Okay, so I finished Planet Law School II, and I see why people would dislike it. It is not a happy book, and it’s got a bit of a split personality.
First, PLS II aims to be a law school prep book. Mr. Falcon spends a lot of time recommending other books and materials for individual study, preferably before law school even begins. There is a large amount of recommended material here, but surprisingly little actual advice. What is there makes sense to me, however. For instance, he advises students to spend more time making up and thinking about hypotheticals than on the typical activities of briefing cases and preparing for class. When class participation is not graded and the final exam is an issue-spotter, this makes complete sense. Similarly, recommendations to keep main outlines concise and to make and memorize a one- or two-page summary outline seem reasonable.
But PLS is also–and mostly–a rant. Atticus Falcon is pissed. He’s pissed at law professors for hiding the ball, ignoring their teaching responsibilities, tricking students into thinking the wrong things are important, and not teaching them practical lawyering skills. He’s pissed at law schools for allowing the professors to get away with this sham, for raising tuitions to ridiculous levels, for not producing competent attorneys, and for funneling students into corporate law firms. He’s pissed at the ABA for preventing changes to be made to the system. He’s pissed at individual lawyers for being incompetent and immoral. He’s pissed at judges for not understanding the law, and he’s pissed at law students for not caring enough to demand a better education for their money.
The two faces of the book compliment each other, of course. The ranting shows us why Falcon feels such an intensive study regimen is required: in his mind, the system is set up to keep you in the dark, to trick you, along with 90% of your fellow law students into learning the wrong things and to keep you from becoming a competent lawyer. You don’t have any friends out there, so you have to learn it all on your own. In addition, the prep Falcon recommends (especially for legal writing skills and prep for the bar exam) aims to turn you into a good lawyer, hopefully one aware of the problems with the American legal system and maybe in a position to change things.
This isn’t a feel-good book. It makes you uncomfortable. It makes you feel bad about your choice of a career. Most of us are idealistic now. We don’t want to be told that this experience we’re looking forward to is meant to crush our spirits and turn us into immoral (or at least amoral) people. PLS II doesn’t prepare you for law school. It tells you that you will probably fail, and no one is going to care enough to help you. You start feeling like you need to set up a full-time study schedule right away. I picked up PLS to assuage my anxiety about law school. It certainly did not do that.
PLS tells you, emphatically and repeatedly, to buy a lot of other books ($574.50 worth for the first year, to be exact). It’s a hardcore system. Just look at the 12-month, 8-month, 3-month, and 6-week study schedules in Chapter 16 to see for yourself. As such, it seems more realistic than a rainbow highlighter system or other quick fixes touted by law school prep books. It seems right that law school success is complicated and difficult, not something achieved by a trick or method learned in a single book.
Falcon is overly cynical through most of his book. It seems over-the-top. Not all professors are trying to hinder your learning and turn you into a crappy lawyer. (I just can’t see professors moving from neutral, lazy indifference to active sabotage. Does that make me more or less cynical?) Law schools aren’t raising tuitions to force graduates into firm jobs (and there’s also no mention of loan repayment programs, which help counteract the huge debt loads for public interest peoples). I don’t know. Maybe Falcon is trying to convince us it’s better to be unnecessarily wary than to risk being stabbed in the back. I think the hyperbole detracts from the legitimate criticisms, though.
Aside from the (aforementioned) numerous errors and typos in the book, it’s too long and it lacks a coherent flow. Falcon jumps around from subject to subject, and there is no intelligible scheme to indicate main headings, sub-heading, and the like. In short, PLS needs a good editor. Of course, an editor would probably split the ranting off from the prep advice, if not remove it altogether (the chapter on Critical Race/Gender Theory seems to be an especially good candidate for this). I believe part of PLS’s purpose is to incorporate the two. In the guise of an advice book, PLS is an appeal to tomorrow’s lawyers, professors, and judges to think critically about the system they are part of and to maybe change it for the better. The thought is nice, but the execution isn’t quite there.
All in all, if you’re hardcore about preparing for law school, PLS will be useful for its reviews and recommendations of study material. Otherwise, you’ll get much less out of the book, as the cynicism hits ridiculous levels fairly often and there are better-written criticisms of the legal system out there.