Tuesday, September 21, 2010

GW Law... Skills... Donations?????

So today I received from my law school (that would The George Washington University School of Law, formerly the National Law Center at The George Washington University) sent me a plea for donations that starts like this:
GW Law gave you the skills you need.

Now we need your support.
The first sentence is perhaps the most inaccurate I have ever read. On the letter, they list a series of skills including:
Research, Evaluate, Argue, Represent, Listen, Discover, Write, Persuade, Serve, Represent, Listen, and Discovery
Inside, they continue their malarkey by stating,
GW Law provides today's students with a stimulating learning environment like the one that prepared you for the legal path you chose.
Excuse me while I try not to gag on the rest of the letter. It's about as divorced from reality as a Hamas press release.

Yes, I did graduate from that institution. However, other than using Shepards (the book not the utility on Westlaw), I defy them to point to one skill they helped me develop.

Nothing taught at GW Law has been of any use in my legal career. It sure as hell did not help me with the bar exam. Why? Because bar exams questions are either state specific or are weird creature of so-called "common law" that exists only within the four corners of the MBE and the Performance Test. For all that, I had to pay another outfit an absurd amount of money to prepare me to take the bar exam, since none of the law taught in law school was of any use!

I certainly did not learn how to write there. That was pounded into me by a bunch of priests and lay teachers back in high school. As a matter of fact, my writing actually got worse for a while because I was having to write according to their style. A style which was taught which had the virtue of being neither very good, nor of a style that judicial clerks would enjoy reading.

I did not learn how to run a law practice. Nothing in any of the courses prepared me for client relationships (except for the dry recitations of the model ABA rules... but that hardly counts). Nor did they offer any course which discussed the merits of various methods of constructing a retainer agreement.

Now, to be fair, GW Law did offer a way to learn how to engage into alternative dispute resolution. However, when I went there, many moons ago, in order to get in that program, you had to try out and be selected. Another of the "chosen" activities (much like moot court and the various law reviews). Otherwise, you didn't get to play. Basically, when I was there it was a joke if you didn't already know what you were doing.

What skills does one use as a lawyer? Critical thinking. Communication. Oral Advocacy. Effecting and powerful writing. So far my alma mater is 0 for 4. Or as Kruk would say, a golden sombrero.

But you know I did learn one thing. I learned that the administration there would go to any length to protect the reputation of a professor, even if meant screwing over an entire section's grades. But then again, I suppose I knew that from both my undergraduate and graduate education.

Now, surely, GW must have been good for something, right? Well, since I've been there the school has managed to barely hang on to 20th spot in the law school rankings after falling as low as 28th at one point. Basically, after I left, the ranking went down, essentially de-valuating my diploma among image conscious law firms.

Not only did the value of the degree go down, but GW Law's career development yahoos ... er I mean professionals... did next to nothing in helping me find employment during and after my time there. By next to nothing, I mean they gave me a pamphlet on how to use the office and then became extraordinarily disinterested when I informed them that I had little interest in working for a big firm (e.g. Latham & Watkins). After convincing them that I really, really did not want to spend all my waking hours working for a law firm that would demand 2000 billable (as opposed to hours worked) per year, they decided I was not worth their time.

For all this, I had the privilege of paying an obscene amount of money. Money which, in my opinion was wasted on professors who did not give a damn about who they were teaching, administrators who made things exceedingly difficult because they could not be bothered to know their own policies, and career development people who simply could not give a damn about anything other than getting out of their office as quickly as possible.

And once again this year, they beg for more money to continue this ridiculous farce called law school. To make matters worse, GW Law is not the only law school that has these problems. People who want to be lawyers would be better served by doing an apprenticeship with a lawyer. At least then, they would learn how something useful about being a lawyer.

Unfortunately, law schools long ago got into bed with the various bar associations and convinced them that only they could produce competent lawyers. Too bad no one remembered that most of our best lawyers for first century and a half managed to do pretty well for not going to law school, like Justice Robert Jackson (although he did do a year at Albany Law School, but did not get a diploma).

So how about this GW: I will donate to you when you refund my tuition, with interest, I will start making donations of an undisclosed amount for five years.


2 comments:

Dan.Eliot said...

One thing law school did probably do for me and likely does for many others is provide an exposure to many things and offers a safety net if their true passion doesn't work out. So if that is worth $120,000.00 to you then law school is probably a great fit.




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AngryBell said...

There are cheaper ways to be exposed to many things. I can think of a lot that one could with $120,000.00 that would be more effective and broadening than being a law school environment. Based on talks with people who have been in the military and what I've read, I long ago came to the conclusion that law school has all the negatives associated with induction into the armed forces without any of the positives. For example what drill instructors do on a regular basis seems demeaning. However, it is actually constructive in that it is meant to break down your civilian habits to be replaced by habits that your branch of the service needs and cultivates. At law school, you just get broken down to inflate the ego of a professor.

Quite frankly, if you are not sure you want to be a lawyer, why are you signing up to go seriously into debt to see if you want to be a lawyer? 120,000 in loans is all but crippling to your job choices.

However, law schools happily pocket the money because they have convinced themselves that they are
necessary to the process of training lawyers.