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Don't be a Fool--Stay Out of School;
29 Reasons Not to Go to Law
by Ralph Warner, Toni Ihara & Barbara Kate Repa
Copyright © 1994 Nolo Press
The message you will read here is subversive of a cherished American
fantasy--the one in which the sons and daughters of Pullman porters,
clerks and cowboys go to the University, get awarded a Juris Doctor
live happily ever after in the suburbs.
The thesis is simple. Lawyering in the U.S., which has traditionally
been one of
the major crossroads where power and status merge to produce six-figure
simply isn't what it used to be. These days, so many power-hungry young
barristers are competing to pay the rent on their Porsches that getting
license almost guarantees gridlock in a traffic jam of stalled
And if one trouble with being a lawyer is that it just isn't the field
it used to
be, the main difficulty with law school is that it's exactly the
always was--still featuring the teaching methods of the Spanish
combined with a curriculum so enamored with the nineteenth century that
notices the twentieth and absolutely won't concede that a new one is
Nolo long ago concluded that there are only four things wrong with
jumping on the
lawyer track: The Law Students, Law School, Becoming a Lawyer and
Here are a few of the reasons that explain why.
The Law Students--Reason 4. The Eager Beaver
Eager Beavers fixate on the lichens on the bark of each tree and miss
view of the forest. They approach each new law school lecture as a
challenge--arriving equipped with tape recorder, video recorder, as well
standard yellow pads, notebooks, pens, back-up pens and a passel of
When the day's classes are done, Eager Beavers quickly dart back to
which are invariably strewn with fast food wrappers and half-forgotten,
half-eaten tacos and chicken wings. Once inside, they set to the task of
transcribing and retranscribing the day's notes, tapes and films--all
checking them against old class outlines purchased for $100 each from
upperclassmen, all of whom claim to be editor of the law review. Done in
details, Eager Beavers have no time to study or to prepare for the next
classes. Almost sadly, not one Eager Beaver makes it through first
finals. The more severe cases are usually discovered months later by
landlords, buried beneath mountains of obsolete study aids.
Less severe cases quit and become successful accountants.
Law School--Reason 13. Bad Eyes, Bad Backs, General
During your three years of pre-Esquire servitude, you are almost
develop one or all of the following physical deformities: bad eyes, a
and general sickliness.
Bad Eyes: The cause of this condition is pretty CLEAR--unless you're a
student who has not yet seen an optometrist, in which case you will be
Each year, law students read the equivalent, both in volume and
interest, of six
Manhattan phone books, three Sears Roebuck catalogues and the collected
Danielle Steele. This incipient blindness, accompanied by chronic
often produces a fairly noticeable wrinkling of the brow. This can be
a considerable asset later on, as clients often mistake it for a look of
Bad Back: Not as severe as Quasimodo's condition, but a definite
curvature of the
spine occurs after three years of relentless toting around and hunching
Prosser on Torts, Williston on Contracts and Louisell on Pleading. Some
try to avoid this condition by studying while seated in backless,
Ergonomically Correct chairs. This group can be easily identified by
General Sickliness: Nowhere breathes a weaker-constitutioned, more out
more pallid group than in a law school classroom. Most within their
from nonspecific symptoms of exhaustion, mild nausea and poor
consulted, doctors normally shrug and smile maliciously--having felt
throughout med school. Sufferers--and that includes almost all law
the possible exceptions of The Drudge, The Compulsive Talker and The Ass
Kisser--want to go to bed and pull the covers over their heads for three
Of those who do, 100% have reportedly been cured. The great suffering
however, swig from bottles of Maalox and plug along, saving their bile
savorous day when they file their first medical malpractice action.
Becoming a Lawyer-- Reason 21. Looking Lawyeresque
Suppose you wanted 300 ordinary men and women--some vegetarian, some
brown, some tall, some in wheelchairs, some wearing T-shirts and
riding motorcycles, some who secretly aspire to be rock stars, artists
poets--to dress in nondescript blazers, starched button down shirts and
black shoes, to wear thick glasses, to speak authoritatively in a
multi-syllabic language, to strut about determinedly with one shoulder
far lower than the other pulled by the weight of an ever-present
Italian briefcase, to constantly check the watch on the other arm, grind
teeth, to interrupt whenever anyone begins to speak and to carry
in little gold engraved cases to the ski slopes?
Let them into law school.
Keep them there three years.
Let them out.
Practicing Law--Reason 31. Choosing a Specialty
No one believes in generalists anymore. In medicine, internists have
replaced by a host of Allergists and Immunologists, Endocrinologists,
Neurologists, Gastroenterologists and various other extremely
ologists.If you want to be a successful lawyer--that is, one who
confusion and awe in all around you--you will almost surely have to
some area of law.
The P.I. Law Firm Ordinaire: Imagine yourself hanging around the
people who are actively rooting for someone who has suffered a serious
to walk, or better yet, wheel himself through your firm's door. You know
about to make partner when you find yourself rubbing your hands at the
a new quadriplegic client.
The P.I. Law Firm Extraordinaire--Airline crashes, chemical spills,
disasters and other big-time catastrophes: As a new lawyer, your main
job will be
to fly to obscure disaster locations, open a temporary office and attend
funerals. Here you will find yourself lined three deep with other
lawyers tossing your card at the victim's family. (To develop the
motions, law firm associates spend hours scaling baseball cards into the
stand). With the internationalization of tort law, if you can say: "I
can get you
big bucks" in 40 or more languages, you are almost sure to be a
The Criminal Law Firm: Imagine joining forces with that cadre of armed
inebriated lawyers who regularly defend the nation's criminals.
- All of your clients will be guilty and many will secretly scare you
- As a result, you will lose most trials. This is depressing in and
- As a result, you will find yourself on the shit lists of a large
hostile, revenge-consumed, homicidal types who will eventually be
same streets you are. This is even more depressing.
- As a result, you will buy one or more guns which you will stash
there around your living and working quarters. This will be scary to
and kids and will likely result in them regarding you in the same light
do your clients. Most depressing.
Sports Law: This one sounds glamorous. The goal is to find a few
athletes with $2
million salaries and take 10% for negotiating a new contract now and
reality is that you have to sign up a small herd of junior high school
and more or less support the ungrateful, sex-crazed, substance abusers
next decade. And even if you manage to do this without going nuts, the
really good ones are likely to:
- injure some part of themselves you've never heard of
- get bought off by another lawyer
- drive their first Porsche into a goalpost after snorting something
used to tranquilize turkeys, or
- all of the above.
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