With all this talk about whether law schools are teaching the right things, I've been reflecting on what I did, and didn't, learn in law school.
Suffice it to say, the exploration is a bit disturbing.
Things I Learned in Law School:
How to nitpick over stuff that basically doesn't matter. Exhibit A, hours spent doing Law Review Bluebooking.
Some bits of legal trivia.
That federalism complicates a judicial system. (Have you ever tried to explain to a European how cases end up before the Supreme Court? Try it, it's illustrative.)
That the police really do behave in ways they shouldn't (see Legal Observing for Critical Mass and various protests).
That pro bono clients will talk your ear off, even if you try to stop them.
How to be mean on command.
That Bronx family court is a pretty crazy place to hang out.
That lots of lawyers (and lawyers-to-be) aren't very nice so you shouldn't expect them to be.
The last names of many of my classmates.
That you can pretty much argue any side of any issue, even if your position is ridiculous/immoral/unethical/whatever.
The fastest ways to rack up Westlaw and Lexis points.
Things I Did Not Learn That Would Have Been Useful:
How to structure and incorporate a business.
How to negotiate.
How to file for divorce, and who gets what.
What to say if your friend calls you from jail.
Anything about the type of law I eventually practiced.
What the police can do if they stop you.
How to do my taxes.
These lists seem really negative, but, as I think about it, I can't even remember the names of many of the classes I took, much less what we were supposed to have learned in them.
Granted, some parts of the second list were covered by the bar exam, and maybe I just made bad course selections, but still...I think there's a lot of work to be done here.
Alison Monahan is the founder of The Girl's Guide to Law School and a co-founder of the Law School Toolbox. A 2006 graduate of Columbia Law School, she was a member of the Columbia Law Review, a Civ Pro Teaching Assistant, a Kent Scholar, and a Stone Scholar. After law school, she clerked in the District of Massachusetts and was a BigLaw patent litigator for two years. Now she helps other aspiring lawyers get into law school, get through, and stay true to themselves in the process.
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