Bad Timing, Bad Choices, Bad Lawyers

The announcement that Whittier Law School was closing couldn’t have been a huge surprise. Too many law schools pumping out too many graduates for too few jobs and too little money. At SJW law blog, Above the Law, Staci Zaretsky slyly posed whether it was being shut down because “it’s full of minority students.” The 2016 bar passage rate for Whittier was 22%.

Make of that what you will, but it seems inconceivable, bordering on impossible, that any law school could do that badly. Yet it did. What has gone so horribly wrong?

At the Atlantic, Leigh Abramson, a former lawyer, writes that law is the only profession that has an industry devoted to helping people quit.

I went to law school because I didn’t know what to do after college and I’m bad at math. Law school seemed like a safe, respectable path and gave me an easy answer to what I was going to do with my life. And, as part of the millennial generation obsessed with test scores and academic achievement, I relished the spoils of a high LSAT score, admission to an Ivy League law school, and a job offer from a fancy corporate law firm.

I spent my first year as lawyer holed up in a conference room sorting piles of documents wearing rubber covers on my fingertips that looked like tiny condoms. Eventually, I was trusted with more substantive tasks, writing briefs and taking depositions. But I had no appetite for conflict and found it hard to care about the interests I was serving. I realized I had never seriously considered whether I was cut out to be a lawyer, much less a corporate litigator. After a few years, I just wanted out, but I had no idea where to begin.

As she now works in the law-quitting biz, her promotion of it, and apology for it, comes as no surprise. But her self-description is informative. Nowhere in there does she suggest she had the slightest clue what lawyers do before going to law school. Nowhere in there does she suggest she had any desire to be a lawyer.

As Abramson explains, becoming a lawyer seems like a viable default career. Don’t like blood? You can’t be a doctor. Can’t do math? Engineer is out. Need to validate unwarranted Millennial self-esteem? There are tests to take. Law seemed like a “safe, respectable path.” Why not? That’s not a good reason to become a lawyer.

But as bad a choice as it was for Abramson, who would seem to be a smart person despite having made a bone-headed choice, it’s a whole lot worse for the students who went to Whittier. The school is obsessed with diversity and inclusion, the feel-good lie that academics and the ABA have been beating to death. We must have more minorities in the profession, and we must do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Whittier was dedicated to the cause.

In the latest 2015 U.S. News and World Report rankings, Whittier Law School ranks as the most diverse law school in California, and is tied for the third most diverse law school in the nation. In addition, Whittier Law School was named the 5th Best Environment for Minority Students by Princeton Review.

“Diversity is at the heart of our school,” says Martin Pritikin, Acting Dean of Whittier Law School. “It’s in the very first sentence of our mission statement: ‘We are a diverse community that prepares students to excel in the practice of law.’ We are committed to increasing diversity in the legal profession.”

The days of law schools rejecting students who weren’t male and WASP have been gone for a while, and still there weren’t sufficient minority students and lawyers. This can’t be, as theory demanded that there be as many minority lawyers as minorities in the general population. There can be no disparity unless…it was discrimination. Since schools were desperate to get minority students to bulk up their social justice number, it couldn’t be that they were discriminating against minorities. It has to be something else.

There are, of course, two things that go into law school admissions to blame. College grades and the Law School Admission Test. Finding minority students who met the criteria, or came within a couple standard deviations, was still painfully difficult. Tons of studies explained why standardized criteria discriminated against minorities, but it didn’t do much to help them qualify.

In March, Harvard Law School announced that it was dropping the LSAT requirement. So what if the only tool to compare the apples and oranges of different undergraduate schools was thrown away? At least the admissions process would stop being discriminatory. Whether the admissions process would be able to distinguish students capable of surviving law school was secondary to the rainbow.

Warm and fuzzy, if largely irrational, gestures would surely produce the diverse profession law schools hoped to achieve. But what it would not necessarily produce was students capable of passing the bar, students capable of practicing law and, as Abramson reminds us, students who actually want to be lawyers.

Whether or not law was the learned profession we want to believe it was, it has become the default profession for undergrads ill-equipped to do anything useful with their lives. Like Abramson, the best reason to go to law school is, “I dunno, why not, whatevs.” And if that’s not bad enough, law schools like Whittier (and Harvard) were dedicated to sucking minorities into the mix of misery.

If you believe that Black Lives Matter, then why would you do such a thing? Why suck three years of tuition, three years of opportunity costs, three years of their lives, out of minorities only to fail the bar exam? And if they pass the bar exam, why suck them into the only profession that has an industry dedicated to helping them quit?

If a person really wants to be a lawyer, really wants to practice law, they will figure out what it takes to get into law school, learn what it means to be a lawyer, understand what a lawyer does. They will be lawyers without being seduced into it to fulfill the SJWs’ dream of diversity and inclusion. If not, they shouldn’t be. Don’t make them any more miserable than they have to be. Don’t do that to anyone.

37 thoughts on “Bad Timing, Bad Choices, Bad Lawyers

  1. Mike G.

    I know you’ve slept since then, but what made you decide that you wanted to be a lawyer?

    I thought I wanted to teach English back in the day until I figured out I didn’t have the patience to teach. It took me a while until I found my niche in construction.

    1. SHG Post author

      Nope, this isn’t about me. This isn’t about you. And this isn’t about anyone else who wants to tell their life story. Focus.

      1. B. McLeod

        An actual better source of analysis from ATL was Elie Mystal’s piece some time back on how these underperforming law schools have used the “diversity” shtick to perpetuate their exploitation of minority students left in financial ruin as a result of their “law school experience.” It isn’t a favor to take a few hundred thousand dollars from somebody who is borrowing it all, only to see them fail the bar and never land employment in the profession. I also found it interesting that Ms. Zaretsky’s piece is tied to a story about Whittier faculty “fighting back” to save “the school” (i.e., their jobs).

        1. SHG Post author

          No, it’s not “an actual better source,” but a conflicting source that Staci might have done well to consider before writing her post. Please be more careful in your language, unless you’re trying to take Bill’s place now that he’s back on his meds.

          1. Billy Bob

            I wouldn’t take the LSAT if you paid me. Am still looking for that “niche in construction”, and am fully qualified. Ha. Which is more than I can say for some of the lawyers I’ve known. Sit down, I have something to tell you,…
            The difference is: Construction is mostly honest (except in N.Y.) and the lawyerly
            profession is mostly dishonest (except in,…. NJ and CT).

            1. SHG Post author

              Now you’re just shit-posting me, Bill. Did I ever tell you about the tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise?

            2. Billy Bob

              No. I don’t watch TV, NetFlix or go to the movies. They don’t go to my movies,… Sorry, am drawing a blank, but I’m not v. hip in those areas.
              I’m a specialist in SCOTUS and Constituitional rights, whatever is left of em.
              I like drive-in theaters. So who’s this Darth guy? Sh!t posting is not part of my repertoire, trust it. I swear! I think we should a “conversation about this”. Ha.

          2. B. McLeod

            Sometimes Elie notices things that Staci doesn’t. Charlotte School of Law also has recent prizes for “diversity.” These schools have learned that playing the “diversity” card invokes ABA’s social engineering mission, triggering a deep cognitive dissonance with ABA’s theoretical role of enforcing “accreditation” standards, and paralyzing the befuddled ABA “progressives” into glacial inaction. In the case of CSL, the result was that ABA gave the school additional years to conform to standards (so that it, like Whittier, will likely remain “fully accredited” to the bitter end).

            1. SHG Post author

              Elie and Staci are different people. This post involves something Staci wrote. Your fascination with Elie is charming, but you should offer to buy him a rum and coke rather than keep writing comments about him.

            2. B. McLeod

              I had heard rumors to the effect that they were different people (they even have different titles).

      2. Mike G.

        Mea culpa for interjecting ” my life story” into my query.

        I think I meant my question as a general question to anyone as to why or how they decided that the study of law was what they wanted to make their life career as opposed to say, a barista at Starbucks or the day manager at the local Dairy Queen.*

        * Probably what you end up doing after failing the bar a couple of times.

        1. SHG Post author

          Well, isn’t that why SJ really exists, you can ask general questions of anyone despite whatever that dopey SHG wants to do here?

          1. Billy Bob

            Don’t be cruel! An Elvis Presley quote, you know the King [of R & R, before your time.] SHG dopey, no! Sloppy maybe, but not dopey.
            P.S., Life stories R Us. You have one supporter, if that makes you feel better.? Remember: Do not give up the Ship of Simple Justice,… it’s not that simple, unfortunately! Now go out and march for science [in the legal arena]. “Evidence-based research”, ya know, a-political shall we say?

          2. Mike G.

            Obviously I’m ignoring the first rule of holes and am gonna keep digging. Maybe I just didn’t pose my question in the right way.

            I was just curious about what motivates one to go into law instead of some other field of endeavor. Is it the ” I want to help people.” Or is it ” If I go into law, I can make an ass load of money in corporate litigation.” Or is it ” I want to be that SOB that puts all the scumbags behind bars where they belong.”

            Your post talks about people who don’t like math and can’t stand the sight of blood decide maybe law school should be their career choice and then find out later that that wasn’t their cup o’ tea either.

            I’ll stop digging now.

            1. SHG Post author

              Nice hole you got there. I’m not sure there’s a right answer, though “I suck at math” is definitely not it. The point is to want to be a lawyer more than become a lawyer because you’ve got nothing better to do with three years. Beyond that, it’s individual, but one needs to want it enough to be willing to suffer for it.

  2. Billy Bob

    We’d like to help you out [of the profession]. Which way did you come in?
    There are jobs you don’t want to do, but pay well.
    There are jobs you really, really want to do, but don’t pay enough to live on.
    And, last but not least, there are jobs nobody wants, and don’t pay well either.

    It’s a terrible conundrum. We’re surprised Harvaaad dropped the LSAT, but don’t blame them. We think it might be a smart move, the begining of a trend. They might be “ahead of the curve”–again–leading the way into the Great Law School Unknown! If Harvaaad does it, everyone else will want to follow suit. Can U say Y-A-L-E? S-T-A-N-F-O-R-D? We’re sorry Whittier is closing, but not very. We suspect this is the beginning of a mega-trend. Too many lawyers per capita. None available when you need them, if you catch our drift? It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme; that’s for sure. Suitable for fast mouths and clumsy hands only.

    Oh hi, Bill and Hillary. I did not know you two were together? (Law-school-breaths, both of em.)

      1. Billy Bob

        Sorry! We just finished our latest CLE seminar in San Diego. Had a wonderful time, mate, and you’d be amazed at how much, much, much cogency and clear-thinking we learned? The attendees were the most diverse we’d ever seen! The profession has come a looong way. You should be proud, beeecause we attribute this in no small part to your ceaseless blawging efforts, second-to-none.

        It’s nice to be home in the Eastern District, however. Careful with the all-caps! They can be jarring.

  3. el profesor presente

    It appears that Zaretsky does share some of your concerns, at least in some cases, based on her post from April 17: “Marnie has revealed herself to be the voice of a generation that has looked to law school as a fallback plan, and that generation has generally not been happy with the results.”

    Then again, Marnie is not only a character on Girls, she is someone who might “endlessly drone on about a topic as she regales the entire class with her very important life experiences and speaks about her ‘cultural heritage as a white, Christian woman.'” The concern for her situation is understandable.

    1. SHG Post author

      Ever since Lena Dunham lied about moving to Canada if Hillary didn’t win, I can’t bear Girls references, and consider them hate speech, which I learned from Howard Dean is prohibited by Chaplinsky. GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY!!!

      1. Morgan O.

        “Ever since Lena Dunham lied about moving to Canada..”- a fact for which Canadians quietly thanked our rigourous immigration screening process, and breathed a polite, slightly poutine-scented sigh of relief.

  4. B. McLeod

    Unlike the famous Mr. T,
    Of fools I am no pitier,
    As everything these students see,
    Grows shittier and shittier,
    They’re going to have to learn to be,
    A hundred times more grittier,
    No winner quits (and that is key),
    Nor ever wins a Quittier.

    1. Billy Bob

      You are not EyeRish, are ye? Nice try, but Fubar got you beat by a country mile.
      (The EyeRish talk in rhyme, the English in riddle. And the EyeTalians,… with their hands!)

  5. Ross

    One of the requirements to attend law school ought to be a session on the realities of being a young lawyer, with emphasis on the slave labor aspects of BigLaw, and the hunger aspects of the individual practitioner attempting to pay off student loans. I am regularly thankful that I realized that, while I enjoy learning about law and discussing it, I would either suck as a lawyer or hate the job, and chose not to go to law school.

    1. SHG Post author

      Some suggest that by the time a young person is ready for law school, they should be capable of getting these answers for themselves and making a knowledgeable decision. I am not one of the “some.”

  6. Scott Jacobs

    ‘We are a diverse community that prepares students to excel in the practice of law.’

    With that bar passage rate of 22%, it sounds like the people at Whittier are a bunch of fucking liars.

  7. NickM

    Considering how small their entering classes have gotten over the last few years, they don’t appear to be full of anything.

  8. Alchemist

    Years ago, there was a chemical engineering professor who would show the freshman class of prospective engineers a film about industrial accidents. While the survey of the wreckage, carnage, and ambulances played on the screen, the professor noted that if you are a computer programmer and your program crashes, you just have to reboot the computer. If you are a chemical engineer and your process crashes, people may be killed. Every year he did this, there were students who left the lecture hall, some sobbing, to pursue a different course of study.

    Maybe law schools need to do something similar, by showing the consequences, the lives ruined, by incompetent counsel.

  9. JordieOllie

    The job prospects for law school graduates are dismal and get worse every year. I don’t feel sorry for them as most law students are, frankly, jerks and entered law simply because they wanted to boast about being a big shot attorney. It’s kind of funny that most of them can’t get decent jobs now and are up to their eyeballs in student loan debt.

    1. B. McLeod

      I don’t know anyone in the trade who boasts about being a big shot attorney. Most folks who have been in the business long don’t disclose their occupation in casual settings. Anyone who goes to law school thinking they will attain some kind of elevated social status has been sadly misinformed.

Comments are closed.