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.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

A post which I want to title: The Post Where I Admit How Little I Really Know About What Lawyers Do and Why We Go To Law School, but I feel like that title would imply much more self-reflection and thoughtfulness than this post, which is really just about choosing classes.

Waddling Thunder has a post where he writes about the classes he's taking this year and says, "after much mental wrestling with such supposed necessities as 'Evidence' and 'Bankruptcy,' I've gone a different route." To which a commenter responds, "That you can get out of lawschool without taking evidence convinces me Harvard is nothing but a festering TTT."

Someone can tell me what TTT means if they like -- I'm assuming it's not a good thing, and feel like it has something to do with "Third-Tier" as in US News rankings, but am not completely confident about that.

I'm not taking Evidence either.

You can actually graduate without taking Constitutional Law, Corporations, or Tax.

(They're all part of the 2L bundle -- a recommended but not required set of classes; I took all 3 of them last year, but mostly by default, since I couldn't come up with any reason *not* to take them.)

I have no idea how wise that is. But I can argue one side of the debate.

We don't learn law in law school; we learn how to think about the law, where to find the law, how to read the law. The law is different in every state anyway. If I want to learn Evidence, I can learn it from a book. (Which is what I'll do for the bar exam anyway.) If you're not going to litigate, you're not going to need to know Evidence anyway. (I don't know if that's true. I'm only guessing. Really.) If I want to know about Wills and Trusts, I can learn it from a book. Etc. What makes law school classes more valuable than a book is the intellectual engagement -- getting to hear a really smart professor talk about stuff, and/or getting to hear reasonably smart classmates talk about stuff. Most of it has seemed to end up being a liberal arts education about the law. We don't learn how to practice. We learn how to think about this stuff, in the context of our legal system, and we get a set of topics for dinner-party conversation. Should the woman who spilled hot coffee on herself have really gotten money from McDonalds? Is the Supreme Court really apolitical? How should we reform our tax system? We become educated and informed and able to engage on issues. So why shouldn't we take classes that (a) we're most interested in, and (b) are taught by professors we think are rock stars? Isn't that the point? The law we can learn from a book. We're smart enough for that.

Now, I won't defend picking classes because they're easy, or picking classes because of when they meet (although I am probably somewhat guilty of that this semester -- I can honestly say that there aren't any classes I'm not taking that I would have taken if they met on different days; but I will honestly admit that I paid more attention to the choices that met on certain days than on others when I was picking them -- to a certain degree. Not at all when I originally picked last spring. Much more so when I was finalizing my schedule this fall. In any event, if I did pick based on that, shame on me and I'm wrong and I should get struck by lightning or something). But I'll absolutely defend picking classes you're interested in even if they're not on the bar exam, and picking classes based on the professor. We have a very precious number of credits to play with -- I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be here and to be getting this education, regardless of what I do or don't end up doing with the degree. It seems silly to waste them on classes where being here adds no value. I can learn Evidence from a book. And, yeah, I can probably learn all of this from a book. But there are professors who add value, and there are subjects that engage me more than others... these are not bad ways to choose classes.

Okay, that's the side of the debate I want to argue. I can see the other side. It probably starts with asking why someone would bother going to law school if they're not going to come out learning the baseline information that would make someone able to give some sort of legal advice. I understand. I just don't want to make that argument.