Law students who want to defend the less fortunate, or help their friends, are actually quite rare. Most law students I've met were, frankly, jerks. If they had been interested in helping people, they would have gone into a helping profession like nursing, healthcare, counseling, teaching, social work, therapy, etc.
Most of the people I was in law school with had serious character flaws that attracted them to the legal field. Some went there from a place of low self esteem to try and prove something about themselves. Others were overly argumentative and would argue with a brick wall. Some only wanted the prestige and money that they believed they could achieve with a law degree (but few of them actually did). Or, they had an over-active fantasy life and believed that law was an exciting career. Now some of these people are in therapy, some are trying desperately to get into another career field, and most of the rest are unemployed. The few who did achieve success had family members that were lawyers.
Do law professors seem like a caring, empathetic group of people to you? I remember confiding in one of my professors that due to financial struggles, I was having difficulty purchasing the book I needed for his course. He simply gave a snort of disgust, and walked away.
Let's stop pretending that lawyers truly just want to help people.
Fair enough, Sean, if a bit cynical. I had a positive experience with law school, although there were, predictably, a small number of students who fit the negative profiles you paint. You're right to be suspicious of those who claim that their main purpose in going to law school is to help indigents. Very few people are that altruistic. You work to earn a living. At the same time, I think many law students do envision having a career helping people. Such a vision necessarily evolves after time in the real world, but helping people is what being a lawyer is all about. The naïveté of 0Ls-3Ls should be forgiven. They’re no different than the kids in construction who can’t see the day that they’ll ever grow tired of pounding nails.
On a personal level, I really liked the overwhelming majority of my classmates, regardless of their reasons for being there. They were not jerks. Most of my classmates were courteous, inspirational people who conducted themselves professionally in a professional environment. I should mention, however, that I went to night school, which may attract a different student personality type. But I enjoyed being around my classmates immensely. Some have become my best friends. Moreover, my profs were all very cool. That said, I never tested how a prof might respond if I had mentioned my personal financial obstacles and his or her casebook in the same breath. Mercy? Empathy? Not likely. Being a lawyer means figuring it out.