Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why law school sucks, part I

Imagine you are a medical student. What if you were allowed to ignore an entire system of the body in order to study something cool and very difficult to get into, like plastic surgery? You wouldn't be much of a doctor - even plastic surgeons need to know about the digestive system.

Imagine now that you are a law student. Your first year was prescribed to you with required courses - civil procedure, contracts, torts, criminal, constitutional, and property. After that, you are on your own to decide what you will study. Your schedule permits you to choose between family law and international human rights.

Not only would likely choose the latter, law schools more or less encourage you to do so - despite that fact that the most common legal matters people face are probably in family court. That's right - you don't actually have to study an entire field of law, even though it impacts arguably the greatest number of people. I ask you - would you be much of a lawyer?

It would seem that this is a problem - but the law schools don't think so. In fact, most law schools would probably encourage their students to choose human rights over family law. I do not have statistics readily available, but I suspect that most law schools only offer a single course on family law.

How can the legal education system possibly justify this? Failing to require study in family law, even though everyone is virtually impacted by this seems completely untenable. So why do they do it?

To hold out the false hope of the mega payday. And it is a false hope - Biglaw represents a very small slice of the hires for newly graduated lawyers, yet the law schools do their damndest to push the students toward the mega firms, because it pushes up their median starting salaries, which is one of the metrics that potential students consider. Biglaw doesn't do family - supposed bottom feeders do.

This is kind of rambly and incoherent, but I think this is the beginning of a bigger idea. Stay tuned.