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Author Topic: Why Law School Sucks for me  (Read 5507 times)

jack24

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Why Law School Sucks for me
« on: April 07, 2011, 01:10:31 PM »
Here's some background on me:
I'm near the top 25% of my class, I had a summer job both summers, I'm on the law review board, and I have some decent prospects in the job hunt (even though I don't have anything nailed down yet, and I'm going to starve this summer)

I wasn't manipulated into coming to school and going into debt.  I knew it was a risk, but I felt it was worth it in the long run.  I still don't feel that ripped off on a macro level, but I feel ripped off every time I go to a law school class.

I hear all this talk about how law school is a scam because they publish exaggerated employment statistics--I don't buy into that.  If law school is a scam it is because they require you to pay for 90 credits when you really only need 20-30, and they do a piss poor job of preparing you to practice law.

For some of my friends and I, law school is a complete waste of time after the first year, and it costs between $400 and $800 per credit hour.
The first year was important because I learned how to read cases and use them in my arguments.  I also learned how to study the law without falling asleep.   By my third semester, I was no longer listening in class.  This is my fault, of course, but my grades still improved.  I took "practical" classes that didn't teach any practical skills, and I took "interesting" classes that basically ended up being a geek professors love affair with legal history.   
During my 2L spring semester, I fought to pay attention and participate in class.  I took notes on prior outlines and I asked the professor when I was confused.  My outlines ended up more bloated, less useful, and harder to memorize.  The next semester (3L fall) I decided to test my "waste of time" theory.  I didn't listen, I didn't take notes, and I didn't buy any commercial outlines.  I got outlines from former law reviewers for all of my courses and I started to memorize and index them a few weeks before finals.  I got a 4.0 on a 3.3 curve (upper division curve is higher at my school).
I understand that my diligence in my 2L year might have unseen benefits, but I haven't been able to find them yet.  I don't remember any specifics from that time, and I will have to relearn that material for the bar anyway.  I'm actually paying $3,000 to have a private company prepare me for the bar because my law school doesn't do the job.  I wish law school was one year of normal instruction, six months of bar prep, and the bar exam.  Then the law school could offer certificate programs that were not required for the bar (litigation, tax, bankruptcy, etc).  If firms felt students needed more education they could require these certificates.

Reading is no longer useful, taking notes doesn't help at all, and there is really no incentive to choose a particular class on any basis other than who is teaching it.  I love the legal field, and I think I will continue to love my career in law, but law school is a huge waste of time and money.  Unfortunately, it's another hoop you have to jump through and the only people who could do anything about it are too heavily invested in the current system.

MikePing

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Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2011, 04:05:10 PM »
Couldn't we say the same thing about most bachelor's degrees?

As far as your grade improvement, it comes from the fact that you aren't wasting time going deep into each issue because you barely know anything.  Instead, you are forced to spend the majority of the time discussing the facts and applying them to the problem.  I came to the same realization in law school. 

If we made it shorter, there would be even more competition for the handful of jobs available.  If anything, we should add a year.  ;) 

bigs5068

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Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2011, 05:31:33 PM »
I think the reading helps significantly, but different things work for different people. I have also found the practical classes I have taken have been very helpful. Advanced Legal Research has been awesome and at my current job I am able to find the answers to almost anything they need in a really quick manner and our instructor taught us all kinds of databases to look at besides Westlaw & Lexis that are free and my boss loves that. Thomas Library for example to do legislative history research.

However, no school can teach you everything you need to know and it does suck that you have to take BarBri or something after spending 100k. It is astonishing that these courses are not included in your tuition dollars, but that is another story.

In regards to the grades who knows what the answer is. I read every page I am assigned, go to every class and never go on the internet, make outlines, do every Cali Lesson for a given course the week prior to the finals and I have pulled had straight A or A- the last two semesters. I see a lot of people using all these supplements etc, but it seems like a scam to me. Other people think the reading and note taking is a waste of time seem to do fine as well.

I am with you that it does not prepare you in every way and it seems like they should do what the medical or nursing field does and have contracts with law firms or create their own firm that students work in for a year. Yes I know clinics exist, but with all the money you are paying it seems they could make a firm and teach you how to bill, get clients, etc. You might not be required to work here, but having this as a fallback option would alleviate a lot of the stress of finding a job. You might work here to pay off your loans or something of that nature.

Still I don't think law school sucks! It could be better, but I can't of anything that doesn't need improvement. It is a workable system and there is no way school can prepare you for every single thing you are going to face. They give you the foundation and it is up to you to build upon that in the real world. I am not aware of any other profession that prepares you for everything you will face. There is also no way to remember every nuance of the law, but it is there when you go back to look at it. I don't remember everything from property or contracts, but when I have to research a certain issue I see things and then I remember so 1L was helpful in some ways.

Bottom line is I don't think it sucks. There are improvements that could be make and your experience goes to show grades are a crapshoot, but in the end how much do your grades matter 5-10 years down the line. If you get sh** done in the real world and had straight C's in law school nobody will care. If you had straight A's in law school and never get your client results they are not going to be to impressed with your transcript.

jack24

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Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2011, 07:37:41 PM »
I understand what you are saying, but other than the fact that it's required, the actual return on investment from going to the second and third year is pretty low.   I would simply be a much better attorney (especially in my field) if I had spent the last two years working full time rather than going to class.  I'm fine with employers requiring X years of school (like most undergrad degrees) but it sucks that my license requires so many credits of BS classes.  I we cant cut law school, i hope some day a state allows graduates with a bachelors of law to take the bar. 

bigs5068

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Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2011, 08:10:56 PM »
California allows it. You don't have to get a J.D. to pass the bar. You just need to get an attorney to sponsor you. http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=t0VddBQXW_g%3D&tabid=2264

Pretty cool program, but you still have to take the test and bar passage in this program is VERY LOW. I think only 88 people have ever completed it.

Thane Messinger

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Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2011, 12:36:44 AM »
Here's some background on me:
I'm near the top 25% of my class, I had a summer job both summers, I'm on the law review board, and I have some decent prospects in the job hunt (even though I don't have anything nailed down yet, and I'm going to starve this summer)

* * *

Reading is no longer useful, taking notes doesn't help at all, and there is really no incentive to choose a particular class on any basis other than who is teaching it.  I love the legal field, and I think I will continue to love my career in law, but law school is a huge waste of time and money.  Unfortunately, it's another hoop you have to jump through and the only people who could do anything about it are too heavily invested in the current system.

Jack -

If it helps, your perspective is shared by many practitioners and (shh...) more than a few professors.  I couldn't contain myself, and added a section "Obiter Dicta" at the end of GGG on just this, although I took it in a different direction (along the lines of medical education). 

In any event, do take course of some interest, by professors of some interest as well.  Take a semester abroad if you can.  Work part-time (a great way to see law school differently).  And hang in there.

Thane.

jack24

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Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2011, 10:41:17 AM »
Thanks Thane.
I've worked all through law school and I know the kind of job I want.  I'm just waiting (fingers crossed) for an offer at my current job, which I love.
My central argument is that though the 2nd and 3rd years might have value, they do not directly translate to a better career as an attorney or more money. 

Imagine if you polled a bunch of medium and large firms with the following question:
"If you had the choice, would you prefer that your 2L clerks (who already have a full-time offer for after graduation) return to school for their final year to learn or work for you for another year for free and then start getting paid after the Bar?"

Do employers see the third year as valuable or just a requirement for the bar?  I have done countless interviews and none of them involved any questions about my current 3L classes.  They care about my grades, but they don't care if I'm taking family law or federal courts or bankruptcy.  I even asked the advice of several attorneys on what classes I should take my third year and they either said "it doesn't matter" or "take classes you think you can do well in."

In the legal world, who has the incentive to require the third year of law school?  Who has the incentive to postpone true bar prep until after school?  Most students wouldn't return if they didn't have to and most firms wouldn't require you to return if you didn't have to.  The state bar associations may want students to be better prepared, but even they recommend that you take BarBri or some other prep course. 
It's the academic world that would fight the hardest against a 3L apprenticeship or abolishing the third year.  Even they admit that law school doesn't prepare you for the bar... "Teaching to the Bar" is a dirty phrase in most prominent institutions.   Most of my professors haven't even practiced law in the last decade, so they can hardly argue that they are truly preparing me for the legal market.

The direct costs of the third year are significant, but the opportunity costs are much more severe.  My employer told me they wish they could pay me for 40 hours but the bar association won't let them employ me for more than 20.  But if I don't get paid and I get some credit instead, I can work as many hours as I want.   I applied for externship hours for my current employment and I was denied because I earned a meager wage.  The law school doesn't even want give incentives to get  students to find paid on-the-job experience.

 

bigs5068

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Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2011, 11:44:46 AM »
It is pretty ridiculous that you cannot earn money and get credit at the same time. I cannot understand the rationale behind that at all. However, I do think the third year serves some purpose you will learn the foundation of certain areas of law. Of course an employer would love to just take you and have you work for free and teach you exactly what they want you to know, but odds are you will not work at that firm for your entire career. Or if you want to learn something else it would difficult without having at least a basic foundation. If you took a bankruptcy class your third year and 5 years down the line you wanted to or needed to do bankruptcy related work it would be good to have some kind of base. Does this always happen probably not, but your education lasts for a long time and you probably pick up some things that will help you down the road. You can also just learn things that are fun to talk about. I took Sports Law this year will this ever help me in the real world? Probably not, but I got to learn all about all the professional sports CBA's and what is going on, which is just cool. I cannot possibly see how knowing to get around salary cap exceptions will ever come up for me, but I can impress my sports buddies with my knowledge of sports law.  Learning does not always have to be practical is that point of that rant.

Richard Posner did write a great article on what a waste of time the third year of law school maybe it is worth reading. Law School Should Be Two Years, Not Three." Harvard Law Record, Jan. 16 1998, p. 9. Basically saying it is way to expensive for what you get your third year so you might be right. Then law school is simply to expensive for what it is period whether you went one, two, or three years so I agree with you there.  I would love to see a breakdown of how law schools spend their money especially ones like mine that charge 36K and call themselves "non-profit". 




jack24

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Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2011, 01:40:35 PM »
Bigs:
You have a balanced point of view.  I think many people operate on faulty prmises though
1: that a 3l can't learn the material equally well on his own
2: that those students who desire additional classes couldnt simply pay to take more credits than they need.

I learned family law last semester and it could be useful.  My teacher didn't help me learn anything.  Paying for a service with no benefit sucks when you can do it on your own.

haus

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Re: Why Law School Sucks for me
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2011, 02:02:59 PM »
Of my friends and colleges who have completed law school, very few seem to have much good to say about their 3L year. In this obviously limited subset it appears that the common belief that law school should be a 2 year program not 3 years. I am curious if those of you on the forum who are in or have completed law school have thoughts on the usefulness of the 3L year.