It makes sense for anyone contemplating law school to make sure he or she has a passion for the profession. Your friend would have to consciously be avoiding stories about unemployed law school graduates if she knows nothing about this. But perhaps, since you say she is a worrier, she doesn’t want to dwell on what the world will look like three or more years from now when she graduates. She wants to be a lawyer, so there’s no reason for you to fill her with your doubts.
— Emily Yoffe, aka Dear Prudence, answering a Slate reader’s question about whether she should warn her friend and roommate about the perils of going to law school.
When I clerked on the Ninth Circuit years ago, one of the judges on the court at the time was extremely old — and didn’t seem very “with it.” His law clerks seemed to take on a large amount of responsibility. One of his clerks that year, a law school classmate of mine I’ll call “Mary,” would negotiate over the phone with Ninth Circuit judges over how particular cases should come out — a responsibility well beyond the legal research and opinion drafting done by most clerks.
On one occasion, a vote on whether to rehear a case en banc emanated not from the judge’s chambers account, but from Mary’s personal email account. Even more embarrassingly, it was written not on behalf of the judge or the chambers, but in the first person: “I vote YES to rehearing en banc.” A law school classmate of mine who was also clerking for the Ninth that year remarked, “I thought only judges did that. When did Mary get her presidential commission?”
Some of us jokingly referred to that chambers as Weekend at Judgie’s. What appeared to be going on over there reminded us of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s famous quip to his clerks: “If I die, prop me up and keep voting!”
We joked about this delegation of Article III authority to a newly minted law school graduate. But as Joseph Goldstein suggests, in a very interesting article just published by Slate and ProPublica, the issue of superannuated jurists is no laughing matter….
In the former case, the Above the Law readership overwhelmingly voted for the 1L to drop out of law school. In the later case, I strenuously argued that the person should go to the funeral and take the LSAT later.
We have updates on both people. It appears that Above the Law readers are more persuasive than I am…
Pure lunacy is on display today in the Dear Prudence column on Slate. A prospective law student is set to take the December administration of the LSAT. But his or her grandmother — for ease of reference, I’ll use the male pronoun throughout this post — recently lost a battle with Alzheimer’s. Hence this question to Prudence (from questioner “Funerals and Such”):
I lost my grandmother yesterday, and I am devastated as we were very close. She had Alzheimer’s for years, and I made my peace with this some time ago. My family has planned the funeral for Saturday.
Here is the problem: My LSAT is Saturday, and I have waited for years for an opportunity to pursue law school. (I am near 30.) I told my mom that I couldn’t make the funeral because I cannot reschedule the LSAT, and she was furious! I have been on the phone with the LSAT people all morning, pleading to reschedule. No luck. Mom has informed me that she and my family are really disappointed with me, and I need to be at the funeral in order to pay my respects.
I don’t want to disappoint my family, but I have waited my entire life for this chance at law school, and I don’t want to give it up now. Additionally, if I don’t take the LSAT on Saturday, I will miss the opportunity to take it again in February (possible surgery), and I can kiss law school for next fall goodbye!
Yeah, this fellow is trying to decide between taking the LSAT or honoring his dead grandmother, and it’s apparently an open question. He’s going to make an excellent Biglaw attorney someday.
In the meantime, Prudence and I disagree about the appropriate response….
On the Quote of the Day posted over the weekend, a commenter wrote: “In my head I’ve changed the name of this blog from ‘Above the Law’ to ‘The law is f**king stupid and dumb and anyone who goes into it is an idiot forever and did I mention it’s dumb.’ There are still reasons to pursue law.”
This is a fair point. Here at ATL, we do want to encourage debate about the value of a legal education, and we do want people who are thinking of going to law school — many of whom read this site — to go to law school for good reasons, after engaging in sufficient reflection and research. But we don’t want readers to mistake this site for one of the “law school scam” blogs, or to think that we’re opposed to law school for all people under all circumstances. (Of course we aren’t, if for no reason other than self-interest: the more law students and lawyers out there, the more potential readers for Above the Law.)
It’s a very thorough compilation, for a general-interest audience, of developments that we’ve already covered in these pages. The subtitle sums up the piece quite well: “Law schools are manufacturing more lawyers than America needs, and law students aren’t happy about it.”
We’re not sure what else to say about it, since we’ve opined at length on many of these depressing realities: the cratering legal job market, the oversupply of lawyers, the rise in law school tuition, the crushing educational debt (generally not dischargeable in bankruptcy), the misleading data used by law schools to lure in students, and the American Bar Association’s inability (or refusal) to stop new law schools from sprouting like weeds….
A prudential perspective, because it appeared in Slate’s advice column, Dear Prudence (alongside an inquiry from a woman dating a wonderful man who unfortunately has a “micropenis”):
I am just a little over a year away from becoming a lawyer, and I’m miserable because I hate it. I wasn’t forced into the profession. I just mistakenly believed that since I loved to read and debate, law was the natural progression. But I don’t like law, and I’m not applying myself to it wholeheartedly. I can’t imagine being in this field for the rest of my life or even a few years. My parents have sacrificed and spent so much on my education, and I have no idea how to tell them that I made a mistake. Worse, my mom thinks this is my dream, and I don’t have the heart to tell her that it isn’t. The only thing that really brings me joy is escaping into books that have nothing to do with law. Please help me.
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The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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