Something didn’t feel right.
At first, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the voice inside my head. It kept saying “something is wrong here.” I chalked it up to taking on a new challenge, to taking a big step and changing things. And, going back to school full time, voluntarily, would certainly generate some doubt.
So I concentrated on what was in front of me. Contracts. Torts. Constitutional Law. Those were the first challenges.
However, I was looking at the 3Ls, too. I saw their cynical malaise. I saw their insider joking and putting on airs. I figured that was part of the process of law school – it was probably inevitable at some level. The “Band of Brothers” approach. I saw too, however, that it masked a legitimate fear – what do I do next, after the bar exam? Where do I go?
A select few weren’t worried. These were the ones who came from families of lawyers. They knew law school was just a rite of passage. They also tended to have the better grades, too, in much the same way SAT scores correlate with zip codes. Just punch the clock and get through it.
Everyone else, though, smoked and drank. A lot. They were worried. I could see it.
But I was worried too at some level, too. After all, we were all taking the plunge. Things were uncertain, but that is life sometimes.
As a 2L, the voice got louder. I saw that all that mattered was the crucial summer clerkship that lead to a job upon graduation, and that the competition for the handful of OCI options were few. This was so critical in that there was nothing else out there to mentor students. Nothing to help them learn the ropes and gain some useful skills other than this one narrow path, through the neck of an hourglass. Surely I was missing something.
Internships/externships? Just a resume bullet-point. Clinics? If you could get in, they were a meager attempt to pass something on, for 10 hours a week during a whole whopping three months at best. Classes? They were preparation for the bar exam (maybe), nothing more. However, all these “choices” lead to one place - NOWHERE.
No, outside of fantastic pre-made connections you either had to run the gauntlet and be the lucky one that made it through to a firm, or you had to be a self-starter. Hang out a shingle. Network. Meet other experienced lawyers in your field. Drum up business. That’s what other respectable members of the bar did. So should you.
That would be great, the voice in my head finally shouted, if you ACTUALLY HAD SOME MARKETABLE SKILLS at graduation.
Take the case of Mr. Rakofsky, an attorney who arguably took the “get out there and make it a happen” approach, which is the lauded path of the self-starter. A non-whining, non-entitlement seeking member of the bar. He was reprimanded by a Judge for being incompetent at a murder trial.
There will be those who attack Mr. Rakofsky. That he shouldn’t have been doing this sort of case at his experience level. That he should have sought better training. That it was arrogant to think he could handle this sort of thing; that he should be disbarred and that he deserves everything he gets.
Perhaps he did indeed do too much, too quickly. But the attacks from others will only serve one point – to distract from the real truth that this is the result of the law school machine. That thousands of grads are pumped out into the market who have no business doing what they are doing, except that they have no other choice. That armies of unprepared lawyers are trying to do what they can to survive, most with the crack and whip of student loans behind them. This is the monster that the system has created.
Then it hit me, all too late. The worry, the fear, the 3L cynicism. I kept waiting for something to materialize. For something I had been missing to become clear. I thought with perseverance and hard work, the light would shine through the clouds. I just needed to keep at it until I saw a path. Surely law school just doesn’t take your money and dump you into shark-infested waters, does it?
Yep. It does. It is the responsibility of the public/private sector, not law school, to train you, and it is up to you to score that training. Granted, some people will never have to hustle – merely the ones who didn’t come from the right families or are otherwise unlucky. Which is the majority.
Good luck, law grads. You are the ones turned out there with no skills, in a let-the-market-decide-who-will-succeed system. It will be you who take the fall for your mistakes, and it is you – not your alma mater, not the ABA, not your bar licensing committee – who will be branded with a scarlet letter as insult to injury. They will blame you for trying to earn a living, for trying to “do justice.” Clearly it is not the fault of the law school machine, but YOUR fault. Your sub-standard representation. Your sub-standard service to society.
Just like the mortgage industry piled circuitous, unintelligible risk on their own investors to make their profits, the legal industry piles that same risk on you for their profits. But trust me…your alma mater will be all too happy to ask you for a donation after you graduate, after all they did for you.