Friday, May 3, 2013

Law School Graduation Day: You won't remember it fondly.

Law School Commencement Day ceremonies have now, uh, commenced. Graduates and friends, please be seated.

To begin. A few brief remarks by a Madoffian fundraiser par excellence, called a Chancellor or a University President, or by an authority-loving monster called a trustee, whose idea of community or alumni service is voting to increase tuition. Repeatedly. This distinguished person wears a big medallion around his or her neck, called the "chains of office," symbolizing pretty much the same thing as the chain necklaces favored by gangsters.
 
Then a scamming fool, called the Dean, speaks at greater length, praising the stellar education that the graduates have just received. When you think about it, the Dean's effusive praise is more for him or herself and for other faculty than it is for the graduates. A couple of dozen academic blowhards, silent for once, sit behind the Dean, and gaze with blank expressions at the kids whose misplaced trust made them rich. The grads sit in the audience in their own regalia, waiting for the procession to the stage. Their temporarily proud family members sit somewhere behind, snapping pictures.

More speeches. A student speaker bids a fond and slightly goofy farewell to dear old schooldays just past. A judge, or some other bigwig, speaks of career and personal obstacles overcome, and predicts that the graduates, too, will pursue their calling with honor. Then the rest: rollcall, handshake, diploma, and we are done. Tradition.

To me, there is something wrong with this scene. Well, not wrong-- just ridiculous and misplaced. Do lawyers, of all people, really need or want this kind of pageantry and airy rhetoric? It is a profession for realists, for cynics. Lawyers earn their living by representing people and companies on their mercenary, sordid, and petty disputes or problems. Which is what these graduates will be doing one year after graduation. Or, rather, what half of them will be doing. The other half will be "temping"-- i.e. electronically sorting documents according to a protocol on short-term projects, work that any semiliterate person could do just as well. Or they will be preparing cappuccinos at coffeehouse jobs they were only able to acquire by leaving their JDs off their resumes. If any of these fledgling lawyers goes back and listens to the graduation day speeches one year later, his or her emotional response is likely to be something other than nostalgia.
 
I suppose all the fuss leading up to graduation day at least has the effect of pushing the graduates’ sense of being scammed temporarily into the outskirts of their consciousness, where it will hopefully remain until they leave campus. Can’t let those sweet souls, the 2Ls and 1Ls, get too strong a whiff of 3L anger and desperation. And the ceremony, with its great solemnity and afterglow of accomplishment, will surely make mom and dad happy. And that has value, because there will be some very sad and embarrassing family moments when they realize, later on, that their bright and promising kid’s staggeringly expensive degree does not translate to a good job and social status, as it did a generation ago. When they realize that law school is a scam.
 
Lawyers don’t need graduation day ceremonies because they don’t need law schools. Law schools, the overwhelming majority of them anyway, should be eliminated and replaced by an apprenticeship model of legal education. Following a bar-review-like crash course to teach core doctrine fast, there should be a structured series of clinics and externships to train students to try a case, write an appeal, and represent clients in a couple of practice areas of their choice. These clinics and externships should be supervised by successful local practitioners, not by professors who haven’t seen the inside of a courtroom in fifteen years, if ever. Given the job market, approved apprenticeship programs would have to be few in number and highly selective, and I think they would be-- the practicing bar has no incentive to flood our own profession with newbie grads, whereas the academic scammers do have such an incentive, and many could not know or care less about actual lawyering.
 
But won’t new lawyers miss the rite of passage represented by graduation day pomp? I doubt it. The drink my colleagues bought me when I won a particular case, early in my career, meant infinitely more to me than all that graduation day yapping, a day when I transitioned in status from student to unemployed, a day when I looked at the word "Doctor"– Doctor of Laws– on my diploma and felt nauseous.

14 comments:

  1. I'm curious what percentage of toileteers attended their graduations. Are there any anecdotes? I certainly didn't attend my graduation. I was unemployed and clinically depressed at the time. The mere sight of the place that had taken me for $330K (tuition + 3 years lost salary) was enough to give me stomach cramps. Perhaps if I had a good job I would have shown up.
    And then there's this business of the class photo. Anyone do that?

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  2. I attended my graduation. It was one of the most miserable things I've ever been to - knowing that I had just been scammed and had to shake hands with the faculty and smile and listen to all the BS. What a depressing day. And that pathetic diploma that stayed in its cardboard tube in the attic, still there to this day. I'll burn it, but can't even be bothered to waste five more minutes on my JD trashing it.

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    1. I would recommend wasting that 5 minutes to trash it. I did (it actually took me 30 minutes), but it was the most satisfying way (and probably the only way) that I have used my diploma since graduation.

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  3. Excellent post and tone, dybbuk. I'm surprised that some unemployed, depressed, debt slave hasn't gone postal at one of these garbage ceremonies.

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    1. Nando, I'm sure you know depression and rage can drive even decent people to do terrible things. When I left a decent career to go to law school then graduated without a job and prospects I was angry. Angry that I let the doors behind me shut and angry that no doors were opening in front of me. Those feelings of isolation can lead to terrible thoughts or retribution against those who led me down into the twilight path. I was lucky; I had a family to support me. But I can see it happening one day and I won't be surprised.

      "unemployment leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering." - Yoda, adapted

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    2. This is a tragic result, and happens all too often. The scam is even "worse", if I can call it that, for folks who actually give up something tangible in the process for the empty dreams of lol skool. I feel your pain, Anon.

      I think a few flippant ScamDeans and LawProfs will also be experiencing this it first hand in the near future. We'll see how many get those equity partner positions at V100 firms. Karma can be a real bitch.



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    3. AtheistATLLawyerMay 5, 2013 at 7:02 PM

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  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUI8WecMnBY

    Check out this "welcome" video/shameless sales pitch from Michael A. Simons, dean of $TT. John'$ Univer$iTTy $chool of Law.

    http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-rankings/page+4

    As you can see, this commode is currently ranked as the 98th greatest, most phenomenal and amazing law school in the country, by US "News" & World Report. Yes, what an academic powerhouse!

    http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/graduate/law/academics/llm/bankruptcy/tuition.stj

    Tuition for the 2013-2014 school year will reach $49,740 - for full-time law students.

    http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/grad-debt-rankings/page+3

    Average law student debt for the St. John's JD Class of 2012 hit $119,203. Keep in mind that this figure does not include debt from undergrad. It also does not calculate interest that accrues while the dumbass lemming is enrolled.

    Fast forward to graduation day, for the stupid JD Class of 2013. Will Simons continue to “care” about his former students?! Hell, he and the faculty quit giving a damn about these boys and girls *the moment* that first big-ass tuition check cleared.

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  5. Graduation really is like the final "fuck you" from the law school administration. Between the exhausting time, the ridiculous academic costume, and having to see all the assholes who made law school a terrible experience one last time, it must be a cherry on top for the slickmeisters running the whole show. "Not only did we scam you into spending 150k on you dumpy private degree, we got you to waste a perfectly good weekend with THIS nightmare of modernity."

    Anyone want to put odds on the deans having a cocaine-fueled orgy afterwards?

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    1. Yep...cap & gown fees, and one more opportunity to stick you with a parking ticket. An event to be avoided.

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  6. "When life gives you lemmings, live out your champagne wishes and caviar dreams."

    --Anonymous Law School Dean

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  7. Please get a grip.
    the first thing I was told before I applied for my degree course was that 90% of us who graduate won't even get a job in the field we want. This however harsh to hear was somewhat of a wake up call. I think that life throws us way more crap to deal with than boo hoo I can't get the job I want. I do feel bad for all those on any degree course who don't get the right information but the Internet can be used for more than checking out the best places to hook up and get wasted whilst at university.
    Life is short grab what you can and enjoy what you have.
    I graduate next year and I'm looking forward to graduating no matter what comes of it. Pride for me and my family is key and worth more than the 3k a month job I gave up to be a part time cleaner so could study.

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    1. ^^^ I wonder what happened to this fool. (I was just going through older posts again when I found this, and I just couldn't resist commenting on this.)

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