Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Law School, I Love You

Gawker:  Law School, I Love You, by David Shapiro (Brooklyn Law School 3L):

LoveI went to NYU for college and finished as fast as I could because I didn't enjoy it and wasn't engaged by what I was studying (economics, history, metropolitan studies). After that, for about two years, I worked at a part-time clerical job so menial that I couldn't tell my best friends what I did. I made $13,689.60 a year. My mom told me that when she found out what I was doing, her heart sunk. One time, on the phone, my Dad asked me how old I thought I would be before he stopped supporting me. ...

I was sitting in my Civil Procedure class when I realized I loved law school. ... I sent a Google Chat message to my friend who was sitting next to me that said, "i think i love law school? is that possible/reasonable?" She didn't respond because she was focusing on the lecture. I Googled it and found a message board posting entitled, simply, "does anyone else love law school." The common thread running through the replies was incredulity. Nobody had ever told me, or any of these students on this message board apparently, that law school could be a thing that you could love. I thought it was just a thing you had to drag yourself through before you could become a lawyer. It would be like if someone told me to go to the dentist not only to get my teeth cleaned but also because I might really have a good time hanging out with the dentist.

I also noticed, for the first time, I didn't dread getting out of bed to go to school. I was going to office hours with my professors just to talk. ... More than anything, I loved learning about the rational underpinnings for the beliefs of people I disagree with—for a liberal law student, reading one of Justice Scalia's opinions is like going on an ideological safari through an awe-inspiring argument in a parallel universe. In the winter, before finals, I sat in the library, seven days a week, most days until after midnight. I'd never worked harder, cared more about what I was doing, or been happier. Over winter break after my first semester, my Dad hung my grades up on the refrigerator. They weren't perfect grades but, for the first time, he said he was proud of me.

After two years of law school, I still feel this way about it, but there is a lingering problem: It can be really embarrassing to tell people that I go to law school. I think that's driven in part by a long-held belief that people who go to law school can't hack it in the professional world, are cursedly uncreative, or have given up on their dreams. (Some students in law school confirm this; most don't.)

That perspective is supplemented by a constant onslaught of press that seems designed to scare people out of going to law school for their own benefit, casting anyone who decides to go to law school as an eager mark for a declining and paralyzed profession. Gawker itself has led the charge. The title of a TIME blog post from 2013 hints at the prevailing view: "Just How Bad Off Are Law School Graduates?" (Super fucked, apparently.) The last few years of press about law school seem to have been motivated by derision of the institution and schadenfreude for the students who have submitted themselves to it.

Actually, law school might be a huge pit for your money. I'm not saying it isn't. I don't know anything about your money, and obviously that's a big part of any decision to do anything for three years. Thinking about law school solely as a necessary evil on the path to a respectable career, and dwelling on how it isn't the golden ticket it used to be, ignores the possibility that the schooling itself will be independently worthwhile. You might really like law school. No one ever told me, but now you know.

Legal Education | Permalink


I found law school difficult, but extremely interesting. The biggest downside was that I found the professors repugnant--arrogant, narcissistic, and unhelpful. Fortunately, the real world of law practice has been even more interesting.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Sep 5, 2014 7:41:28 AM

David, You're not alone. I loved law school and remember it fondly as some of the happiest days of my life. You might even find that you like legal practice, although practice is usually not as intellectually stimulating as law school. Congratulations!

Posted by: Douglas Levene | Sep 5, 2014 2:58:34 AM

I also thought law school was amazing. It was probably the best 2.5 years of my life. (It did get a little redundant after the first year, so I finished up early.) It's what happens AFTER law school that isn't so pleasant: you won't be prepared to do anything, and even after you land and learn a legal job, it could be downright miserable work. Why do you think people clammer to become law school profs? Well, okay, the money. But also because they want "back in."

Posted by: Michael Cicchini | Sep 4, 2014 9:13:54 AM