Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Nothing Like Law School

I have been told by several people on different occasions that the real life practice of law is nothing like law school. You can forget everything you learned in school, some of them say. I don’t believe this to be entirely true. In law school, one learns to think and to read critically. One learns to formulate an argument and to support it. Law school teaches “issue spotting.” Students learn legal drafting, such as how to write a memo or a brief. Although law school professors do not teach students “the law,” rather, they teach students how to apply the law, law students actually do learn some law. The Criminal Procedure course I took has proven to be particularly useful. I learned how to use the online resources Westlaw and Lexis. If I had not attended law school, I probably would not know what “780 S.W.2d 787” meant.

Some people suggest that the requirements that lawyers attend law school, pass a bar examination, and jump through other hoops – the whole system of licensure – are intended as barriers to entry to the profession. Fewer lawyers, or less supply, they argue, allows lawyers to set prices for their services.[1] There may be some merit to this, and it seems more plausible when one is toiling in law school, but I don’t think we would want just anyone hanging out a shingle and practicing law, with no training and no regulation.

[1] This is paraphrased, roughly and very concisely, from Richard Posner’s Overcoming Law.


  • So what you're saying is that I need to shut down my not-so-legal law practice? I guess I could just focus on my medical practice.

    By Blogger hal the brown, at 7:49 AM, October 20, 2005  

  • Okay, I've spent the past 2 months working in an office that I lovingly refer to as the clearinghouse for every crazy loon that thinks they know the law. Almost every phone call begins with "My civil rights have been violated..." and ends with me silently thinking, "Yeah, that is sooo not a civil right." Those hoops are NECESSARY, and I'm not just saying that because I'm currently jumping through said hoops. We want a certain minimal standard to the profession here, people. That's a good thing. Trust me. I mean, I know a thing or two about health care & I've even been able to stump doctors with medical questions a time or two. But that doesn't mean I want any schmuck with access to WebMD and a medical dictionary to start practicing medicine!

    And you're right, Matthew. I feel like I'm learning a great deal and I put lots of it into practice during my clerkship last summer. I think that the elitist nature of law education in general and the inflated cost of legal education are the real problem, frankly. It keeps the costs of legal representation high and discourages people who want to represent the poor and/or middle income/working poor families. And that's the real problem - that if you don't have money, you're SOL in our legal system. Sorry, no justice for you!

    By Blogger!, at 1:19 PM, October 20, 2005  

  • Good things do not come easy or cheap. I find business school equally empty in teaching you skills, but more a framework of analyzing problems or formulating strategy, besides producing lots of self-centered jerks of crouse. It is less interesting and less work than Law school I assume.

    By Blogger New York Red, at 2:07 PM, October 21, 2005  

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