Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

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sunynp
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Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby sunynp » Wed Aug 15, 2012 10:39 am

american lawyer

A few posts here have described a law degree as versatile.
This is not true. The above explains why.

You might have to register (free) to read it.

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Samara
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby Samara » Wed Aug 15, 2012 10:46 am

Where did the versatility flame start? With Boomers, I suspect. I don't really understand why people think that learning how highly specific and idiosyncratic system works would be useful for other fields. Like the author says, graduate degrees aren't designed to broaden or generalize your skill set.

But the graduate-level degree argument contradicts the versatility trope because post-college degrees are supposed to be specialized, not generalized, and trades like plumbing don't require any higher education. Thus, if the legal knowledge, along with everything else law schools instill, is a set of general knowledge then it should be taught at the college level, and if law is a trade, then bachelor's degrees aren't necessary.

Swimp
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby Swimp » Wed Aug 15, 2012 10:58 am

Samara wrote:Where did the versatility flame start? With Boomers, I suspect. I don't really understand why people think that learning how highly specific and idiosyncratic system works would be useful for other fields. Like the author says, graduate degrees aren't designed to broaden or generalize your skill set.

But the graduate-level degree argument contradicts the versatility trope because post-college degrees are supposed to be specialized, not generalized, and trades like plumbing don't require any higher education. Thus, if the legal knowledge, along with everything else law schools instill, is a set of general knowledge then it should be taught at the college level, and if law is a trade, then bachelor's degrees aren't necessary.


I think it's probably because most of the Boomer JD-holders promulgating this 'versatility' nonsense entered a very strong jobs market. People who got jobs at firms that were retained by companies in a variety of industries found it relatively easy to transition into a job at X, Y, or Z company that they knew through the firm because these companies were growing so fast.

A secondary reason is Boomers' general reverence for Higher Education. You have to admit that, banality aside, law school does teach you "a different way of thinking" that can be valuable outside legal practice.

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flem
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby flem » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:00 am

I'm just going to get a JD/MBA from some random TTT to maximize versatility

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Borg
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby Borg » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:00 am

Samara wrote:Where did the versatility flame start? With Boomers, I suspect. I don't really understand why people think that learning how highly specific and idiosyncratic system works would be useful for other fields. Like the author says, graduate degrees aren't designed to broaden or generalize your skill set.

But the graduate-level degree argument contradicts the versatility trope because post-college degrees are supposed to be specialized, not generalized, and trades like plumbing don't require any higher education. Thus, if the legal knowledge, along with everything else law schools instill, is a set of general knowledge then it should be taught at the college level, and if law is a trade, then bachelor's degrees aren't necessary.


I think you are right that the boomers started it. A bunch of boomers with law degrees went into a ton of different things because the economy was generally great, there were fewer entrenched major players in many industries, and everyone was riding a wave of constantly appreciating assets. It was easy at the time to switch from law to real estate development or banking or whatever else and make a ton of money, so they assumed that the law degree was versatile when it was all really the result of macroeconomic trends. Turns out, legal education is extremely narrow in subject matter and won't really help you out in business unless you get the opportunity to practice for a few years in a good corporate department and really take it upon yourself to learn the ins and outs of business itself thoroughly. This is why I chose to do the JD/MBA in the first place, and I think the idea of a law degree as conferring some generalized advantage should be crushed.

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alwayssunnyinfl
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby alwayssunnyinfl » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:07 am

flem wrote:I'm just going to get a JD/MBA from some random TTT to maximize versatility


I knew a guy from FIU once who did that and became an astronaut. Anything's possible!

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Samara
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby Samara » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:16 am

Swimp wrote:You have to admit that, banality aside, law school does teach you "a different way of thinking" that can be valuable outside legal practice.

I mean, I haven't taken an actual law school class yet, but I really doubt this is true.

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Dany
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby Dany » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:17 am

Swimp wrote: You have to admit that, banality aside, law school does teach you "a different way of thinking" that can be valuable outside legal practice.

No.

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alwayssunnyinfl
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby alwayssunnyinfl » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:19 am

Samara wrote:
Swimp wrote:You have to admit that, banality aside, law school does teach you "a different way of thinking" that can be valuable outside legal practice.

I mean, I haven't taken an actual law school class yet, but I really doubt this is true.

In my experience, this just seems to be something dickhead law students tell themselves. Newsflash, you were a dickhead before law school.

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Doorkeeper
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby Doorkeeper » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:45 am

Law degrees are versatile in DC and state capitals, but outside of that, good luck.

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soj
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby soj » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:24 pm

Dany wrote:
Swimp wrote: You have to admit that, banality aside, law school does teach you "a different way of thinking" that can be valuable outside legal practice.

No.

Hell, I heard it's barely useful even within legal practice.

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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby timbs4339 » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:30 pm

1) A lot of times you really have to look into the employment history of the people making this claim and their anecdotes. They confuse necessary with sufficient. For example, I know a lot of people say JDs are versatile because lots of JDs get banking, finance, or consulting jobs- but inevitably the people who went into these fields started out in biglaw corporate practice groups and then lateraled into other fields. They could not have gotten the biglaw job without the JD, true, but it is disingenuous to leave out that it needs to be a JD+class rank that qualifies you for biglaw. This substantially limits the number of schools where this is practical enough to be worth taking on 200K. Same with non-profit or government policy work- inevitably these people started out as lawyers in a federal government honors program which is super-competitive.

2) Other times you needed to have another prior skill set or connections aside from the JD. An extreme example is Duquesne Law School's claim that the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers is a good example of the versatility of a law degree. They conveniently forget to mention that the alumnus was a member of the Rooney family that has owned the team for generations. I'm sure the law degree added *some* value even if it was miniscule. But (hypothetically) that's like Duquesne Journalism School trying to claim that Art Rooney II got his owner's job because of his journalism degree. Absurd on it's face. It may give him some incidental benefit in dealing with the media more effectively, but it wasn't the cause of his getting the job.

3) More generally, it's a question of value. There's no reason to take on 200K of debt to get a JD when you might end up in the a similar job than you would have gotten with a BA. There is no question that 3 years experience gained in an organization would be more valuable than the skills gained in law school when you factor in the huge amount of debt. This argument has always been a "well, things aren't so bad even if you don't get a lawyer job" argument that allows you to salvage some perceived value out of the degree. Only recently have pro-law school people been arguing from the assumption that a JD is a good way to break into other fields with no prior experience, because the job market for lawyers is so crappy.

Generally, when you interview a successful non-lawyer with a JD, of course they are going to say that the JD was useful. It is part of their bundle of experiences and achievements which has resulted in their present position of success. Interview one of the many JDs working retail or food service, and you'll get a much different answer.

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dingbat
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby dingbat » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:50 pm

Samara wrote:
Swimp wrote:You have to admit that, banality aside, law school does teach you "a different way of thinking" that can be valuable outside legal practice.

I mean, I haven't taken an actual law school class yet, but I really doubt this is true.

From having worked with many lawyers, I'd say this is true, to some extent, although I won't say all law students pick it up

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Samara
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby Samara » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:54 pm

dingbat wrote:
Samara wrote:
Swimp wrote:You have to admit that, banality aside, law school does teach you "a different way of thinking" that can be valuable outside legal practice.

I mean, I haven't taken an actual law school class yet, but I really doubt this is true.

From having worked with many lawyers, I'd say this is true, to some extent, although I won't say all law students pick it up

How do you know they didn't think like that before law school? And that they weren't attracted to law because of that natural ability? Did you read the article?

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dingbat
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby dingbat » Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:05 pm

Samara wrote:
dingbat wrote:
Samara wrote:
Swimp wrote:You have to admit that, banality aside, law school does teach you "a different way of thinking" that can be valuable outside legal practice.

I mean, I haven't taken an actual law school class yet, but I really doubt this is true.

From having worked with many lawyers, I'd say this is true, to some extent, although I won't say all law students pick it up

How do you know they didn't think like that before law school? And that they weren't attracted to law because of that natural ability? Did you read the article?

I will somewhat amend the statement that it involves people with X years experience in the field. It may be that they previously had the noticeable traits, but these have been sharpened and honed over time.
As an example, being questioned by someone naturally inquisitive is not the same as being questioned by someone who's been trained as a prosecutor.

wfudeacons2005
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby wfudeacons2005 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 11:11 pm

Obviously it doesn't get you as far outside of the legal world as it did 20-30 years ago but there are definitely still some places that it can help. I think the point about state capitols/DC is a valid one. I interned at a lobbying firm in Washington and many of the people there (in their late 20s-mid 30s) had JDs. Of course, there were equally as many people working there that had an MPA/MPP instead which is a far easier degree to obtain at a fraction of the cost. I would guess the same would hold true at political consulting firms etc. but likely not in many (if any) other areas of work nowadays.

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Samara
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby Samara » Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:04 pm

wfudeacons2005 wrote:Obviously it doesn't get you as far outside of the legal world as it did 20-30 years ago but there are definitely still some places that it can help. I think the point about state capitols/DC is a valid one. I interned at a lobbying firm in Washington and many of the people there (in their late 20s-mid 30s) had JDs. Of course, there were equally as many people working there that had an MPA/MPP instead which is a far easier degree to obtain at a fraction of the cost. I would guess the same would hold true at political consulting firms etc. but likely not in many (if any) other areas of work nowadays.

Lobbying is still within the realm of the legal field though. This is kind of like saying that an MD is versatile because you don't have to be a doctor, you can also be a medical researcher.

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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby SchopenhauerFTW » Tue Sep 04, 2012 3:04 am

People say it's a versatile degree because they've seen so many people with JDs working non-legal jobs. Maybe they forgot to consider the fact that these people discovered that they hated practicing law. It was easier then to get away with switching out. Now everyone just does doc review.

Obviously I didn't read the article. I just felt like posting.

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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby delusional » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:58 am

dingbat wrote:
Samara wrote:
Swimp wrote:You have to admit that, banality aside, law school does teach you "a different way of thinking" that can be valuable outside legal practice.

I mean, I haven't taken an actual law school class yet, but I really doubt this is true.

From having worked with many lawyers, I'd say this is true, to some extent, although I won't say all law students pick it up
I strongly believe that law school has improved my thought processes in ways that can be useful in other arenas. Of course, Timbs is right that if I become a cashier or barista, the skills will be useless. But the skills are there.

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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby BlaqBella » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:08 am

I think a JD from the right school can afford versatility. Not all JDs are created equal.

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sunynp
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby sunynp » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:55 am

BlaqBella wrote:I think a JD from the right school can afford versatility. Not all JDs are created equal.

Why would you think this? The JD is an unreasonably expensive professional degree that allows you to practice law. Why would you go into debt or spend 6 figures of cash to get a degree and not practice law. If you want to do something else, then getting a law degree is a waste of time and money.

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BlaqBella
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby BlaqBella » Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:18 am

sunynp wrote:
BlaqBella wrote:I think a JD from the right school can afford versatility. Not all JDs are created equal.

Why would you think this? The JD is an unreasonably expensive professional degree that allows you to practice law. Why would you go into debt or spend 6 figures of cash to get a degree and not practice law. If you want to do something else, then getting a law degree is a waste of time and money.


A JD doesn't allow you to practice law. Passing the state bar does. I know in New York, for instance, passing the state bar exempts you from taking examinations required to be a real estate agent. Many JDs go on to become successful real estate agents, at least in NYC (another example of the versaility of the JD).

The problem is the elitism in legal education and by extension the legal profession. My philosophy is no one should take out major loans for law schools outside YHS. Not one. Another way to resolve the issue is making it a mandatory requirement for prospective students to obtain experience in the legal profession before they make the decision to attend law school.

Far too many have no clue on what they are getting into and instead rely on TV dramas like "Suits" "Damages" and "Law and Order" as their proof that law school is the right choice for them.

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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby romothesavior » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:27 am

BlaqBella wrote:
sunynp wrote:
BlaqBella wrote:I think a JD from the right school can afford versatility. Not all JDs are created equal.

Why would you think this? The JD is an unreasonably expensive professional degree that allows you to practice law. Why would you go into debt or spend 6 figures of cash to get a degree and not practice law. If you want to do something else, then getting a law degree is a waste of time and money.


A JD doesn't allow you to practice law. Passing the state bar does. I know in New York, for instance, passing the state bar exempts you from taking examinations required to be a real estate agent. Many JDs go on to become successful real estate agents, at least in NYC (another example of the versaility of the JD).

The problem is the elitism in legal education and by extension the legal profession. My philosophy is no one should take out major loans for law schools outside YHS. Not one. Another way to resolve the issue is making it a mandatory requirement for prospective students to obtain experience in the legal profession before they make the decision to attend law school.

Far too many have no clue on what they are getting into and instead rely on TV dramas like "Suits" "Damages" and "Law and Order" as their proof that law school is the right choice for them.
This didn't even attempt to answer his question.

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cinephile
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Re: Debunking law degree as "versatile" . It isn't

Postby cinephile » Wed Sep 05, 2012 4:33 am

But if you wanted to be a real estate agent, you could just take the exam. No need to waste 6 figures on a law degree.




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