Earlier this week, we mentioned the ridiculous argument from a University of Tennessee law professor, Lucy Jewel, that law degrees confer non-economic benefits like “cultural cachet,” which make a law degree valuable to people who risk financial ruin to get it.

Professor Jewel writes: “Every graduation, when I see the beaming smiles from my students’ family members, I do not think about the fact that they are getting a degree from a so-called fourth-tier toilet law school; I see people who have achieved a dream (albeit at great financial expense) and obtained a credential that signifies membership in a powerful profession.”

Guys… I just can’t. I can’t keep beating back every stupid argument that any law professor can come up with to defend the systemic price-gouging of American law students. I am just one man and they are many. I have never in my life confronted a group of educated people so eager to justify the precise manner in which they economically take advantage of students — kids, really — too stupid to know any better. At this point, if a law professor took candy from a baby she’d say she did it to help the kid save on dental bills.

You want talk about the non-economic benefits of going to law school? FINE! Let’s talk about the social and cultural “cachet” you’ll get, and see if it’s worth all the CASH you won’t ever be seeing again…

1. You’ll Be A Lot Of Fun At Parties.

Has anybody ever said: “You know, Brad was a prick before he went to law school, but now that he thinks he can justify everything by telling me to Google a statute, he’s really mellowed.” Wait, that’s never been said? What about: “Jane was also such a sweet and open-minded girl, and now that she’s in law school and can passionately argue out of both sides of her mouth for every position, her new mix of equivocating judgmentalism is really quite fetching.”

Oh, that’s right, nobody’s ever said that, because law school turns nice people into pricks and pricks into Super Villains.

But hey, you’ll always have something to say! A law degree means never having to STFU ever again!

2. Cops LOVE Hearing About Your Rights.

Having a law degree means YOU have the power to turn any ordinary stop and encounter with the police into an arrest and a court date. Just think of the fun you’ll have antagonizing and pissing off law enforcement officials with all your fancy law-talkin’. Turning a “warning” into a thousand-dollar citation is really cool when you are (almost totally) sure that you’ll prevail in court. And if you are a minority, telling Officer Racist that he doesn’t have probable cause to make you stop and talk to him will feel really empowering when you are sitting at the station with a plunger up your ass and no witness to all the scary ways you “resisted” arrest.

3. But At Least You’ll Be Able To Understand When Your Rights Are Taken Away.

Normal person reading a Scalia opinion:

Law graduate reading a Scalia opinion:

4. Reading Fine Print Is Fun.

A normal person doesn’t even see the fine print. Can you believe it? They just gloss over that stuff and move on with their lives. But not you, J.D. holder. You always notice it; you can’t help noticing it. Warning labels too. And privacy agreements, man, you could redline the terms and conditions on your new iPad in your sleep if you had to. There’s a whole world of absolutely meaningless boilerplate language out there just waiting for somebody to read it.

(As for Judge Richard Posner, he’s too smart to bother with fine print.)

5. Arguing With People Is A Great Way To Make Friends And Get Laid.

Obviously, lawyers are much better at getting sex than musicians, artists, or the very wealthy. If Jay-Z wants to woo Beyonce, he has to sing and dance, lavish her with gifts, and seem like an awesome and cool person. But if a lawyer wants to get with the prettiest girl at the party, all he has to do is go up to her and explain it to her. Logically. Perhaps with a reference to her past precedent with men. “Look Barbara, I know you like good-looking guys who are fit and have no more than one chin. But where has that gotten you? You are 32, still unmarried, and starting to show signs of age. Don’t you think it’s time that you settled? My offer will stand for the next two hours or until the bar closes.”

And we’ve recently discussed how lawyers make great roommates. You never have to worry about a lawyer/friend bending the spirit of an agreement beyond all recognition solely for their personal benefit.

6. People Will Ask You For Legal Advice, For Free, All The Time.

Nothing says “I am respected within my community” like friends and family demanding that you perform tasks for them for no remuneration. Like, if your friend asks you to help him move, he might throw you a couple of bucks or a case of beer. But if he wants you to “figure out if this will makes sense,” well… he respects you so much that he expects you can do it quickly and for no money.

7. Mommy and Daddy Will Be Really Proud.

Sure, you might spend the rest of your career trying to conceal the fact that your law degree doesn’t confer the ECONOMIC benefits that Mommy and Daddy thinks that it does (or would if you just tried harder), but they’ll be really freaking proud of their child, “the lawyer.”

(Unless you have a sibling who is a doctor. If that’s the case, you should just skip this point.)

8. You’ll Just Love Law School, Almost Inexplicably, Because…

It’s just less painful this way.

9. You’ll Never Be Wrong Again.

Do you realize that lawyers get to say things like “I totally believe blah blah blah, but IN THE ALTERNATIVE…. everything I just said is wrong but everything I’m saying now is right, so either way I’m right and always have been.” It’s a goddamn super power. I had an argument last winter with a lawyer friend (which are the only kinds that I have left, see #5, supra) ABOUT WHETHER SNOW WAS COLD. He was arguing that it wasn’t (on some kind of cosmic, Kelvin-scale), and I was arguing that it was. And we were both right. And in support of my argument, I said that treating snow as “not cold” was (wait for it) RACIST because it didn’t take into account cultural differences among disparate people… and instead of just laughing or punching me in the face, he engaged with my point!

Getting a law degree is like getting a ticket into BS Nirvana. You know, if you are into that kind of thing.

10. You Get To Read Above the Law.

In a way, ATL is just like law school. You get to sit here and be told that the way you used to think was wrong and intellectually weak. All around there are people doing much worse than you, and some people doing much better than you, which just kind of makes you feel bad about yourself. You leave, stronger and more informed, but in a sad, bitter way. And all that knowledge doesn’t help you one goddamn bit when it comes time to GET A JOB.

Really, if we charged you $30,000 a year to read, and then talked about the “social cachet” you received from wasting your money, we’d get ABA accreditation.

‘Cultural Cachet’: A New Argument in Favor of Law School [WSJ Law Blog]


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