We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Wednesday, March 13. 2013
There are several wonderful things about legal training, but the best is its versatility. Legal training is a useful background for almost any ambitious endeavor.
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My experience has been that a legal education ruins you for any sort of honest employment.
Everybody loves to knock lawyers, but there are a few of us who are honest. My alma mater has reduced the size of its incoming classes.
If legal training is so great, how come our politicians, nearly all of whom are/were lawyers, are so pitiful? Do they suddenly get stupid once they are elected and forget all their legal training, as if their expensive education was some sort of "Head Start" for cretins? I know a lot of attorneys and individually they are pretty nice people, in many cases both competent as well as smart. But put a whole bunch of them together in a crowd and you have to wonder where all their common sense went.
Because those that can't litigate, politic instead?
But seriously!! A lot of people thinking about going into politics or government employment go to law school after taking, say, a Political Science Bachelor's. Law school is part of the pedigree. I bet a pretty high proportion of lawmakers who are lawyers already had politics in mind when they got their law degrees.
Also, there's big difference between Law the scholarly pursuit and Law as practiced. Law schools have a sort of "goat" tradition like West Point; you can always find a graduate who was an indifferent or terrible student but turned out to be a terrific attorney. That's because the practice of law entails all kinds of social skills that aren't easy or possible to teach, especially for active, litigating courtroom lawyers. A lot of that skill set happens to overlap with political talents.
And, when it comes to politics attorneys are like anybody else. They lose their minds.
Where otherwise (like when they're being paid to do it) they may be able to step back from an argument and dispassionately assess its merits, they come undone and become defensive and blustery when their own ridiculous addle-pated political notions are questioned. So they shut down and stop thinking.
If you know anyone who is considering law school, do them a huge favor and slap them. My daughter started a second tier (top 100) law school just before Obama's first election. She graduated after the profession blew up. She has looked for legal work for two years with no success. There are jobs for experienced lawyers, but no one is hiring new people. She has a low paying non-legal job she hates, and is living back at home because she can't afford an apartment and her student loan (which my wife and I are paying). Her sister finished her bachelor's degree, got an entry-level job with an insurance company, and just received a promotion. She has her own apartment. Who made the better decision?
I have to echo your comment. I seriously try to dissuade anyone from going to law school at this point. The legal market collapsed in 2007-08 in synch with the collapse of the real estate and financial markets, and never really recovered. The fact is that other than a couple of major markets like New York, L.A., etc. many business, corporate and transactional attorneys are just struggling to stay alive. And if you don't have a law degree from a Top Five or maybe Top Ten school (or a local law school that has pull in the community you are going to practice in), you are going to have a real problem finding a job when you get out of law school. We now have a part time young associate working here, a very bright, talented and nice guy, who because of the economic crash got laid off from another firm a short time after being hired by them out of law school, and then couldn't find a job. This guy has both a law degree from Michigan and is a member of the federal patent bar. Not so long ago, firms would have been fighting over hiring him. No longer.
Ironically, what is about to kill us off is Obamacare. Medical insurance premiums have rocketed up so dramatically in the past couple of years that we cannot afford to pay associates a competitive salary or give partners enough compensation to stick around. My premiums for basic family coverage have gone from $19K to $24K in the past two years, and are estimated to go up again to $27K in May. I think that means we are also going to get hit with the 40% Cadillac Tax when that takes effect. So it's at the point where folks are just walking away from the practice of law, at least in a firm, because all the costs of managing a firm and paying for employees and mandated benefits just eats you alive.
Just to show you how bad it is. I now make less as a fairly senior partner than I made as an associate in the 1980s, and that is before factoring the cost of healthcare, which is probably nine to ten times higher than it was then. (I think I, or rather my firm, paid between $2K and $4K a year for family coverage back then.) And we won't even talk about malpractice insurance costs.
At risk of being insulting, what's so "versatile" about legal training? I don't say that getting a law degree is easy (my wife is an attorney; she's told me about the staggering amounts of homework she had), but what does it teach a person that, say, a degree in STEM or even a rigorous course in liberal arts doesn't?
I think it teaches you how to think analytically and problem solve, which you do not get with most liberal arts education at this point. A liberal arts education, even at the most elite institutions, rewards you for simply voicing back to your instructors what you have learned from your instructors. You may get a lot of knowledge, but you aren't taught how you are supposed to use that knowledge or even how to distinguish the good knowledge from the bad knowledge. (Partly because less and less liberal arts education is actually about learning, but more about being propagandized and socialized into a "progressive" leftist society.)
I was fortunate to go to one of the top colleges in the country, but I have to say most of my education was simply having to memorize and remember huge amounts of information I never used again.
When I got to law school (which I hated, by the way), they at least made you think and analyze, and then you had to be able to debate and stand up to your professors in class, which could be a very intimidating experience. (I actually went through property law with the real Professor Kingsfield, who managed to have a woman crying the first day of class because she didn't know the difference between a possibility of reverter, a defeasible fee, a remainder subject to a condition subsequent, and a remainder subject to an executory limitation. "When the initial assignment is posted prior to commencement of term, I expect you to have read the materials and come prepared to discuss them.")
Well, it's possible to get many things out of a legal education that formerly you might expect from a Liberal Arts degree but can't rely on getting today. Rhetoric and debate, concise (really!!) persuasive writing, logic, rigorous (practical) textual analysis, and probably more basic Civics & Government (Constitutional Law and Common Law) than most people get in their entire schooling.
Plus it can seriously hone your research and writing skills.