American law school: the single most inefficient, arrogant educational system I’ve ever experienced.

Standard

The title says it.  I finished my 1st semester.  It’s officially the lowest GPA I’ve ever received (and no, I’m not using the Asian standard here), and you all know I’ve been unhappy with the program from the mid semester.  Indeed if my grades were a bit better, I wouldn’t be this upset.  But now that most of my grade rolled out, it’s like throwing a gas bomb into a burning house, burning house being my complaints which started from mid 1st semester.  Here are my point-to-point complaint about the law school system as a bit older student than average.

1. Do they know this is 1st year and all of 1st year students have no idea what the law is?

With very few exceptions, law school doesn’t teach anything in 1st year, which is ridiculous. They just throw you bunch of cases with zero context explained.  Then, in class, most of the professors talk about whatever they think is relevant or important.  Are you being tested on it? Hell no.  The exam is about how to apply the rules (which is rarely talked about in class) to the given situation (again, rarely done in classes).

If this is psychology or political science grad program, ok, I get it.  It’s legitimate to assume that 1st year students know a thing or two about the subject because they learned it from undergrad, and thus professors can throw materials and their ideas as much as they want.  Law? no.  There is no “law” undergrad major in America.  Many of us don’t know anything about the law.  Think it this way.  There is a group of people who have no idea about American football.  A chaperon takes a group to a game, without much pre-game explanation.  The game starts, and all the chaperon talks about is “that John Smith is an awesome quarterback,” “the linebacker is useless here” when people have no fucking idea about the general rules of football, let alone what is quarterback or linebacker.  After viewing one or two games without much explanation, all of sudden, the chaperon pushes the kids to the field and play the game, or makes them to write an analysis about a game strategy as a whole.  Then you are graded on that one thing.

I get, to some degree, why the law is taught in this way.  Lawyer’s job is to find a bunch of relevant cases and rules and draw a summary from it.  Oh, was this explained in my class? NO.

2. Ridiculous schedule

Yeah, okay, professionals are paid that much money to work under pressure in a tight schedule.  I get it.  But, I don’t know whether it’s efficient to work 1st year noobs under such a schedule.  Shouldn’t a school be a training institution, where you can practice and make a lot of mistakes and learn from it?  As I said before, because the nature of lawyer’s job, I think it’s essential to give the students some time to think about the material in various ways.  Then, as you get used to it, it will get faster.

Sadly, the law school doesn’t allow this.  From day 1, it’s assignment assignment assignment.  If you really follow what your professors say and their syllabus accordingly, you just do your reading assignment, go to class exhausted, and read for next class.  That’s it.  There’s no time to think.  And your grade depends on one-shot exam.  As the students got little bit more used to the law school system, the internship period rolls in, so you’ll have to send out your resume like crazy when the semester is still running.  And your first-ever grade in law school will affect that your first-ever internship.  In only 4-months timeframe of your 1st experience.

Look, I’ve had some BS, and I worked under pressure schedules.  Thing is, I was getting paid and actually worked on something, progressing toward a tangible result.  Here, you paid (a lot of $$) to learn and be a competent professional.  Do I think the system can achieve this goal? NO.

3. What’s most important carry the least weight. 

So far, the only practical and make-sense course is legal writing and research.  This is the class that is most closely related to the actual work of lawyer.  Yes, it’s a lot of work but I somewhat enjoyed it, because I really felt like I’m learning something practical.  I wanted to enjoy it more and put more time on it.  Well, you can’t.

So this single-most important class (and mostly taught by people with a lot of professional experience) gives far less credit than other courses.  In my school, all the other theory courses (which roughly falls under #1) are given 4 credits.  Legal writing? It’s a shit ton of work and 2 credits.  WTF. And, here’s the most ironic thing – because of the ridiculous workload and schedule, now I wish it was pass/fail course like some other schools, while not hating the course.  And most of these courses are taught by non-full time professors. WTF again.

4. It’s professional school but thing is sooooo geared to academics.

It’s professional school.  IMO, the professional school is a high-end trade school.  You are there to learn skill, and after learning, you should be able to use that skill to either earn your own $ or contribute something to the office.  When you sit in the class and listen to the lecture, you realize so much of the class is geared to the nerd academic side of the law.  I’m not downplaying the academic/philosophical side of a knowledge.  But, if more than 50% of the class is geared toward that way, in a school that doesn’t aim for purely academic career, there’s something wrong.

I see a young professors who actually practiced and new to the teaching trying to avoid this.  They try to throw in the stories of actual world and show a lot of real docs in use.  I thank them, and it’s a good change.  But still, it’s unsatisfactory.

If I can build a law school of my own, here’s what I would do.  I would make all 1st year students to take legal writing and research courses for a full year.  After they finish the course, then I would move on to the theory courses.  I would make each theory courses as 2 semesters long, so people can actually have time to think and discuss about the material.  I would definitely make more mandatory practical courses (with much more credit), like how to write formal documents, how you should behave when submitting the docs/face officials and what to do when bring the plaintiff/witness in, etc.  I would use commercial outlines and study aids as main textbooks, and then make the students read the case relative to that day’s class.

People did warn me about the ridiculousness of 1st year.  I thought I can just get over it, since I’ve taken some BS too.  It’s harder than I thought, because I paid a lot of money to be a competent professional, not an academic.  Yet I really don’t feel like I can acquire practical skills that can get me working from 1st month on the job.  The system is so flawed – on the top of the expensive tuition and useless classes, you have to buy bunch of study aids, and then you have to pay again for your bar exam (it’s well-known fact that schools are somewhat useless when it comes to bar exam preparation).

My 2nd semester stared, and I’m just not sure what to do.  If the market is good and my citizenship/visa isn’t an issue, I know what I do.  I’d fucking quit,or switch to part time program.

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2 responses »

  1. Check for TCK, law student, lived in midwest and agreeing with you! So glad to find this gem you are writing 🙂 Would love to compare notes about our law student experience, if you can find a moment between perpetuities and consideration. Cheers!

    • Hi there! Thanks a lot for your reply. I am delighted to see there is someone like me. What’s the chance of meeting someone who is TCK AND a law student? :). Let’s keep in touch!

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