April 22, 2014

"And you actually enjoy studying law? That's weird."

From the finalists in Above the Law's Law Revue Video Contest, this one's from my old law school NYU (language warning):

For the record, I think the main character in this video has it right, it's what I expect from all my students, and it's the way I pretty much (kind of) was as a law student (30+ years ago)(except that I added a level of difficulty — pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation — to my 3L year).


MB said...

Are these tunes from Beauty and the Beast?

She looks like Belle:

The Godfather said...

I liked law school (Columbia 68), which I hadn't expected. I went to law school because I thought it would be good preparation for a political career. By midway through 1L, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, and nothing since then has changed my mind. (Thank God! Because I would have been an awful politician.)

I assume the chorus of mockers in the video don't represent what most law students really think about law school. If the law isn't the right profession for you, you aren't going to be able to stand one year of law school, much less three.

Kudos to the people who made the video for good performances and good production values.

Ann Althouse said...

I went to law school 5 years after I graduated from college, and I enjoyed the challenge of the game and tried to win. I noticed the competition was very different from me -- younger, fresh out of much more relevant undergrad education (I studied art!), and much more the sort of people who have lawyers in the family and who'd wanted to get into law practice for a long time. I had a big "I don't belong here" feeling about law school, so I adopted defensive rules and stuck to them. I read all the cases, went to all the classes, did all my own outlines, etc.

n.n said...

Student and mother. It is not easy. It is possible. Ideally, your husband will help you negotiate and ameliorate the requisite compromises.

David said...

Did your own outlines, eh? Me too. As I recall, no one told me that outlining a course was a good idea, but it seemed the only way to really grasp the complexity. There were no canned outlines then ( UVA 1967-70.) I actually made money selling copies of mine to 1ls next year.

Third year was wild though. The student unrest was hitting even conservative Virginia. I was involved in antiwar activity and supposedly a radical. My father died suddenly during the summer of 1969 at age 49, leaving me an unprepared head of the family, with a distraught mother and a struggling family business. My wife was pregnant with our second child and she and I did not see eye to eye on what our next steps should be.

In the spring my wife went off to be with her parents before having the baby. Jackson State and Kent State happened and all hell broke loose on campus. We had Bill Kuntsler and Abbie Hoffman there for several days of rallies etc. I spent a lot of time with them and that was a big element in my turn conservative. They were liars and actively soliciting a riot that would not have their fingerprints too clearly on it.

So in 3L, and especially the spring semester, I did not give the courses the same attention I had for the rest of law school. They seemed something just to get out of the way. Through this I learned why so many people think law school is so hard. You have to give 100% effort to each class. Even if you are a so called top student, if it doesn't get full attention, it's hard. Somehow I stumbled through to a good result but it was difficult and stressful. Before it had only been hard work. Enjoyable hard work.

Ann Althouse said...

My husband did much more than what is normally expressed by the word "help"!

Robert Cook said...

"Student and mother. It is not easy. It is possible. Ideally, your husband will help you negotiate and ameliorate the requisite compromises."

I knew a woman who was in law school--after having previously been an actress--and while in school she discovered she had become pregnant by her boyfriend. They had a quick wedding over the summer, and--by luck--her timing was such that she had her baby during winter break between semesters. She returned for Spring semester and continued on to graduate (that year or the next)...with honors! She never missed a day of school due to her "sudden" motherhood and she maintained her high grades.

Wilbur said...

From my experience, very few lawyers enjoyed law school, or at least very few admit enjoying it.

I took a year off (1977-8) after college and did road construction and maintenance, because I had no ambition to do much of anything else. I applied for and went to law school simply because I thought I would enjoy it.

I did, even finding it exhilarating. I never felt so challenged and actually interested in the subject matter of school in my life.

Very few people I've met felt the same.

Ann Althouse said...

"Student and mother. It is not easy. It is possible. Ideally, your husband will help you negotiate and ameliorate the requisite compromises."

Let me amplify my previous statement (at 2:56).

Note the 3 words I used to describe the level of difficulty I had in 3rd year: pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation.

Those are the 3 things the man can't do, but he can help with.

I didn't say "childcare," though I helped with that. And the word "compromise" is not one of mine here. There was no compromise. We had a full-time parent in the home.

Don't forget that option. It exists and it deserves respect.

n.n said...

"Help" normally has a positive connotation. I will resist speculating on what "more than" implies. I will just say that a husband and wife should, in principle, and practice, be complementary. Unfortunately, that is often more of an ideal than a reality.

My comment, merits of your husband (or father of your child) notwithstanding, are actually directed to your achievement, as a student and mother.

n.n said...

Absolutely, as a practical matter, pregnancy is a highly personal issue.

As a principle any adjustment is a compromise. People like to be "whole" or on course. However, I would not impute "compromise" with a wholly negative connotation. It may be from an individual perspective. It may be from an external perspective. It may also be mitigated or relieved by circumstance or opportunity.

A husband or wife who remain at home to manage the family and domestic economy is a respectable occupation.

Richard Dolan said...

"From the finalists in Above the Law's Law Review Video Contest, this one's from my old law school NYU ..."

Note the slip: the ABL piece is actually titled "Law Revue Video Contest." That's about as far as you can get from the grind-ocracy that is the typical Law Review. Althouse was evidently into grind-ocracy, even grind-ocracy squared (she was on the NYU Law Review, then and now an intensely sought-after prize not easily achieved or given for reasons of gender, but that she accomplished despite the "three things" that men can't do but can help with).

Skeptical Voter said...

Ah the 3rd year of law school! Like the Godfather, I was class of '68, but out in Berkeley at Boalt Hall. My family background ran to engineers and teachers rather than lawyers, so I really didn't know what to expect in law school. I did know that my brand new wife wanted us to go back and practice law in her native San Diego. Martindale Hubbell was the "dictionary" of lawyers and law firms at the time. In the fall of 1965 there were just three San Diego law firms with more than 10 lawyers. I had no idea how law firms hired new lawyers, but I thought that if there were going to be any openings for "new hires" in 1968 when I graduated, they'd probably be in one of those firms.

And when you looked at the bios of the lawyers in those firms, they were all Order of the Coif and law review or law journal at one of four or five schools--Boalt, Stanford, UCLA and a smattering of Harvard and Yale.

I still knew bupkis about the hiring process, but I knew that making Coif and the Review was going to be important if we were going home to San Diego in 1968.

Law school can be a shock to your intellectual self esteem. Many of the people who arrive at 1L have been used to being "the smartest person in the room" wherever they came from. I don't know that I deserved that tag, but undergraduate school had been fairly easy for me and I hadn't had to work very hard. All that confidence fell away when I looked around my 1L class. Many of my class mates were light years ahead of me in native ability. The only shot I had at making the top 10% rank in the class was to outwork them. (Richard Nixon had a similar epiphany when he went to Duke Law. He wrote that he'd had to develop an "iron ass" for the library where he spent all his time.)

So I busted my chops for two and a half years and got inside the "cut line" as it were. A friend and I traded the same two places in class standing over the semesters--each of us grinding away. The cumulative GPA's of the top 30 students in the class were calculated to 4 decimal places. I can't say that I spent any time thinking about whether I was enjoying law school in those years. It was a task, there was a goal and I achieved it--whether I enjoyed it or not was irrelevant.

Things changed a bit in the spring semester of the third year. A professor gave some of us a chance to teach part of a course in Commercial Law. He was busy that semester, he hadn't had time to work up a syllabus etc, so if any third year students wanted to teach parts of the course, well be his guest. I taught for about a month of the semester.

I was joining one of those "big" firms in San Diego. I was spending most of my study time on preparing to teach that course. I let my effort level slip way down on the other courses that semester. Strangely enough, when I stopped trying so hard, my grades for that semester were the best I had in law school. And I actually did enjoy that spring semester.

But it was a different time. Law school fees and tuition in the late 1960's didn't leave students saddled with ruinous debt when they graduated. The Wall Street law firms weren't paying six figure salaries for brand new associates. 1968 was the year that they "broke the bank" and actually started paying five figure salaries. The law school class of '67 started at $9,600 a year on Wall Street--and whoo hoo the class of '68 started at $1,000 a month!

But all that was long ago and far away. My San Diego law firm had a total of 20 lawyers when I joined up. It was a nice way of professional life. It's now part of a 3,500 lawyer international law firm, and I'm not at all certain that I'd want to start out practicing law with them if I were a young lawyer.

Bob said...

After law school, when you joined a big law firm, did you also enjoy the challenge of the game and try to win?

Ann Althouse said...

"Note the slip: the ABL piece is actually titled "Law Revue Video Contest." That's about as far as you can get from the grind-ocracy that is the typical Law Review. Althouse was evidently into grind-ocracy, even grind-ocracy squared (she was on the NYU Law Review, then and now an intensely sought-after prize not easily achieved or given for reasons of gender, but that she accomplished despite the "three things" that men can't do but can help with)."

Just another one of those homophone typos. I'm surprised to see I did that. Fixed.

Ann Althouse said...

As far as whether I would have participated in Law Reevue.... I'm not talented musically, so no.

David said...

Skeptical Voter:

Little did we know that we were getting into law at one of the luckiest times ever for the private practitioner. The law firm I joined had 65 lawyers and I was concerned that it was too big and its growth might be limited. I started at $15k a year, which was more money than I had ever seen. Even with two kids and a mortgage, life was fairly comfortable financially. Also I was surrounded and led by outstanding lawyers who had the time to actually teach me something. Now there are more than 1000 of them.

Yeah it was hard work and there was lots of anxiety but it was a lucky life. The work was varied and interesting. Unfortunately we had some giant assholes in the firm (who would describe me the same way) and I never adjusted to them, or the fact that I should be very wary of their power.

I retired early. The big change in law firms was already underway, but I could have adjusted to that reasonably well. My reasons were personal, partly related to the practice, partly not. I'd done pretty well, but no longer felt I was up to the job.

I surely would not want to start out with my old firm now. Over 1000 lawyers. Big bureaucracy. Angst rather than coffee and doughnuts. But my attitude is probably a function of the experience I had. I'm sure the place still has lots to offer a young lawyer, but it's different now and we were lucky to have the opportunities we had then.

The Godfather said...

@Skeptical Voter and David: The DC firm I joined in 1969 had fewer than 70 lawyers (actually, I was lawyer 69 if you must know), and when I retired in 2003 they had over a thousand (a few years and a big merger later, I think they went over the 5,000 lawyer mark). I would not recommend a 5,000 lawyer firm to a mini-me just graduating from law school, but God knows what a mini-me would do today.

@Althouse: A classmate and I wrote a song for the Columbia Law Revue (people always said "Revue - You - EE" to make clear that the Law Review wasn't going musical). Our song was inspired by "Development of Legal Institutions" -- basically the history of the English Common Law -- and was sung to the tune of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land"; it began, "This land was your land, but now it's my land, thanks to a Writ of Novel Disseisin . . . ." So clearly if I had not gone into law, I had no future as a song writer.

Skeptical Voter said...

Bob--yup when I joined that "big" 20 man firm. I tried to win. The dirty little secret we all had was that we were having so much fun that we probably would have come to work even if they hadn't paid us.

Interesting work, interesting problems, mostly nice people, it was all pretty good. The firm had grown to 75 when I left to do antitrust work for one of the oil majors in Los Angeles. For most of my legal career--in San Diego and as house counsel for 25 years and then a few years as an energy lawyer with a mid sized firm I was a happy camper.

But it was clear in the early 2000s that law firm life had changed--and not for the better.

I think those of us who got out of law school in the late 60's or early 70's probably hit a sweet spot in the practice of law.

Biff said...

It amazes me how the f-word from the mouths of 20-somethings has become so tiresome.

Bob said...

David and Skeptical Voter:

Noam Scheiber, in his piece "The Last Days of Big Law," The New Republic, July 21, 2013, says that of all the occupational golden ages to come and go in the twentieth century -- for doctors, journalists, ad-men, autoworkers, none lasted longer, felt cushier, and was all in all more golden than the reign of the law partner.

Now it's different. Today, lawyers are driven to ever-more humiliating lengths to edge out rivals for business. He points out that lawyers at elite law firms have typically spent their lives amassing intellectual credentials. They are high school valedictorians, graduates of top colleges and law schools, clerked for federal judges. When they discover that brainpower is only incidental to their professional advancement -- that the real key is an aptitude for schmoozing -- it can be a rude awakening.

Nichevo said...

Then why not cut crao and train, groom, select for schmooze? Save the best educations for the STEM people. Who are the only ones that really need it. You can be an English major anywhere let alone a Granola Studies major.