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Posts Tagged ‘Antonin Scalia’

My client is finishing her 1L year. She’s bored.

“I study. Then I study some more. Then I go to sleep. Then I get up and study again. It’s the same for everyone.”

At least, I proposed, the subject matter was interesting.

She demurred. “Yeah, I guess…but – really? I mean…Property law? Contracts? Torts?”

Her demurrer was sustained. She had a point.

Maybe it’s your turn to demur. The subject matter of law school – law itself – not interesting!?? That’s unthinkable. It has to be the school’s fault – my client must be attending some fourth-tier degree mill, with sub-par teaching and a dull-witted student body…

But the school’s not at issue here. She’s attending one of the top places in the country. Not that it would make much difference, since every law school essentially teaches the same thing, first-tier or fourth-tier.

Then it must be her fault. If she doesn’t appreciate the study of law – if this Philistine isn’t drawn to the greatness of legal scholarship – she doesn’t deserve her seat at an exalted institution.

I’m not convinced. This young woman projects intelligence, and turns heart-felt-y and passionate discussing her real interest – international human rights law. Unlike most law students, she did an internship and reads books, so she knows what international human rights law is (even if, like most law students, she vastly over-estimates its significance.)

It’s possible things will get better next year, when she takes a course on international human rights law. On the other hand, law school courses have a way of making topics less interesting than they were before you took them.

Maybe the fault doesn’t lie with any particular school, or any particular student. Maybe it lies with the myths surrounding law school itself.

Let’s gather for a moment, and contemplate the inconceivable: Maybe law school is just…well…not that big a deal. Maybe it isn’t engrossing or life-altering or – much of anything. Maybe the whole schtick – law school as the turning point in a young lawyer’s existence – is oversold. The legal industry itself is a bubble recently popped. Perhaps the mystique surrounding law school is due for puncture.

Ask yourself – is the subject matter taught in law schools really so engrossing? Or were you taught to believe the subject matter taught in law schools is really so engrossing?

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It’s hard to conjure up bad stuff to say about clerking. It’s an honor, and an all-expense-paid ticket on an exclusive legal gravy train. If you’re lucky enough to clerk for a federal district or circuit court judge, you can rest assured you’re looking good and feeling good. You might even shoot the moon and sing with the Supremes. In that case, you’re good to go: You’ll never have to practice actual law again. You can sign up now to teach a seminar on “Law and Interpretive Dance” at Yale or attend sumptuous international human rights conferences hosted by African dictators. Life is good at the top. Imagine the stimulation of interacting one-on-one with the mind of a Clarence Thomas (and acquiring access to his porn collection.) You could be the clerk who builds an ironclad case striking down universal access to healthcare – or witness the day Justice T opens his mouth to speak during oral argument.

Even if you’re clerking for an obscure political hack (which is the norm), as a clerk you qualify to skip out of biglaw hell. The deal – as you probably know – is thus: you get to work non-law firm hours for a year, then return to the firm as though you’d suffered with the other monkeys. If you finish two clerkships, you double your fun and skip two years of Hell-on-Earth – then return with a third year’s salary!

Clerking gigs can be hard work – you could be researching and writing twelve hours a day. But you’re not putting in weekends (usually), and thanks to the court calendar, there are slow times built into the schedule. Your judge could turn out to be geriatric and losing his marbles (not a rare occurrence) or simply a lunatic – but you’re still doing substantive, important work – rather than, say, researching an un-busy partner’s attempt at a treatise or frying your brain with doc review.

Clerking is a sweet deal – one good reason to do litigation instead of corporate. As a clerk, you might learn something. That’s probably not going to happen as a junior doing corporate.

Yes, there’s a catch, and it’s a whopper: Most clerkships – a whole lot of clerkships – require relocating to the middle of freakin’ nowhere.

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