'Tis the season for students to get serious about their first-year adventure about to begin.
Charles Cooper, author of Later-in-Life Lawyers
and swell guy, and I recently wrote a new Book, Con Law: Avoiding...or Beating...the Scam of the Century (The Real Student's Guide to Law School and the Legal Profession).
In Con Law
we argue that most students should not attend law school. Both Cooper and I came to this conclusion after many years and much thought. We even waited a year, to see if things would change. They have, but not for the better.
On the one side are those who protest that no one should go to law school, ever; on the other are those who dismiss these concerns out of hand--the "special snowflake" defense mechanism. Obviously both "sides" in the above debate are dangerous if taken alone.
Here's why this is important, and why Cooper's and my earlier advice fit in to the broader advice elsewhere: Many law students fall
into law school, for a variety of personal and family reasons. Yet the market now is--there's no nice way to put this--horrendous, and it's not likely to improve significantly within three years. A lucky few will do fine. This worsens the Snowflake Syndrome. It's hard to realize that a forced curve WILL impact many students, and one of them could be you. The market is unforgiving, so you should be especially sensitive to advice of those who've been there, survived that, and care enough to hang around to warn others.
The bottom two tiers of ABA-accredited law schools--one hundred of them--could disappear tomorrow, and the result in the job market would be . . . zero. If anything, a healthier balance would be struck. Then (and only then) could law graduates reasonably assume a reasonably good law job would be waiting. (I was excoriated for stating something along these lines in GGG, written before the Great Recession took hold. If anything, its warnings are too mild.)
This is worsened by two factors: (1) the rise of tuition to exorbitant heights, resulting in extraordinarily heavy debt burdens that are nearly certain to limit one's future; and (2) structural changes within the legal profession (for obvious reasons not well disclosed to law students), making the above trends worse.
The point is not to dissuade, or not merely to dissuade. If
one absolutely, positively wants to be a lawyer, and is willing to do the work (and to work throughout law school), and can get accepted to a good law school, at least, with some scholarship options, and
is willing to be a very different student in law school than ever before . . . that is the student who should
go. If any of the above qualifiers apply in the negative to you, however, beware.
Choose and read any one of the following:
Con Law (Cooper & Messinger); or Don't Go to Law School (Campos); or Failing Law Schools (Tamanaha); or The Lawyer Bubble (Harper).
Which one(s)? It doesn't matter, just as it doesn't matter which commercial outline you buy. It does
matter that you read
Con Law is priced at $2.99 on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Con-Law-Avoiding-Beating-ebook/dp/B00D2YJZM0/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1373793370&sr=1-2
The others should be available in a library, or you could ask them to buy a copy. Often they will.
You should also read ALL of the following:Law School Fast Track
(Hibbard). Short but important in its focus on building good law school habits. http://www.amazon.com/Law-School-Fast-Track-Essential/dp/1888960248/ref=tmm_pap_title_0Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold
(Messinger) http://www.amazon.com/Law-School-Getting-Good-Gold/dp/1888960809/ref=pd_sim_b_4Law School Undercover
(Professor "X"). An insider's look behind the curtain. http://www.amazon.com/Law-School-Undercover-Professor-Admissions/dp/1888960159/ref=pd_sim_b_12Slacker's Guide to Law School
(Doria). Good section on "Should I go?" and quite funny. http://www.amazon.com/The-Slackers-Guide-Law-School/dp/1888960523/ref=pd_sim_b_26
Here's where I'll be a little old-fart-ish: If you're not willing to read a measly half-dozen books, what on Earth are you doing in law school? Seriously. A lawyer reads all day
. Every day. You'd better damned well like it, and be good at it, and be able to glean what you need from any source, boring or not, and fast.
Then read three books by Morten Lund:Jagged Rocks of Wisdom: Professional Advice for the New Attorney. http://www.amazon.com/Jagged-Rocks-Wisdom-Professional-Attorney/dp/1888960078/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373793817&sr=1-1&keywords=morten+lund
Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--The Memo: Mastering the Legal Memorandum. http://www.amazon.com/Jagged-Rocks-Wisdom-Mastering-Memorandum/dp/1888960086/ref=pd_sim_b_3
Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--Negotiation: Mastering the Art of the Deal
You must read Lund. If you read just one page and can stand it, *that's* law practice. If you can't
stand it, that's an even better--and cheaper--lesson. It's written by a partner, as a partner will speak and think. (Think Drill Instructor but without bullets, or at least without physical bullets.)
If you're in the mood, The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book
(Messinger). It's a bit dated, but its author has his moments.
There's also The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
(Hermmann), but it's so expensive (ABA!) as to be ridiculous. (It's a good book, just not worth that relative to Lund's books. You can pretty much buy two of Lund's for the price of Hermmann's, and Lund's are better.)
I would recommend a few others, but I cannot. Most prelaw books are not just dreck, they're flat-out wrong. Read them all, and decide for yourself.
Color code cases? Sure, waste your semester until just before finals, and realize you've no idea how to assemble
what you've been reading. Brief cases? Do it just enough to realize what a waste of time it is, and better options to accomplish the same task. Piles of notes? Yeah, those are bound to help you in May. Be the best gunner there ever was, and a suck-up to boot? Join the ranks of former-gunner suck-up failures.
Law school does not have to be torture. In fact, done right, it should be both stimulating and even fun. It should be and it can be. It's a lot of work, but not nearly as much as many proclaim. And it is not make-work.
Law school also does not have to be a path to indentured servitude, as it is for far too many graduates today. But, avoiding this fate requires serious effort and foresight.
PS: If anyone cannot afford any of the books above, please send me a note and I will buy you a copy. I'll add a single request: that you share your views with others, and pay it forward.