Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Anything I read is in danger of being taken out of context when it's getting close to midnight and I haven't written anything all day. Waddling Thunder writes:

"Law school, as we all knew when we came here, is a credentializing system. I'm here to learn, obviously. I actually enjoy almost all the studying. But the whole point is to become a lawyer with a job at the end. In return for HLS's near guarantee of this result, I'm paying a huge sum and staying here for three years."

I'm focusing on the first sentence mostly. Yes, we're here for a degree. Yes, it's lovely that lots of law firms come here to hire people. But the attitude that this is a "credentializing system" in some greater way than undergrad is a "credentializing system" for a job that requires a college degree, or in some greater way than an entry-level job is a "credentializing system" for something better, doesn't necessarily seem justified to me. We do learn things here -- how to think about our legal system and government and justice and the rule of law and all sorts of interesting and valuable stuff. We meet bright and talented people who sometimes enlighten us or enrich our lives. We read some cool stuff. We gain tools for thinking about societal problems and how they could be addressed. You can't get a job as a lawyer without a law degree, no. But to say that being able to get a job as a lawyer is the only thing these three years provide (and that's not what Waddling Thunder is saying -- I'm just attacking that idea, which, with the rest of the quote, is fine -- but I have a larger point I want to make) is selling this place short.

But I do think that a lot of people have this idea -- that we're wasting our time and can't they just give us the degree already.

And it's an idea that spoils the experience, I think. The Dean, last week at her "State of the Law School" speech, said:

"The single worst thing about this school is the detachment of many of its students. I am not saying in any way that you are to blame for this school's problems. We in the faculty and administration have done things to create this attitude, and those things should stop. But the solution lies partly in your hands. This won't be the institution it can be until we all take responsibility."

(by the way -- thanks to new 1L reporter Adina Levine at The Record for choosing this as one of the quotes to pull for her article on the Dean's speech -- quite a nice job on her first Record assignment, actually -- so I didn't have to watch the whole webcast to find it)

Can't think of much that could make someone feel more detached than if they treated this like a stopover on the way to a credential, here to get "stamped and certified" and off they go a "real experience" at a law firm. Which really is just a "credentializing system" for a job in government, or as an in-house counsel, or any number of other things. All of which are just "credentializing systems" for respectable cocktail party conversation and a nice retirement.

It's three years of our lives. I'd rather not minimize it into a waste of time waiting for the degree. There's value to the education; there's value in thinking about the stuff our classes make us think about; there's value in being around our fellow students; there's value in the experience itself, for the sake of the experience. If there wasn't, it'd be pointless to be here.

Just my instant reaction to the comment. Maybe I'm wrong.