Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 18, 2015 12:28 pm

It's not that all the material is necessarily useless, it's more that you can learn all the black letter law and/or policy you like, and then you start your job and you have no idea how to do the actual mechanics of it. Some of this is inevitable because unless your specific employer were to teach a law school class in "how to work for me," you can't really learn everything except on the job (although there are probably more practical courses that could be offered).

Learning how to read cases, how the court system in the US work, and legal research and writing are necessary (I know not everyone would agree about LRW but my course [or prof] was good). And a lot of the basic stuff in 1L is probably useful background for most lawyers.

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PeanutsNJam
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby PeanutsNJam » Sun Jan 18, 2015 12:37 pm

What about clinics and internships?

And isn't that true for any "professional" job? There are things you can only learn on the job. Medical school doesn't prepare you to be a doctor; residency does. A physics major doesn't prepare you to be a physics researcher; the PhD (where you're literally working) does. I have a friend who is working for Microsoft after a CS major. He said his CS major didn't prepare him for his work at all; he had to learn so much more as he was working.

Everything is learned on-the-job, so I don't think you can knock law school classrooms for not preparing you adequately for office work. It's probably a necessary but not sufficient type thing.

Basically, is law school actually useless in the same way bartending school is useless, or is it just "useless" in the same way a CS major is "useless".

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utahraptor
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby utahraptor » Sun Jan 18, 2015 12:45 pm

PeanutsNJam wrote:What about clinics and internships?

And isn't that true for any "professional" job? There are things you can only learn on the job. Medical school doesn't prepare you to be a doctor; residency does. A physics major doesn't prepare you to be a physics researcher; the PhD (where you're literally working) does. I have a friend who is working for Microsoft after a CS major. He said his CS major didn't prepare him for his work at all; he had to learn so much more as he was working.

Everything is learned on-the-job, I don't think you can knock law school classrooms for not preparing you adequately for office work.


Clinics are great if you get to work in the field that you're going to be working in after law school, and are better than real classes, but relatively few people at the schools with good clinics are going to be pursuing IHRL or criminal defense or family law or whatever.

There's also something sad about paying an institution money to pretend to be a lawyer and do things that reflect well on the institution. If a law school's innocence project manages to get a victory, it's good press. You're paying the school for the privilege of helping them get good press.

And, yes, everything is learned on the job, but you can still knock law school classes for being utterly worthless. Prof. Campos put it well—"[law schools] are social sorting and signaling mechanisms, that extract fantastic quantities of economic rent in the process of sorting and signaling."

I can be angry about that truism. I am angry about that truism. I just don't think the solution is to create a better farce. We should just acknowledge that it's BS and move on.

The only "value" I see in law schools is a value to the large firms—law school works as a so-so means of academic bloodsport. But, I think it's silly for students to have illusions that they're paying for something more than the opportunity to participate in that bloodsport and a ticket to OCI.

hdunlop
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby hdunlop » Sun Jan 18, 2015 12:55 pm

I like this thread.

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PeanutsNJam
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby PeanutsNJam » Sun Jan 18, 2015 12:55 pm

utahraptor wrote:And, yes, everything is learned on the job, but you can still knock law school classes for being utterly worthless. Prof. Campos put it well—"[law schools] are social sorting and signaling mechanisms, that extract fantastic quantities of economic rent in the process of sorting and signaling."

I can be angry about that truism. I am angry about that truism. I just don't think the solution is to create a better farce. We should just acknowledge that it's BS and move on.

The only "value" I see in law schools is a value to the large firms—law school works as a so-so means of academic bloodsport. But, I think it's silly for students to have illusions that they're paying for something more than the opportunity to participate in that bloodsport and a ticket to OCI.


I'm not defending the system, but frankly it's not unique to law school. Whether you're going for a MD, PhD, or just trying to climb the corporate ladder, you're going to be somebody's bitch for a few years, making no-to-barely-livable money.

Not debating the unjustifiable economic rent here, but part of me wants to believe that you walk away from law school with more than a diploma/OCI ticket/job offer.

Unfortunately, if you want to be a lawyer, you have to go to law school. As BS as it may be in a vacuum, relative to all the other institutional BS going on, it's really not that bad.

Another question: where does all the economic rent go? Faculty pockets? I'm guessing research laboratories? If research universities are scamming hopeful lawyers in order to fund cancer research, I mean, it's not that bad, right?

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utahraptor
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby utahraptor » Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:00 pm

PeanutsNJam wrote:
Not debating the unjustifiable economic rent here, but part of me wants to believe that you walk away from law school with more than a diploma/OCI ticket/job offer.

Another question: where does all the economic rent go? Faculty pockets? I'm guessing research laboratories? If research universities are scamming hopeful lawyers in order to fund cancer research, I mean, it's not that bad, right?


If the bolded is what you expect you'll probably be very disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I love law school. I'm just paying a lot of money for something that is pretty useless.

The money goes to the rest of the university. Given the state of university coffers (see Prof. Campos above) I think that putting more money in those coffers is a bad thing.

Elite institutions could be free if they wanted to be, at least for undergrads. Maybe if they move to that I'll be less bitter.

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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby Paul Campos » Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:16 pm

utahraptor wrote:
PeanutsNJam wrote:
The money goes to the rest of the university. Given the state of university coffers (see Prof. Campos above) I think that putting more money in those coffers is a bad thing.

Elite institutions could be free if they wanted to be, at least for undergrads. Maybe if they move to that I'll be less bitter.



This used to be true but isn't any more. Law schools were traditionally cash cows for their universities because they had high student-faculty ratios, no equipment to speak of, and relatively high tuition. The tuition has gone through the roof over the past few decades but this has more than been made up for by plunging student-faculty ratios, which have gone from 30 to 1 in the late 1970s (and they were even higher before then) to 13 to 1 or so at present. Administrative costs have also skyrocketed -- law schools have literally triple the number of staff that they had a generation ago. Also there's the infamous amenities race: everybody has to have a shiny new or newish building.

While it's true that none of this is really relevant to Harvard with its monster endowment, very few law schools (maybe 10-15) have any significant endowment at all. (This mirrors in the situation in higher ed generally, in which 5% of the schools have almost all the endowment money.) Currently most law schools are running operating deficits, because of a combination of lower enrollments and lower effective tuition per capita (effective tuition being sticker minus discounts).

You would think it would be impossible to lose money running a law school, given that the government will loan the full price of attendance to anyone a school chooses to admit no questions asked, and furthermore the school gets to set the price of attendance, also no questions asked. You'd be wrong though, because there's basically no amount of money that can't be blown.

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fats provolone
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby fats provolone » Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:36 pm

^ see, it's an efficient market

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 18, 2015 2:29 pm

Re: learning on the job - yes, to some extent this is true for every profession (though FWIW my PhD program actually did a pretty decent job of preparing me to be a faculty member, and I'm pretty sure all the anatomy/dissecting./learning about diseases etc. that you do in med school goes directly to what you will be doing as a doctor). It's the degree of disconnect. Some of it is because the people teaching you in law school are not engaged in the job they're teaching you to do - they do research and run a university program, you are going to be a lawyer. Some of them have more/less actual practical experience, but in academic PhD programs, profs are teaching you (in generalities) to do what they themselves are doing.

It's also that studying law as an academic subject is just different from practicing law. There are subjects that I find extremely interesting to study in a class, where you survey how the law has developed and discuss whether that's good/bad/where it should go in future, but it turns out I don't want to practice them at all based on what actual practice entails (for me, e.g. civil rights, plaintiff-side employment law).

Pre-law school I didn't buy the "law school doesn't prepare you to practice" and thought it was overblown, but it really doesn't prepare you to practice. Again, I'm not sure how you'd fix this, and if we didn't have the debt-employment issues, it wouldn't be nearly as much as a problem. I'm not saying the knowledge is useless, but it doesn't prepare you to practice, and you spend a LOT of time and money to not really be prepared.

(This is completely different from the idea that "you're going to be somebody's bitch for a few years, making no-to-barely-livable money" - I don't think that's actually the problem with law school for a lot of people.)

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JCougar
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby JCougar » Wed Jan 21, 2015 4:46 pm

PeanutsNJam wrote:To what extent is the material taught in law schools actually useless?

Basically, can an equally competent individual fare as well as a fresh non-T6 LS grad as a first year associate in biglaw?


If you give the equally competent individual that didn't attend the T6 law school maybe a 3-month head start, including maybe a 4-week training session followed by two months on the actual job, I'm pretty confident he or she could catch up.

Or are we saying "law school is useless for lawyers" in the same vein as "diff-eq is useless for engineers". Although we have programs that can do diff-eq for us, I still believe an intimate understanding of the subject matter is advisable.


Law school doesn't teach you any methods of thinking at all--much less something as useful as diff-eq. Even if a computer can do it, learning diff-eq is great to help you understand conceptually what you are doing, and helps you use it effectively as a tool.

Law's method is philosophy, but you get very little exposure to legal philosophy in law school. I hate it when people say "law school is useful for training legal scholars," because it completely fails in this regard as well. Day-to-day class is mostly memorize and regurgitate under pressure in front of a whole group of your peers. You read 15-page cases, only a few sentences of which are important (the holding, maybe a rule they developed, and a few critical facts). Then you take up the entire class period repeating what you just read. The exams are mostly an outline-copying contest where typing speed (rather than philosophical inquiry) gets you the most points. The "issues" you spot on a typical law school exam are issues that like 90% of the class can spot if you go to a top school, and the answers are all laid out for you on your outline. But the actual critical thinking that goes into exam answers is scant, and the exams themselves are an exercise in some sort of hellish banality that I can't even begin to think about how to accurately describe with words. If I could describe them with music, it would be like listening to Nine Inch Nails in reverse, detuned and at half-speed, while having the worst hangover in the world.

You get very little opportunity to develop research, writing and critical thinking skills. If you're lucky enough to get on a journal, this may be your only opportunity, but even journal time is, aside from writing your note, mostly doing free menial labor editing the work of law professors--some of which put exactly zero effort into their submissions. You get very little exposure to law's actual method--philosophy. And you get almost no guidance on how to accomplish the day-to-day task of being a lawyer, whether it be understanding the process of handling a case from beginning to end, how to adapt to the actual business environment in which law is practiced, how to find and deal with clients, how to take/oppose depositions, how to work in small groups, etc.

Yes, I do admit some of the things I've learned have eased my transition into practice. Almost everyone needs to know CivPro. Evidence is also helpful. But even in this regard, you don't learn a lot about discovery, various pre-trial motions, etc., which take up a huge chunk of litigation time in the Biglaw-type cases these schools are supposed to be preparing you for. And legal research/writing does at least help you get exposure to stuff like different types of authority, IRAC, etc. For the most part, all that time and effort leads to new grads even from the most "elite" law schools being totally lost when they start their first job.

If you cut out all the BS, you could probably learn this stuff effectively in a semester or two for almost no cost. Instead, we get a totally ineffective learning environment that ends up being a large game of financial Russian Roulette for people that need to take out loans to pay for the cost of school. I literally cannot believe such a wasteful, baleful, stupid system has survived for over 100 years without major changes.

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fats provolone
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby fats provolone » Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:24 pm

Day-to-day class is mostly memorize and regurgitate under pressure in front of a whole group of your peers. You read 15-page cases, only a few sentences of which are important (the holding, maybe a rule they developed, and a few critical facts). Then you take up the entire class period repeating what you just read. The exams are mostly an outline-copying contest where typing speed (rather than philosophical inquiry) gets you the most points. The "issues" you spot on a typical law school exam are issues that like 90% of the class can spot if you go to a top school, and the answers are all laid out for you on your outline. But the actual critical thinking that goes into exam answers is scant, and the exams themselves are an exercise in some sort of hellish banality that I can't even begin to think about how to accurately describe with words.

this is actually excellent preparation for biglaw though

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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby Skool » Wed Jan 21, 2015 5:50 pm

Businesslady wrote:I think "don't go" has to be differentiated from "it's a scam." People "with the numbers" should be thinking collectively about how to demand more from institutions.


This is probably the only worthwhile thought you've shared during this whole pile of shit that's been the businesslady shtick.

The Revolution will not be televised means at least two things.

1. The first revolution is going to be in your mind and the way you think, which is obviously necessary in agitating for change.
2. You won't be able to watch it on T.V. or TLS forums. IF there is is to be a revolution, it has to occur because you're there in the streets fighting for it. It has to be live, not televised.

In other words, it won't do to simply tell 0Ls "don't go" from the comfort of your computer desks.

Law students and young attorneys need to find zones of confrontation. They need to pick a hill that is feasible to take. They need to join with professors like Campos who are willing to be allies, even if it means sacrificing their privileges (and frankly, the great mystery and original question of Campos has always been the extent to which he is willing to jeopardize his position of privilege. It's a big question for law students too) We need to think about tactics and strategy that are most likely to succeed and then we need to implement a plan.

Undoubtedly, for some people, there will be harsh professional consequences as there always is in confronting a conservative and reactionary system. The problem with law students is that going to law school is basically an affirmative choice to either remain neutral in political/class struggle or to actually join the bad guys (if the money is right) in an attempt to get the golden ticket to the upper middle class. Not exactly selecting for risk taking socially conscious people. See TLS passim.

This needs to happen not simply on the internet, but on campuses and among real life colleagues.

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Skool
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby Skool » Wed Jan 21, 2015 6:22 pm

Also, once again, I propose third year of law school as the perfect target for organizing.

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PeanutsNJam
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby PeanutsNJam » Thu Jan 22, 2015 12:57 am

tyft JCougar. People who like to write huge walls of text need to learn from you; that was a comfortable read.

I've also heard the "can you type fast? you better" rhetoric from another lawyer buddy. I can type quite fast if I don't have to think about what I'm saying. Are you saying law school is "easy" as long as you put in the time to create your outline/do the readings? Have you ever encountered a problem that you logically couldn't solve quickly or hit a block, as one would in math or science?

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jan 22, 2015 1:59 am

Apart from the Rule Against Perpetuities (which doesn't matter), the BLL isn't really that hard. (Okay, future estates are a pain in the ass generally.) There are always weird things and some counter-intuitive things, and I guess some statute-heavy classes can be hard (things like tax, which is code-based and requires math), but mostly it's being able to see which parts of the BLL apply to which facts, and then what the possible options are for outcomes given the BLL + those facts. If you don't remember all the BLL, or don't remember/understand it well enough to realize it applies to whatever fact is on your exam, you'll miss points. And you could just get some of the BLL wrong and then your analysis will be wrong (although you might get some credit if it was decent analysis, just based on the wrong premise).

It's not necessarily about the time you put in. Some people are just better at reading a set of facts and seeing which parts of the BLL apply (so if it's a torts question you might do an excellent comprehensive analysis of whether something constitutes negligence, but not see something that, in your head, triggers you to analyze whether it might also be an intentional tort, whereas Mr. Coif in your section will see the thing that triggers the intentional tort analysis and maybe the thing that triggers a privacy tort analysis). Some people can do that - connect the facts with the law - right away, some people take longer to get it, and some people never quite get it. And some people can do it with very little work (e.g. all the people here who don't read/go to class, study an outline in the week before the exam, and end up with a decent grade) (I should add I am NOT one of those people). Some people work like crazy and can't do it.

The typing fast thing, I think, is because one way some profs use to help create a curve is write an exam that can't be completed in the time allowed. Theoretically, if your prof is good, and your students are good (or at least, they're all within a pretty narrow band of academic qualifications), and it's possible to get everything in the exam done in under 3 hours, your prof is stuck with a class in which, say, 90% of students got basically the same grade, but they have to distribute grades on a curve. It's much easier to create a curve if you make the exam too short - naturally faster thinker/writers will just include more stuff than naturally slower thinkers/writers.

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JCougar
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby JCougar » Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:25 am

PeanutsNJam wrote:I've also heard the "can you type fast? you better" rhetoric from another lawyer buddy. I can type quite fast if I don't have to think about what I'm saying. Are you saying law school is "easy" as long as you put in the time to create your outline/do the readings?


Well, the exams are curved on a forced bell curve, even though there's no theoretical reason to think they should be distributed along a bell curve within any particular law school's population, so even if it's easy, it's hard. You know what I mean? When you force a distribution on a population that doesn't fit that distribution, you basically force yourself to pick up a lot of error/random noise and make a huge deal of it. That's why law grades are hard to predict...it's kind of a crapshoot.

Have you ever encountered a problem that you logically couldn't solve quickly or hit a block, as one would in math or science?


Once or twice with supplemental jurisdiction in civ pro, and maybe once or twice in securities regulation, once or twice with some non-perpetuities based estate laws, but that's about it. But you have plenty of time to "get it" before the exam. Legal logic is really not that hard, especially when dealing only with black letter law. Even the rule of perpetuities, the stereotypical "it hurts my brain to even think about" topic of 1L, is insanely easy to understand. Basically, a future interest has to vest no later than 21 years after the death of someone named and living at the time it is created. So you have two elements: 1) everyone living at the time the interest was created dies. Then add 21 years. You can't have an interest vest later than that. Pretty simple.

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DrSpaceman
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby DrSpaceman » Thu Jan 22, 2015 4:35 am

That was an intense two pages.

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PeanutsNJam
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby PeanutsNJam » Thu Jan 22, 2015 4:58 am

Nony and Jcougar learning us about law school

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ymmv
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby ymmv » Thu Jan 22, 2015 5:28 am

I am really enjoying taking the shit out of the maximum number of cross-disciplinary grad courses allowed here toward JD completion. It's crazy that things as random as foreign language, philosophy, and history classes feel so much meaningful and grounded to me than classes in something as ostensibly fundamental to our lives as law, but I guess it just goes to show how shallow the "legal training" aspect of this education really is. To say nothing of the theory, if you can call it theory.

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JCougar
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby JCougar » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:07 am

ymmv wrote:To say nothing of the theory, if you can call it theory.


Yeah, legal "theory" was "developed" by some ultra-type-A (even by nineteenth century standards) personality named Christopher Columbus Langdell, who became Dean of Harvard Law.

The "theory" was that if you studied cases really, really hard, you could turn philosophy into science. As a law student, you're kind of like Rumplestiltskin's daughter--trapped in a room, and forced to apply an absurd theory where it absolutely doesn't work, against the threat of having your head cut off ($300,000 in debt with no job is pretty close). Langdell wanted to do this to boost law's prestige.

It's amazing how this absolutely nonsensical idea got adopted virtually unanimously by all of our very top legal minds even at the most prestigious institutions in our country. Not soon after, it was simply followed as tradition and nobody questioned the absurd theory behind it. Over 100 years later, almost nobody still is.

This very combination of 100% lack of critical thinking and 100% lack of self-criticism are the very foundations that the prestige of legal education is built on today.

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PeanutsNJam
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby PeanutsNJam » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:25 am

ymmv wrote:I am really enjoying taking the shit out of the maximum number of cross-disciplinary grad courses allowed here toward JD completion. It's crazy that things as random as foreign language, philosophy, and history classes feel so much meaningful and grounded to me than classes in something as ostensibly fundamental to our lives as law, but I guess it just goes to show how shallow the "legal training" aspect of this education really is. To say nothing of the theory, if you can call it theory.


I'm guessing you're SLS? I've heard that cross-disciplinary courses aren't offered at most universities. I know a SLS grad who said it was possible because the SLS classes are all pass/fail, and he ended up doing comp sci and not being a lawyer. How do you make time for these other courses? Are they not included in your transcript at all, so you don't need to stress about your grade?

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ymmv
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby ymmv » Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:44 pm

PeanutsNJam wrote:
ymmv wrote:I am really enjoying taking the shit out of the maximum number of cross-disciplinary grad courses allowed here toward JD completion. It's crazy that things as random as foreign language, philosophy, and history classes feel so much meaningful and grounded to me than classes in something as ostensibly fundamental to our lives as law, but I guess it just goes to show how shallow the "legal training" aspect of this education really is. To say nothing of the theory, if you can call it theory.


I'm guessing you're SLS? I've heard that cross-disciplinary courses aren't offered at most universities. I know a SLS grad who said it was possible because the SLS classes are all pass/fail, and he ended up doing comp sci and not being a lawyer. How do you make time for these other courses? Are they not included in your transcript at all, so you don't need to stress about your grade?



Not at SLS, and they're included on our transcript but don't count toward our grade average for honors calculation (though they do count for graduation credit up to a limit). You can also optionally take them pass/fail. The whole thing seems like kind of the best kept secret here, since I only know a couple other students taking advantage of it.

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Businesslady
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby Businesslady » Fri Jan 23, 2015 8:51 pm

I was wondering about a few things.

1) I appreciate the sentiment, of course, but does the Tamanaha article kind of have shades of Reinhart-Rogoff / austerity?
2) Like, I guess what I mean is, are buildings really that bad of a thing to invest in? Does this apply?
3) I think law professors should live well. I also think research in jurisprudence and teaching should be socially productive
4) Obviously the rent is too damn high. LRAP seems like a better incentive structure than scholarships. How wrong am I?
5) Is there a student org that just deals with the tax bomb? Like, just the tax bomb

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PeanutsNJam
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby PeanutsNJam » Sat Jan 24, 2015 9:33 am

Businesslady wrote:research in jurisprudence


What does that really mean though? It's not like you can apply the scientific method to something that is fundamentally philosophical. You can't scientifically prove "should" and "ought".

Idk, I think what people are saying is that law is a field where the scientific rigor is limited by its intangible nature. Not that I'm saying law isn't rigorous in other ways.

You can't discover a new law.

But I haven't actually read any law journals so what do I know.

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Skool
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Re: Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy

Postby Skool » Sat Jan 24, 2015 10:45 am

I think you might have too narrow an understanding of "research"

Analyzing the social consequences of rulings by judges who rule based on certain jurisprudential theories can be useful work for legal "researchers"

I'm sure there's other good/socially valuable "research" we could put profs to work on (not that it's not already being done).

But also, there's plenty good empirical work Law profs have done in the past. Elizabeth Warrens work on american consumer bankruptcy comes to mind. A lot of it is focused on proving and disproving the reasons American families go bankrupt.




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