I’ll have been here for six years this summer, and I still read most of the comments to most of my posts. I rarely respond, unless I’ve been drinking, which I do almost constantly, so you do the math. But it’s been years since I’ve directly addressed commenter concerns in an actual post.
In my post about the Ivy League law grad who is struggling to pass the bar and build a career, I expressed sympathy for the graduate’s plight. It was a sad story that was powerfully expressed and tugged at my nearly blocked heart.
But commenters claimed that my sympathetic response to the Ivy League grad was because the person went to top law schools. They argued that I would not be nearly as nice to a person who struggled in the same way after going to a non-elite school.
If I my channel my inner Nathan Jessup: YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I WOULDN’T….
Here’s the comment purporting to highlight my hypocrisy that got an astounding number of “likes.” From “Dick Whitman”:
ATL Editorial Tone Guidebook:
If student has massive debt and fails miserably after attending non-Ivy school:
“One can only say “buyer beware!” Truly only a complete dolt would attend such an institution and it is nothing more than another example of someone making an abysmal life decision. We would say that we feel sorry for him, but in a way this can be considered just due. Surely, one can only hope that this person dies quickly so the gene pool becomes just a bit cleaner.”
If student has tons of debt and fails miserably after attending Ivy school:
“A tragedy nearly rivaling that of Oedipus the King, one cannot help but have their heart shatter when confronted with the facts of this poor soul’s career path. Truly, a dark and tragic cloud has descended on the headquarters of ATL since reading of these events. David Lat has been placed on suicide watch, and I, Elie Mystal, dear readers, have attempted to fill the void which has developed in my heart by consuming massive quantities of Ben and Jerry’s ‘Americone Dream.’ The flags in front of the cardboard box used as ATL headquarters have appropriately been lowered to half staff. May God have mercy on us all.”
Well, allow me to retort.
Look, if you buy a grenade, I’m not going to feel as bad for you when it blows up in your face as I would if you bought a microwave that blew up your house. I’m still going to defend you if you buy that defective grenade. I’m still going to argue that the grenade should have had better warning labels. I’m still going to excoriate the person who took advantage of your credulous simplicity and sold you a defective grenade at an inflated price.
But, dude, YOU BOUGHT A F**KING GRENADE. Maybe you didn’t think it would blow up on YOU, but you damn well knew it was the kind of product that was going to explode all over SOMEBODY. The thing that pisses me off the most about students who go to “non-elite” schools is that they know full well that the decision is a risky one for almost all of their classmates. There are statistics about this. Students think they are special snowflakes who will beat the odds and not melt in hell. They just think that their classmates are the idiots. Sorry I’m not sorry when it turns out that some of these people who thought they could take advantage of the suckers at the table turn out to be the suckers.
There is overwhelming evidence that going to a “non-elite” law school is a huge risk. I’m supposed to cry when that acceptance of known risk ruins people’s lives? It’s called math, people. You know who else I don’t feel particularly bad for? Mountain climbing, weekend warrior f**ks who climb up things and then expect to be rescued when all their toes freeze off.
ON THE OTHER HAND, you have people who are trying to do everything “right.” Again, if you buy a microwave, you legitimately don’t expect it to blow up your house. IT CAN. Especially if you put the wrong stuff into the microwave. But at the point that you get into an elite law school, it’s somewhat reasonable to think that, whatever happens, you won’t be destitute. If you can put up the scores to get into those schools, it’s reasonable to think that you will pass the bar. What is the Ivy League law school first-time bar passage rate anyway, 95%? Again, MATHEMATICALLY it’s fair to think that you’re going to be okay on the bar exam.
Still, you try to warn people that it’s not a fait accompli. You try to get people to focus on that bottom five percent for whom things don’t work out. You try to tell people that even if they pass the bar and get the Biglaw job, they might very well hate it. Nobody listens, but when it all blows up, you still feel bad because you think about all the people who stupidly told this person that getting an LL.M from Cornell was a great idea.
The story from the other day serves as a depressing, cautionary anecdote about the perils of getting even elite legal education at today’s prices. But for non-elite legal education, we don’t need anecdotes. We have evidence: powerful statistical evidence that going to a bottom-ranked law school involves taking your tuition money and putting it on the craps table and trying to hit the hard ten.
So, yeah, I feel a little more sympathy for people who get destroyed by legal education after trying to minimize their career risks than for people who make statistically stupid choices and pay the price for their lack of vision.
Luckily, my level of sympathetic feelings is wholly irrelevant. Whether you went to Ivy Law or InfiLaw, I don’t think purveyors of legal education should be taking advantage of people. I think that sins should be forgiven instead of punished. I’M LIKE JESUS THAT WAY.