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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.

Posted by kristine at January 22, 2006 10:22 PM

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If this is the litmus test, then I just passed last night! I stayed up till 3am last night finishing the book because I was dying to find out if they won the Beatrice appeal. I was so angry after reading it! Couldn't they appeal on the basis of the judge's behavior? Especially since the jury member said she found him biased... seems like testimony of the jurors to the bias would be enough, no?

(I'm starting law school in the fall, so really I have no idea what claims you can make to the appelate court... but more importantly, I WANT to know what they are)

Posted by: karen at March 2, 2006 12:58 PM