This is Part IV of a VI part saga of my law school career and experience. Parts I (Best of), II (Worst of) and III (my own epic failures) are the previous chapters posted on the blog.
So, now on to the biggest surprises for me around law school.
1. How much the professor played a role in me liking the content – I guess with my other degrees, I didn’t feel this as much, but one of the biggest surprises for me was how much I loved (or let’s face it, hated) the content in a class was really correlated to the professor. Not only likability of the professor, but how much passion he or she had for the content, and, knew how to teach. Some profs are brilliant, but they couldn’t teach their way out of a wet paper bag. Some profs loved to hear themselves talk, but really never checked in to see if the class was actually listening. The best profs always checked in, cared about their content, always brought in the real world, and even–dare I say–cared about us as students?
Yes, I dare say that.
2. How much redundancy there would be – this one goes back to one of my least-favorite things about law school: redundancy. This year, in particular, my fourth of the 4-year part time evening program, I’m starting to hear de ja case. A lot. To the point where, I honestly feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth in some classes, because I’ve already read and re-read that case about 50 times now, and I get it. Thanks, but do I really need to buy a $150 textbook full of cases I’ve already read so I can re-read them in another class? Kinda silly. I’ll talk more about this in what I’d change about law school. (Hint: I think 3 years full time and 4 years part time is too much.)
3. The friends I’ve made, I’ll have for life – There’s a certain…let’s say…Dante’s Inferno type of quality to law school, and nothing can bond you to your friends more than going through Hades together. The friends I’ve made in law school I’m pretty sure I’ll have for life, in a lot of cases, because we survived law school together…and even though it wasn’t fun, and it is set up as an adversarial environment, after we leave the hallowed halls, there’s not much I wouldn’t do for my law school friends. I hope vice versa would be the case.
4. The lack of law gigs – One of my colleagues posted something on Facebook the other day that summed this up well. She said that essentially, if she knew in advance that she’d have to work even harder than she did in her previous job before law school, while making less money than before law school in her job, with more law school debt on her back, she would not have considered law school if she had to do it over again. Most of my graduating colleagues already have jobs, because we’re all in the evening division and have day lives where we didn’t have the luxury of going back to school full time. However, she made an interesting point. Why go to school, graduate, go into debt, and work even harder for less money?
Law schools better get this one figured out, or they’re going to be out of business. Fast.
5. How much my own teaching has been affected by law school – Well, I’ve always fought the realist vs. idealist inside of me, but now, I’m struck by how I try to take the best hits of my law school professors and integrate them into my own classroom. For example, one of my professors made us read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I loved, and now require my students to read in pharmacy law, so they can understand where IRBs come from and why we need them for clinical research.
Another law prof showed YouTube videos up front in class each class, and now I try to do that in order to set the tone for the discussion coming in class too. Others used guest lecturers, and I’ve always done that, but I continue to do that, because my teaching philosophy is to bring THE REAL WORLD kicking and screaming into the classroom. (Which could lead me to another rant about adjunct professors–I love them, but others don’t–I’ll stay away from that debate right now.) Let’s just say, that by watching and picking up the best hits of my law school profs, I dare say it has made me a better teacher in my own right. (And I’m glad for it – and trust me, there’s a LOT of opportunity to make me a better teacher, because there is a LOT of room for improvement…#workingonit.)
6. How ridiculously expensive the law school textbooks are – Dear law school casebook publishers–I hope your day of exorbitant money-making is a thing of the past, and that e-Readers cut your profits down to a reasonable amount, because paying $150+ for your casebooks is insanity at its finest. Your day is coming, and soon.
7. How law school really doesn’t teach you how to be a lawyer, at all – And this one, I honestly was warned about going in to law school. But coming from a background of practical degrees (like pharmacy and business), I have to say that I was really surprised at the degree to which law school doesn’t prepare you to actually be a lawyer. I see now why a lot of students are suing their schools and demanding their money back, because not only can they not get law jobs, but they really haven’t been taught how to set up their own shops and be a lawyer day one after passing the bar.
I think this is the biggest injustice that law schools have done to their profession and their newbies, and it is closer to hazing than anything else. Why would you teach someone how to NOT be something? I guess more than anything, I’ve been disappointed by this, which surprised me.
Dear law schools, you must, must, must stop all ivory tower teaching and do more practical work in order to set your students up for success. For example, in pharmacy, the entire 4-year program contains some practical-working-in-a-pharmacy hours each of the 4 years now, and the last year is nothing BUT practical experience out in the real world. Why aren’t you offering this too, dear law schools? I know you have clinics in some case, but it is optional, not required–and, for those of us with day jobs, it is impossible to participate in your 9-5 clinics.
There. I could go on, but I won’t. You now have my top surprises from law school. I hope it helps, and I didn’t post this to be snarky. I posted it so that others can go on with eyes wide open and reset their expectations about what law school truly is, so they don’t get blind-sided….like some of us in the past. And to law schools themselves, I think you honestly could do better by your newbies entering in to your profession. We can ALL do better.