Legal Geekery (a generally entertaining site for young legal professionals and law students) recently published an article entitled “9 Reasons Not to Attend Law School“. It explains, for those of you who may not have been perceptive enough in reading the title of the article, why choosing to go to law school is an example of poor decision making.
Now, to be fair, the article does preface that it is meant to be a joke. However, it doesn’t make the reasons given any more ridiculous. Much like The Paper Chase, it perpetuates some weak and antiquated stereotypes about law school. And, while all stereotypes are based on some truth, most (including the ones in the article) are, at best, only loosely affiliated with the truth – or, at least, life at BU.
Breaking the notorious nine down, after the jump.
- “The Curve Is Evil” – Okay, people talk about the bell curve like it is some sort of plague. The reality of the matter is that the bell curve today is not a traditional bell curve. Very few students get lower than a C in any of their classes. This is particularly true in higher ranked schools (like BU), where the admissions process has already accomplished the weeding-out process that the bell curve was originally used to accomplish. Even if you argue that the bell curve system is flawed, exactly how else do you expect your performance to be differentiated from other students’ performances? The “non-letter grading system” is far from proven and is nowhere near the norm for the legal community.
- “Your Friends Are Your Enemies” – There is a great quote from the movie adaptation of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker that is particularly apt here: “In my first year of law school, everybody loved everybody else. We were studying the law, and the law was a noble thing. By my third year, you were lucky if you weren’t murdered in your sleep. People stole exams, hid research from the library and lied to the professors. Such is the nature of the profession.” Again, though, these stereotypes are pretty outdated. Most people recognize that half of law school now is networking, and getting the reputation of the guy who sabotages the rest of his classmates is pretty toxic when it comes to finding work. The curve isn’t as tough as it used to be (see above). It just doesn’t make sense to be the backstabber anymore, and you don’t see them in the halls of law school nearly as often as claimed.
- “Huge Loans” – Okay, this one is kind of legitimate. Law school, like any other large investment, comes with risk and the need for investment capital. However, loans are not the only option. Loans can be minimized by going to a public school, finding scholarships, and by saving up money before beginning your legal education. Above all, loans aren’t a deterrent to law school – they’re an excuse for people already looking for reasons not to go.
- “No Leisure Activities” – I’m the class rep for the BUSL Scotch Club. Every law school has bar reviews, access to intermural leagues, social events, social groups, and informal packs of people that hit up the bar crawls and trivia nights. If you aren’t taking the time to enjoy life while in law school, you’re doing it wrong.
- “It’s Grammar School All Over Again” – Ooooh, you can’t choose your classes for the first year and most of your classes are with the same people. Whoop-di-do. If law school was meant to be like grammar school, they’d have built a sandbox on the premises rather than a coffee shop.
- “Energy Drink Addiction” – If you are going to convenience stores and “clean[ing] out the stock of all Bawls at not one, but two nearby convenient stores in preparation for finals,” again, you are DOING SOMETHING WRONG. Semesters are over fifteen weeks in length. No one aces their classes by cramming everything they’ve learned in the reading period before finals begin. Yes, law school can be stressful, but any serious profession has deadlines that create anxiety from time to time.
- “Law-Cest” – There isn’t anything inherently wrong with hooking up with people from the law school, though I haven’t personally experienced that particular pleasure. It may be more problematic when you start hooking up with people from your section (”Section-Cest”) – but, again, this is not as common as people contend. It does happen, but mostly, the urban legends scare most people off from section-cest until at least the second year of law school. More importantly, though, having sex with your classmates is not an inherent part of the law school experience. Keep your respective genitalia in your pants when you are in class, and you won’t have to worry about it. A wise man once said, “Don’t crap where you eat.” I’m sure he would have said the same thing about having sex.
- “You’re Not That Smart” – To sum up, the author of the blog post suggests you might find someone that is smarter than you in law school, and you may feel embarrassed, therefore law school is a bad idea. I offer a retort: if you genuinely feel that you are the smartest person you know, and you don’t know anyone that could do better in a legal education environment than you, then you desperately need to go to law school immediately to get your ego put in check. Seriously. Apply now. You’d be doing yourself and the public an amazing service.
- “Expensive Books” – For the record, I pay about $400 a semester in book costs. This isn’t much more than I spent as an undergrad, though, and there are a number of ways to keep your costs down. Some websites are now offering book “rentals” for law students, and law school libraries often have books on reserve if you are really set against spending 1% of your student loans on items that might be important to you as a student. And, most law books are constantly in demand and will be purchased back very quickly and at relatively reasonable prices by bookstores (or other law students online).
I’ve broken these nine reasons down a bit, and may have been overly dismissive. But as far as I am concerned, there is only one reason not to go to law school – Apathy. If you are going to law school because you need something to do for a few years before you get a good job, or because your parents really want you to do it and you don’t have any better ideas, you are going to be disappointed. Law school may not be the land of evil and vitriol that some commenters portray it to be, but it certainly isn’t the Candy Cane Forest, either.