10 Reasons to Avoid Marquette Law School

Gideon at A Public Defender posted a very funny list entitled “10 things I didn’t learn in law school.”  I thought it was very funny.  How funny was it?  Funny enough that it made it onto Feminist Law Professors, and we all know that Ann Bartow lost her sense of humor in a tragic kiln explosion years ago.  It was funny enough that Jessica Slavin, Marquette lawprof posted it on the school’s faculty blog.

That’s when the true nature of Marquette law school reared its old, ugly, stodgy and humorless head.  Along comes David Papke to find misery under every rock:

With the exception of item #10, I thought the list was cynical to a fault. Too many lawyers have a sad bitterness and mean anti-intellectualism about them. Maybe living in debt and working in the context of hierarchy and bureaucracy produces those attitudes. I wish somehow that lawyers could remember law school as a demanding but enriching academic experience.

Let’s add up the adjectives:  cynical, bitterness, mean anti-intellectualism (does that count for one or two?).  Since Papke came of age in the 60s while attending Hahvad College, when a guy named Andrew Weil was busily promoting altered states of consciousness and Timothy Leary was enjoying the benefits of psilocybin, maybe there’s an organic explanation for his need to see the dark cloud in front of every silver lining.  Some people can just suck the fun out of anything.

The comments devolved after Papke’s shower of venom rained down.  Andrew Golden, a student contributor, wrote:

Also, to respond to Professor Papke:

“Maybe living in debt and working in the context of hierarchy and bureaucracy produces those attitudes.”

I couldn’t disagree with you more vehemently. I think the problem is that the happy ones don’t waste their time making silly lists; they do their jobs well and enjoy their lives. It’s just the few vocal malcontents that seem to grab the spotlight.

Gideon a malcontent?  Few are more dedicated to their cause than Gideon.  What would possibly give this law student the sense of self-righteousness to reach such a bizarre conclusion?

And if these 6 months at the Public Defender’s office internship have taught me anything, it’s that A LOT of clients hate me because I’m white, because I’m Jewish, because they perceive me as looking through them, or just because I’m not cuffed and they are.

I can only speak to my personal experiences, but the people I work for at the PD’s Office are FAR less cynical than I am, and I’ve been called overly idealistic by many people at MU Law.

Six months interning with the PD.  I wonder if Gideon’s years of practice can possibly hold a candle to that.  But it’s harder to fault this law student after some grumpy old professor has already spun the post into a condemnation of misery, leaving the kid to spout his one-dimensional understanding of what lawyers do, as if they hold ice cream parties at the close of business every day.

If I had to come up with some rational explanation for this purveyor of misery, it’s the product of his spending his life in the academy where he was never challenged to actually represent a human being, deal with judges or wallow in the trenches with real lawyers.  Such defensiveness might be derived from his own deep-seated recognition that he can’t enjoy the joke, because he’s never experienced what lawyers do.  Wrapped up in his pompous self-righteousness, no one can make fun of law school and, by so doing, make him the butt of the joke.  There is bitterness here, but it has nothing to do with Gideon. 

Thankfully, this isn’t the way most lawprofs I know react.  First, they can enjoy a funny list.  Second, they realize that law school falls a tad shy of perfection.  Third, they aren’t miserable jerks.  Some, particularly those who have actually practiced law, are well aware of the fact that law school falls far short of preparing kids to practice law, as has been discussed ad naseum by just about everyone who isn’t a pompous, self-righteous law school sycophant.

Am I being too harsh on Papke?  Probably, but no more harsh than he was on Gideon.  If those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach, then Papke is the poster boy for Law Professors.  So if you need a lesson in how to be a miserable, pompous, disagreeable jerk, there’s a special seat for you in David Papke’s class at Marquette Law School.  Otherwise, here’s 10 reasons to avoid Marquette Law School, and they’re all Papke.

Post Script:  I have great respect for a number of the other lawprofs at Marquette, and offer my sympathies for having to hang out with this miserable jerk at faculty parties.

30 thoughts on “10 Reasons to Avoid Marquette Law School

  1. CharonQC

    Ludicrous. I’m afraid in my 25 years of teaching law I have come across some thoroughly tedious academics.

    Fortunately… I don’t have to listen to them or read their leaden prose. There are many academics, thankfully, who are amusing, insightful and who are good at what they do. They just get on with it and, in my experience, have a great deal of respect for practitioners.

    My brother, Prof R D Charon, spent much of his life writing articles no-one read. He went mad in the end…. we don’t speak much. Occasionally he does a guest post on my blawg. I may see what he is up to this Christmas – probably pouring over the Modern Law Review – and see if I can entice him to write some drivel on my blawg.

    Good post. I wouldn’t be too hard on the law student…. a bit of wine, a bit of experience may open his mind. If not… then he may find himself consigned to the ranks of those who rush across bridges in the morning to get to work and spend their day doing jobs they don’t enjoy.

    I get the impression that you and Gideon enjoy your work. Long may it be so.

    And on that note… I shall open a bottle of rioja to further open my mind. A piu tarde.

  2. SHG

    Perhaps if we sat this Papke down with a bottle case of rioja, we could help him achieve a deeper insight into the world of law.

  3. Gideon

    Thanks for the post. I did get the sense that some of the commenters there missed the point. By quite a bit. It goes to show, yet again, the divide between those of us who practice in the real world and those who teach. It is unfortunate, because even if it isn’t, law school should be the place where we are given the tools to practice in real life.

  4. SHG

    I wouldn’t care if someone didn’t find it funny, but it was inexcusable that you were the subject of such a vehement ad hominem attack, projecting personal fear, frustration and misery onto you to deflect from his own.

  5. Gideon

    Well, don’t you think it’s a product of not doing what we do? Anyone who practices in our field (or any field, really, where you deal with real people as clients and are in the trenches) knows that we have a strange sense of humor.

    I do agree that the bitterness comments were unwarranted. He could have taken the time to read my blog to see if I really was a malcontent public defender who hated my job and was waiting for the first BigLaw opportunity to come along so I could fill my coffers with blood money.

  6. SHG

    I think you’re too forgiving.  Other lawprofs found it sufficiently funny to post links to it, and he took his offense out by attributing negative attributes to you.  The humor wasn’t at all strange, and that he didn’t personally find it funny provides no explanation for why he felt compelled to go after you that way.  Even worse, this is someone who purports to be a scholar?  Even worse still, this is someone into whose hands we entrust young people? 

  7. Gideon

    Hmm, seems like the blog ate my last comment. What I said was that it was disappointing that someone who teaches future lawyers would take this attitude, and seemingly for no reason. An explanation would have been nice.

  8. John Kindley

    I indeed remember law school as a “demanding but enriching academic experience,” but mainly because I lucked in to a law review topic that caught my imagination and passion and that had obvious real-world implications. (The article was titled “The Fit Between the Elements for an Informed Consent Cause of Action and the Scientific Evidence Linking Induced Abortion with Increased Breast Cancer Risk,” and upon publication in the Wisconsin Law Review was distributed to every member of congress by a congressman-physician.) I am indeed bitter for the most part about the rest of law school, because in retrospect I see how little it did to prepare us for the actual practice of law, and how it functions mainly as a barrier to entry to the profession, to protect not consumers of legal services but the livelihoods of the already-credentialed.

    I do think there’s validity to the idea that “working in the context of hierarchy and bureaucracy” contributes to attitudes of “sad bitterness and mean anti-intellectualism.” The perplexing results of the two appellate cases I’ve handled, one in North Dakota several years ago (Kjolsrud v. MKB Management) and the other decision released by the 7th Circuit just this past Friday in a criminal case, leaves one with the sad impression that having the best and most well-thought-out arguments doesn’t really matter. Most frustrating about the 7th Circuit decision is that the court didn’t even analyze or provide justification for its resolution of what it acknowledged to be the crux of the case (i.e. whether the factual basis for a guilty plea can be based on anything other than the defendant’s admissions in the plea agreement and the plea colloquy).

    Yes, there is cause to be cynical about the legal system, most definitely including law school’ place in that system. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t maintain a sense of humor about this sorry state of affairs, or that for the sake of ourselves and our clients, who are both caught up in this system, we shouldn’t try to make the very best out of a bad situation.

  9. H. Morgenthaler

    > “I indeed remember law school as a “demanding but enriching academic experience,” but mainly because I lucked in to a law review topic that caught my imagination and passion and that had obvious real-world implications. (The article was titled “The Fit Between the Elements for an Informed Consent Cause of Action and the Scientific Evidence Linking Induced Abortion with Increased Breast Cancer Risk,” and upon publication in the Wisconsin Law Review was distributed to every member of congress by a congressman-physician.)”

    Given that the non-partisan international scientific community recognizes no credible scientific evidence to support an association between abortion and increased breast cancer risk, I have to question how demanding or enriching an academic experience was that permitted and rewarded you for churning out factually-inaccurate, partisan anti-choice propaganda by way of your Law Review.

    Likewise, I’m not sure that someone who regurgitates partisan pap has much ground to stand on in a discussion of anti-intellectualism.

    I agree however that your law review topic has significant real-world implications: the civil and reproductive rights of women in Wisconsin.

    What a tragedy for Wisconsin women; what an embarrassment for the Wisconsin Law Review.

    But please don’t feel bitter about the rest of your education. Surely some day another group of people will come forward to whose civil and human rights you can campaign against and give you the second chance at glorious career advancement to which you are surely entitled.

    I hear curing gays is a hot topic these days in the anti-science community. You might want to look into it.

    Good luck on the next brass ring.

  10. John Kindley

    The depth of your prejudice and abject thralldom in scientific matters to the “argument from authority” and the “argument from consensus” indicates that you are not worth arguing with, and that you are in fact the partisan hack you accuse me of being. In point of actual fact, I don’t think abortion should be subject to criminal sanction, although that has little to do with my moral perception of abortion itself. As I’m sure you can imagine, the editors of the Wisconsin Law Review would never have agreed to publish my article if they didn’t believe I had made my case. They were uniformly pro-choice, and yet were convinced that of course women have a right to be informed about the evidence and the potential risk prior to having an abortion, whether or not the link had yet been “established” or proven beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a broad consensus within the scientific community.

  11. SHG

    That’s enough of that.  This isn’t about Kindley’s law review politics, which had nothing to do with the subject in the first place, but now that you’ve gotten your licks in, this is done. 

  12. Simple Justice

    Marquette Law School: Training Lawyers is Beneath Us

    No matter how much one might have hoped that attending Marquette Law School might prepare one for a glorious career as a lawyer, prepare to have your hopes dashed.

  13. Simple Justice

    Marquette Law School: Training Lawyers is Beneath Us

    No matter how much one might have hoped that attending Marquette Law School might prepare one for a glorious career as a lawyer, prepare to have your hopes dashed.

  14. Andrew Golden

    In my defense, I wrote my response to that post on the Faculty Blog with the premise that the list was being taken seriously, which is what all of the posters above me had done. It’s not like I looked at a post from a guy calling himself “Gideon Trumpet” and didn’t recognize the intent was to be funny!

    That being said, I think my comment is being a bit misconstrued here. First, the “6 months at the PD Clinic” reference was me agreeing with his list, not being self-righteous. I was saying that even just being an intern for 6 months, with the degree of sheltering that comes with it, I’ve seen that kind of daily hatred from clients. It wasn’t until I started the workshop part of my internship that anyone taught me how to deal with clients hating you. Second, my “malcontent” comment wasn’t aimed at Gideon, though I can see how it looked that way and feel bad about it. Professor Papke’s comment was an implied jab at the scores of lawyers — and I think we can all agree that they exist — who practice the law while hating it. His point — and one he’s made in several classes I’ve been in — is that the day that practicing law starts being a boring repetitive task that you hate is the day you should get out of it. It’s not a bad point; if you hate being a lawyer, why be a lawyer?

    Look, his comments came off TERRIBLY on the blog, but I know Professor Papke well, and I guarantee you that he’s not even remotely pompous or miserable in person. In fact, he’s got a better sense of humor about the practice of law than most of the other faculty members. I have no earthly idea why he took the post so seriously that day, but that isn’t his normal persona by any means.

  15. SHG

    So you didn’t really mean it, and just went along with Papke to be part of the gang?  There’s a ringing endorsement for Marquette, and you.  At least you didn’t sprain anything by attempting independent thought.  Sorry, kid, but you can’t have it both ways.

  16. Andrew Golden

    That isn’t what I’m saying. How do you get from my comment that I “went along with Papke to be part of the gang?” I disagreed with what he said! With the exception of two points on the list (“not learning how to deal with clients hating you” and “not knowing that there’s always room to improve”), I actually said that I agreed with the whole thing. Now, you can certainly criticize me for accepting the premise of taking it seriously, but look at Gideon’s comments. He may have intended it to be humorous, but he also responded on the Faculty Blog that:
    “The list was a joke, an attempt at humor with some truth sprinkled in.”
    So let me get this straight: I agree with most of the points Gideon made, disagree with Papke, and yet I’m blindly following the faculty members?

    Furthermore, it’s a conversation, albeit an electronic one, and I went with the path the conversation is going. It’s not my responsibility in every conversation I’m in to control it. Besides, look at those comments again. Leaving out the malcontent reference (which, again, I didn’t mean to reference to Gideon, and I’ve apologized to him for making it sound that way), you’re telling me that my post is somehow worse than the professor who says, “Well, none of my clients have ever hated me?” Really? My agreeing with the list is worse than a practitioner — supposedly the antithesis to the “stodgy academics” like Professor Papke — saying that clients never hate their lawyer?

    I meant what I said. I believe the list is accurate. I believe that there are lawyers out there — not Gideon, but certainly we can all name a couple we’ve met in our day to day lives — who HATE being lawyers, and I think those people need to get out of the profession. I believe that “living in debt and working in the context of hierarchy and bureaucracy” has nothing to do with hating the law, and I think most public defenders are an excellent example of why this statement is untrue. Do I wish I could rephrase the “malcontent” comment? Absolutely. In a heartbeat. But me taking back one comment that didn’t come out like I meant it to doesn’t mean that I’m revoking my whole post.

    Look, I concede that there are definitely people at MU Law that see it as some intellectual exercise. There are people like that in every law school. But for the amount of debt I’m going into to go there, you can be damn sure I’m not one of them. I’d like to pretend the pursuit of an “A” matters to me (and perhaps it should a bit more), but my measure of success and failure is if I can use what I’ve learned, not if I can regurgitate the theoretical. But I still recognize the need for the academic as a base for the practical; much as I hate rote memorization, if I had to refresh my memory of Terry every time I had to write a memo . . .

    Like I said, I have no idea what Professor Papke was thinking when he wrote that. If we weren’t on winter break, I’d ask him. But one mistaken reaction to a blog doesn’t make him a bad professor.

  17. SHG

    And the reason something is funny is often because there’s truth in it.  And there is.  Here’s the hard part to understand. Law school does some things well, and many poorly.  It does not teach you to practice law.  It leaves out a ton of stuff that you really need to know to BE a lawyer, because professors may want desperately to turn it into some existential discussion of deep legal thought, while lawyers need to have a clue how to practice law.  Law schools, generally, suck at the latter,

    Lawyers know what law school does poorly.  Law students don’t, because they aren’t lawyers.  They’ve never practiced.  They’ve never walked into a courtroom to have their ass handed to them by a judge for being totally clueless as to how the law works.  And nobody told you when you paid your law school tuition bill that you would walk out with a degree, but without the ability to actually do anything.

    But none of that makes lawyers “bitter” and “malcontents”.  That was your word, I believe.  It makes it a right of passage that real lawyers share, the goofiness of law school and having to learn the ropes in the trenches when real people put their lives in your hands.

    As for Papke, his comments were defensive, because they reflect his failure as a law professor to serve any purpose, reducing his life to a waste.  Instead of recognizing that he has failed, he lashed out at Gideon to make him the bitter one.  And you, dear law student, went right down the garden path with him, using the vast experience of your 6 month internship to note that while Gideon was a malcontent (your word, I believe), there were others who loved the law, loved their law schools and were thrilled to serve humanity.

    You didn’t agree with the malcontent (your word, I believe), and you certainly didn’t comprehend why the list was funny and why we all laugh at law school’s failure to produce students who are competent to be lawyers.  But then, you wouldn’t have the capacity to do so.  Some day, you may.  But Papke will wallow in the misery of his wasted life.  And your assessment of Papke really doesn’t count for much, because you haven’t a clue as yet as to what he did and did not prepare you to do.

  18. Jessica Slavin

    I have to agree with Andrew that David Papke is pretty much the opposite of what you’ve tried to make him out as in this post. And, frankly, read this mean-spirited comment string has me agreeing more with his comments about lawyers’ bitterness and anti-intellectualism than I did in the first place.

  19. SHG

    I feel fairly confident that lawyers are fully prepared to suffer the loss of your support.  So you’re clear, we aren’t bitter and anti-intellectual.  We just can’t tolerate assholes and cowards.

  20. Simple Justice

    The Value of a Good Education

    Amongst the many tenets of our American dream, a foundational principle is that every child deserves a good education, and with that education, anyone can grow up to be President.

  21. Simple Justice

    The Value of a Good Education

    Amongst the many tenets of our American dream, a foundational principle is that every child deserves a good education, and with that education, anyone can grow up to be President.

  22. D. Iancu


    As a former classmate of Andrew Goldin and a former student of both Jessica Slavin and David Papke, I am confident that you have no idea what you are talking about. Your characterization of all of them is off. Further, I am confident that you are tactless, rude, and have no respect for others, and probably yourself.

  23. D. Iancu

    Mr. Greenfield,

    I agree with your assertions about law school and its failure to adequately prepare law students for real-life practice. However, I don’t think that it takes a genius, or a practicing lawyer to realize that truth. An intelligent, observant law student, completely immersed in a curriculum of theory and lacking practical teachings (as is the case in law school) can also easily realize that they will be less than prepared for real practice.

    That being said, Professor Papke is anything but a “waste of life” (as you kindly put it). He is passionate about his job and takes pleasure in teaching his students.

    You’re right, Attorney Greenfield, confidence is no substitute for knowledge, but the phrase is most accurately applied to your baseless, inaccurate, and seemingly mean-spirited statements about Marquette and Professors Papke and Slavin.

  24. SHG

    It’s very sweet that you’ve come to the defense of your professors and your school.  Come back in a few years and perhaps you’ll have a different understanding of what this post was about.

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