Whit To The Witless: Chill Out

Apparently, I’m not the only person who didn’t care for the tendentious animated video that seems to have grabbed so many by the collar and shaken them from their stupor.  Jack Whittington, a law student and self-proclaimed “Millennial Man” doesn’t care for it either.  In his open letter to the legal community, Whit says enough with cynicism.

It seems like from the moment that I entered into law school I’ve been told by people in the legal community how much of a mistake it was to go to law school, or how tough it was going to be to get a job, or how the debt and the sacrifice just wasn’t worth it. Stop, just stop it, stop it now.

Why is that, Whit?

I get it, bottom line I get it. BUT did it ever dawn on any of you that maybe, just maybe many of us that did decide to take the plunge into law school didn’t do it for the money, fame or fortune, but we did it because we want to help others and make a difference?

I see classmates around me everyday involved in legal aid, public defenders, and pro bono clinics that are doing the work because they enjoy it – not because they want the world to look at them and tell them what a great job they’re doing. I firmly believe that the Millennial Generation more than any other generation before us feels as a whole that we were put on earth to make a fundamental difference, and make the world a better place.

We don’t need the people that screwed it up for us in the first place telling us how wrong or misguided are efforts are.

Unwittingly, Whit has stumbled upon a critical distinction that’s too often missed.  I know, Brian Tannebaum has been trying to drive this point home, time and again, but without the half-naked photos and titillating discussion of pre-marital sex acts at Above the Law, the point isn’t disseminated sufficiently.

The video that offended you Whit, and offended me as well though likely for different reasons, was neither intended to make you feel badly about your decision to become a lawyer, nor was produced by Baby Boomers to tell you how wrong you are.  Forget about Susan Cartier Leibel’s misguided shrieking to the contrary.  She’ll say anything to promote Solo Marketing University.  The distinction is that you, and those who like you, who are going to law school because you want to be a lawyer, are not like the lost children, the losers, the entitled, the Slackoisie.

You write of law as a profession, and you are absolutely correct.  It is a profession.  It is not a ticket to automatic wealth and fame.  It is not a guarantee of a future of luxury and comfort.  It is not an easy path to much of anything.  It’s not the right path for most.  This is where we part ways:

As recently as 50 years ago, attorneys were viewed as pillars of the community, moral upstanding citizens that were seen as role modelS for civic duty. Now in 2010 attorneys are looked upon with disdain, mistrust, and sometimes open hostility. This must change. We must get back to the era of the lawyer being seen as model citizens rather than the ambulance chasing sharks that we are portrayed as today. How do we get back? I’m not sure, but I do know that deterring people from entering the legal profession certainly won’t help.

Deterring the wrong people from becoming lawyers is an absolute necessity.  These are the people who believe that their law school tuition guarantees them big money.  These are the people who think being professional carries no obligation to serve their clients when it conflicts with things they would rather do with their time.  These are the people who will toss ethics to the side, walk the streets in hot pants, lie to clients, courts and themselves, for a buck.  These are not the people we need as lawyers.

You assume, as the young so often do, that everyone is of good intention; You see the best in others, which is a very nice attribute.  Unfortunately, it’s not always accurate.  Even more unfortunately, all those selfish, malevolent old people were once young law students too.  Just like you, they were all full of dreams and aspirations, hoping to change the world for the better.  It didn’t always turn out that way.  That’s why so many acts in desperation, dissatisfied with their lots in life and willing to do anything to score their next fee.

I believe you, Whit, that you aren’t like that.  I believe you when you say that you want only to serve others, to fix what those who came before you broke.  I believe you when you call for others to go to law school, forgetting that they don’t all share your fervor, to bolster the effort of helping others.  I believe you, Whit.

But I have to ask you one question.  If all this is true, why do you spend your time listening to those challenging the greedy, selfish and entitled?  Does the shoe fit better than you want to admit?  If not, then who cares about silly animations that fail to capture either the problem or promise of being a lawyer, and just aren’t funny? 

Whenever someone asks me if they should be a lawyer, I tell them “no, don’t be a lawyer.”  I know that if being a lawyer is what they truly want to do, they will ignore me.  I know that anyone who heeds me doesn’t belong in this profession.  That, Whit, is how we’re going to restore dignity to the law.

11 comments on “Whit To The Witless: Chill Out

  1. Justin T.

    Another oft-overlooked segment of the population we need to deter from going to law school is those who do so because they’re not sure what else to do.

  2. Justin T.

    Yeah, I actually wrote about some of my ideas to fix the legal profession a while back, and one of them was to make the LSAT more akin to the MCAT. It’s been said that the MCAT decides IF you’re going to go to medical school, whereas the LSAT decides WHERE you’re going to go to law school.

  3. Mark Bennett

    Both of you:

    Lighten up, Francis.

    The video is not aimed at you, Whit, and it’s not “advice for would-be law students,” Scott.

    It’s a small divertment, five minutes of entertainment, nothing more.

  4. DA Confidential

    I’m with Bennett on this one, mostly because it turns out I know the guy who made the movie. As well as being a talented lawyer he’s an aspiring novelist, a creative fellow who was doing little more than putting his dialogue skills to the test. Some don’t think it was funny, about half a million did.
    So, it wasn’t a message to deter, best I can tell, it was writing practice.
    I think those who’ve railed against his dose of light-hearted fun might want to consider that the image of lawyers also suffers when we can’t laugh at ourselves or get too defensive. I happen to think the movie makes some valid points about our profession.

  5. Mark Bennett

    It was very dry—dare I say “British”?—humor.

    It doesn’t “upset” me so much as concern me that you might be joining others we know in taking the path of ascribing nonexistent meaning to things in order to make points.

  6. SHG

    Aha. I am chuckling deeply inside, only ashamed that I missed it the first time.

    I don’t ascribe huge meaning to it, though it has been repeated with a great deal of frequency.  I just didn’t think it was very funny.  I think DA Confidential’s plea bargaining cartoon is funnier.  I understand Travis County Humor.

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