Late this spring, at a school ceremony, I was surprised to learn that my Daughter wants to be an attorney when she grows up. I had thought she wanted to be a marine biologist or a veterinarian or an artist. Maybe like me, she’s a contrarian; after hearing me grumble for years about the law business, maybe she just has to try it. Maybe she’ll grow out of it. Perhaps she’ll become a marine biology attorney. I just want her to be happy.
The law isn’t for everyone and not all areas of the legal profession are the same. The law itself isn’t what it used to be. At Nuremberg the traditions of Western legal philosophy were effectively jettisoned through the window. They clung to the ledge for a while and then fell. Currently, the law lies, dying, on the street below. If one listens, one can still hear it murmur things like “due process” and “no ex post facto…”. Sad, really.
Still, many will want to at least attend law school; several will go on to become practicing attorneys. For these prospective students, I thought I would offer some advice, some ideas about the profession and its formal education process. Here goes:
The practice of law is horrible. Tucker Max wrote the best essay on the subject I have ever read: Why You Shouldn’t Go to Law School: For the overwhelming majority of people (>99.9%), law school is the wrong choice. Here’s why. Read that. Neither he nor I practice now. I fell under his fourth reason not to go to law school – I wanted to do something noble. I didn’t, I couldn’t. It is impossible. My ideal was to bring freedom to as many people as possible. They don’t want it. Most of what I write here is still a vain attempt to bring people around. That, or preaching to the choir. Read that essay – Tucker’s a funny man, but he’s dead serious on all counts. And right too.
Even worse than the theory of jurisprudence and the active practice is state of legal education itself, especially in America. Read my essay on that.
American legal education is so bad that the esteemed Alan Watson wrote a book about it: The Shame of American Legal Education. Read that book before you apply to law school.
Alan Watson, Esq. Amazon.
If an American, despite these warnings, must go to law school, they should consider Watson’s alternative. Consider going to law school in Scotland. There, legal theory is still revered and taught. The Scottish schools teach people the law itself. American schools teach being a boring cog in a broken wheel (and most aren’t very good at even that). One might decide to stay in Scotland. Should one return to the U.S. one will have to obtain some auxiliary BS “training” before joining the bar. But, at least that person would be fortified in the truth and the science as American law students are not.
One American law school is about as bad as the rest. Rankings really do not matter. Still, for prestige alone and to help with seeking employment, try a top-rated school if possible. The experience will still disappoint.
These schools, for as little as they are worth, are expensive. A legal education can easily cost $250,000 or more. And low-tier schools can be just as expensive as Harvard or Yale. If one must go, try for a top-ranked state school and try to get a scholarship.
Take a break between undergraduate studies and law school and explore something – anything. This might kill the desire to study law. That would be a good thing.
Consider alternatives. Put some thought into it. In retrospect, I should have pursued an advanced degree in political philosophy or history. Maybe chemistry or forestry. Yes, the law can open many doors of opportunity but it also makes you walk through other doors not so appealing.
Do not study pre-law or business law or any related BS in college thinking it will help with law school. It won’t. English, philosophy, and political theory are better majors. The best course of study is the one that interests you the most. Above all else, remember to learn something.
Before you fully commit to legal education (here or abroad) do two internships or volunteer stints. The first should be in the area you think you are most interested in. The second should be in the field that is most remote from what you think you like. This will provide a real-world perspective and a little balance. Bounce your ideas off of everyone.
Consider the rise of the AI attorney. Robots are not just stealing factory jobs. By the time my daughter graduates from college (or even high school) computers will be doing most legal work. This will be good and bad. It will save many students from horrendous careers though leaving them burdened with debt and regrets.
Consider that people will constantly bother you for advice – even if you can’t give it. “You’re a contracts attorney? Great! Let me ask you about my friend’s DUI charges…” These types love to waste time and they don’t pay for it. They also don’t follow advice anyway. Upon not following it, they will still blame you for the problems they created. As there are a few too many attorneys, so there are WAY too many idiots.
Don’t be afraid of change. Becoming a lawyer doesn’t mean being one for life. One can switch areas of practice or leave the law altogether. Fifty percent or more of American lawyers do not practice law.
In fact, don’t be afraid. That’s the best advice I could give my daughter or anyone else. I just want her to be happy. I want everyone to be happy. And free. See, I’m still at it…
*Ads below this line are not Perrin Lovett’s. He hopes they are harmless.