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?
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.