Tuesday, November 08, 2005

All fired up and no place to go.

Author's Note: This post was originally written by me in May and I found it in draft form while searching through my posts for some other thing I had written. Apparently I was DEEPLY pissed off about something that law school did to me, although now I can't recall what...frankly, I'm deeply pissed off about law school on a pretty regular basis. But, I wrote this VERY LONG and VERY VITRIOLIC rant and, in hindsight, I think it's kind of interesting to look back and see how I was feeling on whatever bad day this was. So, now that I don't remember why I was angry, I'm going to post it.
Why do we, law students, allow our system to work like this?

Why do we allow Career Services Offices to serve the needs of only some unknown percentage of the student poplulation? 100% of us pay tuition, so why do less than 100% of us get the help we need in finding employment? Why do I personally tolerate an office that tells me to take my Air Force experience off my resume or limit it to one or two sentences because it's hard for employers to understand and so they won't even read it? Are employers really so moronic that they either can't understand military experience or don't recognize the extreme value in hiring someone with it? I sincerely hope not! Is CSO really so moronic that they expect me to believe that the problem is with the employers not understanding it, rather than the CSO personnel not understanding it? Once again, I sincerely hope not!

Why do we allow ourselves to be told, over and over again, that only some X%, the Law Review Elite, are worthy of the "best" jobs...and the rest of us, with our previous careers, our life experience, our post-graduate degrees, our management skills, our great interpersonal skills, are out of luck? I am absolutely positive that people on Law Review are extremely intelligent individuals with wonderful writing, organizational, and time management skills, and that these traits are in large part why employers look so highly upon people who can claim Law Review on their resume. However, is it only 10% of students that possess these traits? Do I *not* possess them by virtue of the fact that I chose not to do the write-on competition, or even if I had done the write-on but didn't make the cut? The mantra is, if an employer doesn't care about you and your previous work experience, you don't want to work for them anyway. You know what, how do I know that? Maybe I DO want to work for them! Maybe that employer, save the one yahoo who is screening resumes, is the perfect employer for me, and between CSO telling me to cut all my previous career experience off my resume, and my lack of Law Review (or Moot Court Honor Board or whatever), I'm not even getting a shot.

Why do we allow our educational system to be based on a grading system that is skewed at best, and completely arbitrary at worst? Let's face it, in terms of the"curve", the fact that 50 people in a class can come within a couple of points of each other with some receiving a "good" grade and some receiving a "bad" grade seems insane. There isn't any evidence that I've seen so far that the grading system is anything more than a joke in many instances. What would happen if professors were forced to give out the grades people actually deserve? I don't know if law school grades are as ridiculous and arbitrary as many people believe...I've been told more than once that it's my own sour grapes talking since I don't make super-fabulous grades. Maybe it's true. But, I looked at the curves for last quarter's classes in my Academic Services office a couple weeks ago. Three professors gave grades of less than a B-. Three. The grade that I am most proud of in law school came in a class where there was no curve and I was absolutely confident the professor would not pass me if I didn't deserve it. I respect him immensely, he never pulled any punches with us as a class, and I truly believe that every grade he gave out was deserved.

Why is the legal profession built on an educational system that is simply a procession of value-less hurdles we all jump over in herd-like fashion? Why do we not demand that our educational process reflect the type of training that we all apparently recognize is necessary and yet seems to be totally lacking? Why aren't we learning to write properly? Why are we taking closed book exams using rote memorization? Will any of us ever help a client on a complex issue without looking up something? I doubt it...I hope not! Why aren't we focusing on learning to speak in an articulate and insightful manner? Why are professors still using the fabled Socratic Method, which, in practice at least, consists of them asking questions, looking around at all the students staring intently down at their laptops, and then answering the question themselves? I have professors in whose classes I would never dream of firing up the internet or not paying attention, some use Socratic and some don't, but all of them are organized, attentive to the needs of the class, knowledgeable on the subject matter, aren't afraid of the students, are willing to demand certain standards be adhered to, and seem to understand that the student body in 2005 has different needs and expectations than they did 40 years ago. This isn't your grandfather's law school class!

I guess what I'm saying, or, more to the point, asking, is: Why do we do this to ourselves? We agonize over whether to write-on or not to write-on, and whether we'll ever get a job if we choose to forego some of the traditional law school rites of passage. We worry about what Tier our school is in, and pay hundreds of dollars for help in LSAT preparation...some people pay for help with personal statements...PERSONAL statements written by someone else!!! We stress about our grades and how we stack up not only to our classmates, but to hundreds of thousands of law students in hundreds of other schools in dozens of other other states and countries. We berate ourselves for not being the best, doing the best, going to the best school, getting the best job, or having the best resume building blocks. We participate in a process that takes hundreds of diverse people and, through the wonder of cookie-cutter technology, turns them into a line of cogs trundling down a conveyor belt and dropping into a white bucket with black letters that says "FIRM." We wonder why our profession is rife with alcholism, adultery, drug abuse, and depression. And, we do it all to ourselves! We make up this industry, each one of us as an individual, and we allow this to happen.

This is my rant.
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