January 22, 2006
yet another Essential Adivice post
Even the lawprofs recognize the problem: too many law students don't want to be lawyers.*
Our universities produce a tremendous number of graduates in the humanities and the social sciences who have no marketable skills beyond some smattering of writing ability and critical thinking. (There is no shame in this. I studied mainly philosophy as an undergraduate, and I am very glad that I did. On the other hand, when I graduated none of the Big Five Epistemology Firms were hiring.) Some significant subset of these essentially skilless graduates are united by equally strong aversions to mathematics and business. So they go to law school, which they vaguely understand to be different than business (what they see on The Practice doesn't look like business). More importantly, law school is reputed to be equation-free. They didn't even have to study math for the LSAT. When they get to law school, they discover to their everlasting professional consternation that what you study in law school is the law. As it turns out they find the law boring. Learning its substance, structure, folkways, history, or theories holds no real interest for them. But hey, they got into Harvard Law School, so they couldn't not go, right? Three years later they emerge from saturation in a field whose only initial recommendations were "not business" and no math to find that they go into practice and spend their time with...the law. Misery and alienation result.
Right about now, lots of humanities and liberal arts majors are beginning to receive letters from law schools across the country. They are thinking that, because they spent hundreds of dollars on the LSAT, on LSDAS fees, on application fees and postage, not to mention invested dozens of hours into crafting a writing sample and recruiting letters of recommendation, they have no choice. They must go to law school.
Do your homework if you are considering law school. Some people can survive solely on their love of writing and critical analysis, but most need an actual interest in the law to make it through the three years required by the ABA.
I suggest a litmus test: If you read A Civil Action and find the second half to be interminably boring, you will probably not enjoy being a lawyer.*Oops. I posted in haste. Mr. Oman, the author of the linked post, is not a lawprof; instead he is an associate at a law firm. He has an academic bent, however, having been published in many fine journals.
I've linked to Stay of Execution before as a great source of legal advice, but it's been a while. Apparently its author is no longer practicing law, but she still writes about the profession from time to time and has helpfully collected her posts on the subject here. There's some great stuff there, including some thoughts about whether to stay at a lower-tier law school with links to some of her other related posts, as well as her roundup of advice for studying for the bar. There's lots more there so if you have some free time it's a great place to browse.
Also, those thinking about law school or if you're unsure whether to stick with the legal profession, you might find some good food for thought in How to Do What You Love by Paul Graham. [Link via My Shingle.]It's got a kind of tough-talk but inspirational conclusion:
Whichever route you take, expect a struggle. Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it's rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties. But if you have the destination in sight you'll be more likely to arrive at it. If you know you can love work, you're in the home stretch, and if you know what work you love, you're practically there.
Again, if you have 15 free minutes, it's definitely worth a read.
The Future of Blawg Wisdom
Blawg Wisdom hasn't been very active for a while now and I'm currently thinking about what to do about that. My ideas at this point are just to leave it as-is, but update even less frequently than in the past, or hand it over to someone else to manage.
If you have ideas, please let me know.
January 09, 2006
a must read for the prospective law student
File this under the category of Really Good Advice.
No, make that Essential Advice.