is and can read up on the next case and be ready. But most of these crappy professors like to go randomly just to bully around the students.

    In retrospect, sitting in on a class before choosing law school is the best way to go.

  14. If you're so successful, what are you doing on these boards? Maybe its a dull day in your dull life.
    Law school could use some reform, granted, but that doesn't mean ALL law schools are terrible. Maybe it's time to push back and make some changes.

  15. October 8, 2010 11:47 AM

    Wow, considering you own level of obvious bitterness, plus your clear need to HANG OUT ON A LAW SCHOOL SCAMBLOG, what's your excuse for this time-wasting exercise?

  16. As my fellow law grad and good friend put it, "law school taught us how to be good employees; how to do as we're told" = dutifully research and write memos for the firm partners. That's it.

  17. Regarding why post on on these boards--working professionals love distractions. Okay I did law school differently than others. I skipped a lot of classes, didn't really stress over getting A's, and soaked up the social scene. My outline was something borrowed from another class mate. Now that I'm actually working in law, I found that law school just gives you the base of what you need. Then you have to go and re-educate yourself to actually be good at practicing. The best part of practicing law vs law school is there is no hiding the ball--if you have a question you can ask other attorneys around your office without them reciting the Socratic doesn't work method.

  18. Law school is useless. After 3 years of this garbage and shitting blood for the bar exam for 2-4 months of preparation, I am ready to retire from law.

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