Monday, November 27, 2006

What's to Like about Law School?

A number of my recent posts have focused on law school classroom dynamics. (See Getting Called on in Class; Reading for Class; What are Your Thoughts About Law School?; and Computers in Class).) Much of my focus, and indeed the focus of comments posted by readers, inevitably has been critical, and sometimes outright negative. This is not uncommon: when people talk about law school, they almost invariably turn to complaints and criticisms. Perhaps that is just the nature of the beast. After all, legal education focuses heavily on critical thinking, so why shouldn't those skills be turned on the institution itself?

But of course, not everything about law school is a problem, or drudgery, or pain. Or is it? In the spirit of the recent Thanksgiving holiday, and in the interest of balance, I would be interested in hearing what you might actually like or appreciate about law school.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow what timing, just before finals. I can say that I enjoy the interaction with my fellow students. It's a unique and lasting bond that is formed in study groups with your peers. Lets be honest; most of us were top of our class in undergraduate. Most of the things that law students and lawyers talk about when we get together would bore others. It’s nice to have that common love for the law and to be able to discus it. Law is a very expansive field that is always in flux. It gives one the opportunity to explore questions that may not have been asked or resolved and yet it is a very practical field with almost endless application. Its knowledge is one of empowerment and it gives all of us the chance to "leave on footprints on the sands of time" as it were. Just being able to sit around and talk intelligently about it and bounce ideas around and watch each other grow and share our dreams is great. (how’s that for perky/sappy?)

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the most positive aspect about law school is the fact it is so terrible right now, sort of like the saying what doesn’t kill you makes you strong. There must be some reason why people outside of law school are impressed when you tell them you are pursuing a legal career. This probably wouldn’t be the response if it only left someone with mountains of debt and a hatred for the Socratic Method. Unfortunately, once your in law school it is then the benefits are questioned from a realistic point of view. Maybe you can help us out Professor Bowman, why are you optimistic about law school?

shell said...

I am not sure how it happened or when it happened, but I have learned to make connections and to assess critically from what I preceive to be a chaotic teaching system.

It is not what law school directly teaches you, but what it forces you to learn in order to survive and to decipher the disjointed legal system.

Even if I end up not practicing law, I have learned the skill to sit down and patiently sift through hundreds of pages of legalese and regulatory codes just to get the gist of things.

Anonymous said...

One of my professors always verifies that those who are seated in the rear of the lecture hall are able to hear before beginning the class session. This, and the many other similar courtesies extended by professors at my school, helped me make it through that tough period where Websense blocked PartyPoker.

I know that law school isn't supposed to be a trade school, but it's good to know that if I flunk the bar exam, I am now qualified to join the World Poker Tour.

Gregory W. Bowman said...

Of course, while you are playing poker you probably will be simultaneously studying for your second attempt at the bar exam--with playing cards in one hand and Civ Pro flash cards in the other.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am a much older, non-traditional student, whose undergrad grades were far from spectacular (though from an "Ivy League" institution, well before grade inflation hit!), so it is not as if I have never had a bad grade before. Perhaps that is why so much of the grade obsession seems to not be an issue for me. And for that, I am truly grateful.
Also, I am not exactly gunning for biglaw jobs, either.

I find that opportunities to learn, to grow intellectually, are few and far between in this life. Law school has been a good experience for that, so far. I am lucky to have good professors, and reasonably sized class sections (under 100). So, I give thanks for that, too.

Gregory W. Bowman said...

Nice comments, everyone. Here are my thoughts:

Anonymous #1: Very perky/sappy indeed, especially for the end of the term! I agree with your sentiments.

Anonymous #2: I did not say I was optimistic about law school. I just wanted to know what you thought. Your expression of frustration is shared by many students. I once had a 1L student tell me that he wouldn't wish the angst and misery of his first year in law school on his worst enemy, and I can say I felt his pain. I am not trying to dodge your question; rather, it's just that it is largely answered by . . . .

Shell's comments. Shell has hit upon a big (and positive, I think), aspect of legal education. The crush of work, the new concepts and the high learning curve--all of it teaches you to balance huge loads and identify how you learn best. And each prof teaches differently, so you need to adjust accordingly. That too is a valuable skill, as I have blogged about before. Now, you might say I am turning a negative (chaos) into a positive (valuable learning experience), and to an extent you'd be right. Life and careers are chaotic; the question, perhaps, is whether legal education can accurately and effectively model that to train future lawyers. I think sometimes law schools get this right by accident; the trick is to do it right on purpose, and to help students see the useful lessons to be learned not just in our legal texts, but in the pressure-cooker environment that is the modern US law school.

Anonymous #3 is probably playing poker in the back of my class, so I will forego further comments. Another student tells me that online gambling is illegal in Mississippi, which makes for an interesting situation, doesn't it?

Anonymous #4: Kudos for not getting obsessed about grades. Your perspective is a healthy one to keep in mind going into final exam season.

Thanks again for the comments--keep them coming! Law school is a better environment if there is an honest and good-faith exchange of ideas and perspectives between students and profs.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for a little while and I even have a link to it on my blog. It has further cemented my desire to go to law school. I am still not certain that I want to practice law but I see tremendous value in the education.

Gregory W. Bowman said...

Chris, thanks for reading, and thanks for the link. Law school certainly is a very good degree for a number of professional pursuits.

brown vette with yellow vinyl said...

Even though I didn't get the grade I wanted in your Contracts class, I can still say I like law school. I've always been a big fan of not knowing what I know (ha)...at least it gives you the chance to find out what you do know- if you want to put forth the effort. And, if worse comes to worse, we can all make a decent living selling the 100% fool-proof roach killers on e-bay...just wire the funds to my account in the Caymans. In the meantime, I'm still standing my ground and plotting a way to get that Pepsi guy his Harrier jet...