And now, I reach my least favorite part about articulating the past 4 years of my life. Said another way?
I’m about to share the worst things about law school.
Before I throw down, let me just say that recently, law schools have had some ‘xplaning to do. A judge just recently dismissed one case accusing one school inflating their job and salary data (Note: the attached case does not involve my law school). There are other suits in the pike too. Will they go anywhere? I don’t know. But I think we should view this as a signal for all of us to stop and contemplate what is wrong or what could be better about law schools. So my efforts below are an honest appraisal of what my own experience was in law school over the past 4 years, and my opinions alone.
While I’m quite sure my colleagues could come up of their own list of horrors, these are mine. And although I love to fix problems and find solutions, I’ll save my suggestions on how to solve the problems of law school for another upcoming blog post. This is part 2 of 6 on my law school journey. (And the best things I’ve already posted about here.)
Here are my least favorite things about law school.
1. Evidence, Trusts & Estates, and Civ Pro – I am bad at memorizing rules. These three classes demonstrated my ineptitude, in droves. Besides, I thought if rules could be changed and interpreted differently by lawyers and law makers, yes? Let’s not dwell on these topics…moving on….
2. The grind – for the past 4 years, pretty much every weeknight evening, I’ve had to say “no” to an insurmountable pile of cool events due to the fact that I had to go to law school every night. The American Bar Association has super strict rules on attendance at law school for some reason. Why? I honestly don’t know. Last time I checked, we are adults, and we can manage ourselves. I’d prefer to be treated as such.
And, if law schools want to survive (and continue to charge insane tuition), they’d best find coursework that gives us a REASON to be there live and in the flesh (like team work, solving problems and finding solutions in groups) rather than just showing up and listening to a didactic lecture. That thing called the internet can do that just fine now….and I don’t have to spend $4 a gallon of gasoline to get online either. (OK, I paid $3.93 a gallon this morning to fill up – call me a liar for .07 per gallon.) Besides: some of my favorite projects in law school were team-developed and team-driven.
3. The redundancy – How many times am I going to have to read Roe v. Wade? In this, my 4th year, I’m feeling very de ja case up in here. There are classes that are repeating content for me, and I’m struggling to stay engaged when I’m living Groundhog Day in the classroom. While one could argue that’s “cumulative knowledge” I say, teach me once, and do it right. I don’t need to see this case 9 times. Give me things I can work on to APPLY what I learned in the cases I read and re-read. Next…
4. The Socratic Method – It’s an antiquated, draconian way of learning the law. I suppose it may have its place in 1L land so you can scare off a few students, but other than that? Using the Socratic Method in the classroom for 4 years is just…”reductive” (as Madonna would say). It may help some who want to litigate better articulate their thoughts, but for the rest of us who won’t litigate? It just doesn’t match anything of the real job of being a lawyer – like, solving problems for a client, or working in a team, or presenting your own information or findings, rather than waiting for a prof to beat you over the head with questions until you spit out what they want you to say.
The best professors discuss and debate – they don’t use Socratic method. New methods of learning, please. Hands on learning instead, anyone?
5. The LSAT – Put this in with the bucket of other standardized tests that measure nothing important, nor have anything to do whatsoever with real academic performance. Honestly? I think it’s just another way for the scheme to make money off of students. Some of our best academic achievers in our evening division had lousy LSAT scores. And while I’m no longer top 10% of the class, my LSAT scores were awful, and I’m doing just fine academically, thank you very much. (Except, of course, in Civ Pro, Evidence and T&E. I digress…)
6. The order of classes - Constitutional Law should be taught 1L year to the evening students instead of Civ Pro. Con Law is in pretty much everything – while Civ Pro and Evidence belong only in courts. Not all lawyers end up in court. Many of them don’t end up in court. Just saying. Yet, we never really studied the art of settlements, either. Also, a lot of classes in areas of ‘concentration’ (mine being healthcare) were redundant, but required. Let’s teach different coursework if we’re really going to make the students take different classes, mmmmk? (Curricular map as part of re-accreditation, perhaps?)
The other thing I’ll say about order because it kind of fits here is the challenges our school has with the day division students v. the evening division students. I’ll remind everyone again: I went to law school to advocate for my FIRST profession (pharmacy), and I chose a law school that was FOUNDED as a PART TIME EVENING PROGRAM for WORKING PROFESSIONALS.
Am I saying that all law school should be part time? I won’t answer that. But I can tell you, more MBA programs are now evening courses…why not law too? Besides, there’s NO WAY that every lawyer can know every corner of the law anymore–it is impossible. Thus, better have some idea of what area(s) you’re going to concentrate in BEFORE you head off to law school in the first place…
7. The exams – You’ll probably be surprised here on this one, but I actually enjoy a good law school essay final exam. Throw me a cool fact pattern with some issues to spot, IRAC and analyze, and I’m your woman. This is also what lawyers do for their clients. Booyah.
What I don’t like, however, are law professors who write awful, unclear, and long-winded multiple choice exams for finals. While writing a good multiple choice test question is an art and skill of its own, it has no place in law. Clients don’t serve up problems as multiple choice exam questions. They have a problem, then you as the lawyer have to solve it. Furthermore? A good lawyer can argue their way into and out of pretty much every option and answer, if she does her job right.
Now, there’s a camp out there that says MC questions are good because they prep you for the bar; however, the bar isn’t like practicing law. It just can’t be. And how do I know this since I’ve never been a lawyer? Well, I HAVE been a client. And I know my legal problems don’t come in the form of multiple choice exam questions. They come in the form of a fact pattern, and I need my lawyer to spot the issues.
Rant over regarding this one…
8. The reading – I love to read. That is, I loved to read, until I got to law school. Then I had to start reading cases. Then I had to read over 200 pages for one class for one day. There is a sometimes ridiculous amount of reading for classes. Realistically? We have lives and jobs. For the past 4 years, I’ve tried my d*mnedest to read everything for the coming week on Saturdays, because I’m too busy during the rest of the week to get my reading done. I’m looking forward to getting my weekends back.
9. The textbooks – Speaking of the ridiculous, most law school textbooks are insanely expensive. Some are pretty, with their gold-leafed pleather binding and hard covers, and some are softbound 900-page diatribes. Regardless, I’ve rarely encountered a law school textbook under $50. Most were well over $100. Will I ever use them again? Doubtful. They’re just full of cases – not practical matters, like how to solve client problems. Even as a writer, I can’t wait to see eBooks kill law school book pricing and put these law school textbook profit makers back on Earth with the rest of us really busting our butts to make a dollar. #BordersRevisited
10. My life – or lack thereof. This is kind of a repeat of #2 above. While I love to learn, seriously–the grind of–work, school, home, sleep, repeat is tired. I’m tired. I’ve not seen a lot of my friends in a long time. (Yes, some since before law school started, I’m really embarrassed to say.) I don’t really date anymore because the rest of my life already exhausts me (all other lame excuses aside).
And yes, while I chose this path of part time law school at night on top of my day job, I respectfully request my life back, please. I would like to come home once in awhile and not have to do anything to prep for law school the next day. I’d like to leave on a jet plane and see a friend or two on a weekend without a pile of homework to finish before I depart. I want to go to…social events again. Dare I say even date again? Maybe. (Although, that one is a stretch.) I want to read books FOR FUN. I cannot WAIT to do anything just FOR FUN!
11. Bonus 11th item, which could be the biggest disaster of all: the creativity killer – I was at a lunch with a group of go-getting women entrepreneurs yesterday, when I was asked what law school does with creativity. I picked up my knife and jabbed it into the center of my nachos, as I replied, “This!” The other lawyer in the group concurred. Seriously–while I was warned about this one before I went to law school, it definitely is something to watch out for – LAW SCHOOL CAN KILL YOUR CREATIVITY.
It makes you paranoid. It gives you the 50,000 reasons why you SHOULD NOT try something new. It has made me think differently, and not necessarily better. However, while I was warned about this hole, I have managed to almost dig myself out of it. I feel as though I’m getting my creative mojo back, slowly but surely – but not without a LOT of careful watch over it. This, my friends, especially for the creative souls out there could very well be not only the worst thing about law school, but the most dangerous thing about law school as well.
That’s 11 items. I certainly could go on, but I won’t. There were many other petty, snarky administrative headaches and battles that I went through during my law school career as well, but it is better to let sleeping dogs lie sometimes. The items above however are the biggest buckets of worst things for law school, at least in my experience. I loved the shot at going, and I’ve stuck with it. But I’m glad the end is near, for the 10 reasons above, and so many more. If you’re heading there? You were warned….