f/k/a . . . the archives

May 22, 2005

the siren is whinin’

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 2:12 pm

Scheherazade Fowler often says insightful things.  Yesterday, however, she – admittedly —

got “a little carried away” in a ranty piece called Legal Lies (May 21, 2005).  It’s Sherry’s

passionate plea that lawyers “recognize that our young people look up to the lawyers

who have come before them, and we owe it to them to tell the truth whenever possible.”   

Besides the basic wrongheadedness of many of her points, and the total failure to suggest

alternative solutions, I have two main problems with Sherry’s litany of complaints:



  • She assumes an infantile passivity and ignorance, along with a lack of both

    curiosity and reponsibility, on behalf of college and law students; that’s insulting

    to them and, if true, unacceptable in people who want to be attorneys for others;

    (see prior post, “Homework for Law School Appplicants;” and



  • She (mis)characterizes the attitudes of a portion of the legal profession (sometimes just

    one or two weblog writers) and then attributres them to the entire profession.

LureLawN I would have ignored “Legal Lies” as just a little blowing off of steam by our charming

spinner of tales, but the enthusiastic response of her Commentors (e.g., here) seems to cry out for

rebuttal.. . . . 

 

click here for the full story –

 

 







baby sparrow
so quickly you’ve learned
to eat and run

 

 

 

 

the ordinary bee
struts like a peacock…
blossom-filled temple






 

 

 

 

 

the rice fields
greener and greener!
flute practice


 


translated by David G. Lanoue

8 Comments

  1. David, I just left an extremely long comment, but because I didn’t enter my email address in the form, the whole thing has dissolved.

    I don’t have time to redo it. It’s a frustrating feature.

    I’m sorry my post disappointed you. I agree that my rant neither acknowledged the people in the profession who ARE speaking truthfully about all of these things, and who are making it easier for young people to assess their options and make good decisions, nor did I offer exhaustive reforms to the whole system.

    I agree that everyone should undertake self-examination and an independent inquiry into their assumptions about a career path before starting something. Such people will be happier than those who don’t. Unlike you, however, I don’t think that bright young people who haven’t necessarily read all of the resources you and find themselves in a system that doesn’t make much sense and is disillusioning are “naiive, lazy, inert, infantile, passive, ignorant, irresponsible whiners.”

    Anyway, your post fills in a lot of the blanks. I hope you’re right that the generalizations I made in my rant are now largely debunked. You must be talking to different people than I am.

    Comment by Scheherazade — May 22, 2005 @ 4:06 pm

  2. David, I just left an extremely long comment, but because I didn’t enter my email address in the form, the whole thing has dissolved.

    I don’t have time to redo it. It’s a frustrating feature.

    I’m sorry my post disappointed you. I agree that my rant neither acknowledged the people in the profession who ARE speaking truthfully about all of these things, and who are making it easier for young people to assess their options and make good decisions, nor did I offer exhaustive reforms to the whole system.

    I agree that everyone should undertake self-examination and an independent inquiry into their assumptions about a career path before starting something. Such people will be happier than those who don’t. Unlike you, however, I don’t think that bright young people who haven’t necessarily read all of the resources you and find themselves in a system that doesn’t make much sense and is disillusioning are “naiive, lazy, inert, infantile, passive, ignorant, irresponsible whiners.”

    Anyway, your post fills in a lot of the blanks. I hope you’re right that the generalizations I made in my rant are now largely debunked. You must be talking to different people than I am.

    Comment by Scheherazade — May 22, 2005 @ 4:06 pm

  3. Thanks for coming by to respond, Scheherazade, it’s been too long since you’ve visited.  I’m sorry that you lost your first message, but I don’t think I have any control over that function.
    Although I disagree with the particulars of your post, you certainly didn’t “disappoint” me — I don’t expect consensus and I know we both want a better profession — one that serves the clients better and that treats its members better.
    I do not believe there is any good excuse for college students or law students to fail to do their “homework” before deciding to go to law school and deciding where and how to practice.   There are too many warnings signs and too much readily-available information for justifiable surprise — or for blaming anyone but one’s self.  No generation has ever questioned the career choices and priorities of their parents’ generation as much as Gen X and Gen Y.  I’d be happy to hear the adjectives you think are appropriate to describe those who went to law school without investing serious time and energy on those issues.  As I just added in a supplement to the post:  I’m not saying young lawyers shouldn’t speak out about what’s wrong with the profession.  They just shouldn’t be surprised and shouldn’t blame any one else for luring them into this messy profession.

    Comment by David Giacalone — May 22, 2005 @ 6:56 pm

  4. Thanks for coming by to respond, Scheherazade, it’s been too long since you’ve visited.  I’m sorry that you lost your first message, but I don’t think I have any control over that function.
    Although I disagree with the particulars of your post, you certainly didn’t “disappoint” me — I don’t expect consensus and I know we both want a better profession — one that serves the clients better and that treats its members better.
    I do not believe there is any good excuse for college students or law students to fail to do their “homework” before deciding to go to law school and deciding where and how to practice.   There are too many warnings signs and too much readily-available information for justifiable surprise — or for blaming anyone but one’s self.  No generation has ever questioned the career choices and priorities of their parents’ generation as much as Gen X and Gen Y.  I’d be happy to hear the adjectives you think are appropriate to describe those who went to law school without investing serious time and energy on those issues.  As I just added in a supplement to the post:  I’m not saying young lawyers shouldn’t speak out about what’s wrong with the profession.  They just shouldn’t be surprised and shouldn’t blame any one else for luring them into this messy profession.

    Comment by David Giacalone — May 22, 2005 @ 6:56 pm

  5. David-

    You do make some very excellent points in response to Sherry’s “Lies” post. But I would pick a few nits:

    1. You keep harping on the “we” (which is merely a rhetorical device) and then you turn around and use it yourself, “We all know that testing has its limits and is not perfect.” C’mon, we all know who we is… don’t we? I know who we is.

    2. Re: you can do many things… you say you “don’t know one lawyer who says this, nor one law professor.” Really?! I could introduce you to *dozens*. In fact, that was the number one phrase used at every school I visited… “you can do so much with a law degree,” “it opens so many doors,” “you don’t have to go into big law… you don’t even have to practice.” Of course students should view this with some skepticism: schools are selling something. However, when multiple people in the profession and in positions of authority repeat this, one does *want* to believe it. Students are just students; they should be cut some slack for actually listening to the advice of their elders, I should think. And their elders should be forthright in the advice they give.

    3. “Law firm greed — often matched by the greedy aspirations of associates — is the problem.” A problem far too seldom acknowledged! And yes, something Sherry’s post didn’t really address.

    In the end you ask, “Am I asking too much of law school applicants and law students, or is Sherry asking too little?”

    I answer: both. Certainly you are correct that “we”, as students, should take a more active role in examining our motives for attending law school and should take it upon ourselves to make our own life decisions, educating ourselves about the realities of the choices we make. That is undeniable. But I would ask you: when you went to law school, did you really examine the profession this thoroughly? Did you really ask these hard questions? And were you really mature enough to do so?

    I’m coming to law school from a different perspective than many of my fellow students. I’ve been out of college for over 10 years. But in all honestly (and I do not mean to be patronizing) many of the students in my class are fresh out of college and still *kids*. They don’t have all of the skills necessary to really evaluate what taking on the debt of law school will be like. In their defense, they turn to older and supposedly wiser members of the profession for guidance and advise. They shouldn’t be chastised for not taking responsibility for their actions when they are using one of the resources available to them. And I can vouch from personal experience that if you ask a dozen lawyers about their law school experience, you’ll not only get 12 different answers, you’ll get at least 2/3 of the b.s. responses Sherry posted about.

    “We” should expect students do take some responsibility for their life decisions; but “we” should also be honest with them when they come to “us” for advice. I think that was Sherry’s point, at least, that is what I took from it.

    Comment by Dave! — May 24, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

  6. David-

    You do make some very excellent points in response to Sherry’s “Lies” post. But I would pick a few nits:

    1. You keep harping on the “we” (which is merely a rhetorical device) and then you turn around and use it yourself, “We all know that testing has its limits and is not perfect.” C’mon, we all know who we is… don’t we? I know who we is.

    2. Re: you can do many things… you say you “don’t know one lawyer who says this, nor one law professor.” Really?! I could introduce you to *dozens*. In fact, that was the number one phrase used at every school I visited… “you can do so much with a law degree,” “it opens so many doors,” “you don’t have to go into big law… you don’t even have to practice.” Of course students should view this with some skepticism: schools are selling something. However, when multiple people in the profession and in positions of authority repeat this, one does *want* to believe it. Students are just students; they should be cut some slack for actually listening to the advice of their elders, I should think. And their elders should be forthright in the advice they give.

    3. “Law firm greed — often matched by the greedy aspirations of associates — is the problem.” A problem far too seldom acknowledged! And yes, something Sherry’s post didn’t really address.

    In the end you ask, “Am I asking too much of law school applicants and law students, or is Sherry asking too little?”

    I answer: both. Certainly you are correct that “we”, as students, should take a more active role in examining our motives for attending law school and should take it upon ourselves to make our own life decisions, educating ourselves about the realities of the choices we make. That is undeniable. But I would ask you: when you went to law school, did you really examine the profession this thoroughly? Did you really ask these hard questions? And were you really mature enough to do so?

    I’m coming to law school from a different perspective than many of my fellow students. I’ve been out of college for over 10 years. But in all honestly (and I do not mean to be patronizing) many of the students in my class are fresh out of college and still *kids*. They don’t have all of the skills necessary to really evaluate what taking on the debt of law school will be like. In their defense, they turn to older and supposedly wiser members of the profession for guidance and advise. They shouldn’t be chastised for not taking responsibility for their actions when they are using one of the resources available to them. And I can vouch from personal experience that if you ask a dozen lawyers about their law school experience, you’ll not only get 12 different answers, you’ll get at least 2/3 of the b.s. responses Sherry posted about.

    “We” should expect students do take some responsibility for their life decisions; but “we” should also be honest with them when they come to “us” for advice. I think that was Sherry’s point, at least, that is what I took from it.

    Comment by Dave! — May 24, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

  7. Hello, Dave!, thanks for taking the time for a useful and thoughtful response.
    I think I have used “we” a lot more judiciously than Sherry did.  When you are condemning a large class of people — and using a lot of absolutes and hyperbole — it’s appropriate to focus a bit better.   When I used “we” in the testing context, I was (a) trying to partially agree with Sherry and (b) stating a conclusion about testing that virtually every thinking person on the planet believes.   Some “we’s” are a lot more accurate than others — suggesting that they’re not may be arguing like a lawyer, but it is not thinking like a lawyer.
    On the issue of what you can do with a law degree:  Sherry made the extreme statement: “We tell them “you can do anything you want with a legal degree.”  You paraphrased her with the far more accurate “you can do many things,” which is also my take on it and is TRUE (what other degree offers such a broad array of possibilities?).  Of course, that doesn’t mean that every person will have the choice of every job they want — only a nitwit would think so.  No degree in any field could do that.  Hearing such a broad statement from ones elders should give any college student pause — preparing you for almost everything might mean preparing you for almost nothing.   [Also, hearing that you don't have to go into BigLaw should also make you ask "Why wouldn't I want to go into BigLaw?"]
    I’ve known far too many incredibly inquisitive and argumentative adolescents, college students, and young adults to believe that many of them take much advice from their elders without adding a lot of salt or just tuning it out.   [If you've been through the college application process and aren't skeptical about the b.s. coming from law schools, please don't become a lawyer.]  Young folk do more cross-examination than any group I’ve known — which is why a lot of them have been told, “Geez, you oughtta be a lawyer, with all those yabuts.”
    On the greed thing:  I agree with Prof. Schiltz that, despite the large amount of law school debt, there are many good law jobs outside of BigLaw that can provide an adequate lifestyle while paying off the debt.  It’s wanting it all now that makes BigLaw the “only” option for many.
    You asked about my experience when thinking about law school:  As I have stated before on this website, law school was a “default position” for me.  I felt I needed another degree to get a “good” job, I had no interest in hard sciences, and I knew that law school left a lot of doors open.  I also thought that I might not go (due to fewer options on graduating), if I didn’t get into a top school — whether I lucked out or not when Harvard accepted me is another story.  [I must admit that I had absolutely no idea what a "lawyer does" when I chose to go to law school -- and, I knew no lawyers.  Of course, even if I had spoken with a few lawyers doing different kinds of jobs, I would have only scratched the surface.]
    Please note:  I applied to law school 32 years ago and things were much different:   In the 70′s colleges did very little career counseling.  More important, in the 70′s and 80′s the vast amount of literature about a troubled legal profession did not exist — both because satisfaction was higher and because the Greatest Generation didn’t talk much about their feelings.  They worked to make a living, not for fulfillment.  No one has that excuse now, and the existence of the internet makes it far too easy to ask the right questions and locate the right information.
    You bet many college and law school students are still kids, even though they insist on being treated like adults.  But (unlike my generation), they have lots of people trying to tell them about credit and budgeting, about finding the right career fit, about listening to sales pitches with skepticism.  Most of Sherry’s conclusions are overstated or plain wrong.  Targeting the “we” of the profession, without one word about the responsibility of each “me” involved treats applicants and graduates like defenseless children.  I respect them too much to take them off the hook, if they make a momentous decision like going to law school without investing some sweat equity in the choice. 

    Comment by David Giacalone — May 24, 2005 @ 2:11 pm

  8. Hello, Dave!, thanks for taking the time for a useful and thoughtful response.
    I think I have used “we” a lot more judiciously than Sherry did.  When you are condemning a large class of people — and using a lot of absolutes and hyperbole — it’s appropriate to focus a bit better.   When I used “we” in the testing context, I was (a) trying to partially agree with Sherry and (b) stating a conclusion about testing that virtually every thinking person on the planet believes.   Some “we’s” are a lot more accurate than others — suggesting that they’re not may be arguing like a lawyer, but it is not thinking like a lawyer.
    On the issue of what you can do with a law degree:  Sherry made the extreme statement: “We tell them “you can do anything you want with a legal degree.”  You paraphrased her with the far more accurate “you can do many things,” which is also my take on it and is TRUE (what other degree offers such a broad array of possibilities?).  Of course, that doesn’t mean that every person will have the choice of every job they want — only a nitwit would think so.  No degree in any field could do that.  Hearing such a broad statement from ones elders should give any college student pause — preparing you for almost everything might mean preparing you for almost nothing.   [Also, hearing that you don't have to go into BigLaw should also make you ask "Why wouldn't I want to go into BigLaw?"]
    I’ve known far too many incredibly inquisitive and argumentative adolescents, college students, and young adults to believe that many of them take much advice from their elders without adding a lot of salt or just tuning it out.   [If you've been through the college application process and aren't skeptical about the b.s. coming from law schools, please don't become a lawyer.]  Young folk do more cross-examination than any group I’ve known — which is why a lot of them have been told, “Geez, you oughtta be a lawyer, with all those yabuts.”
    On the greed thing:  I agree with Prof. Schiltz that, despite the large amount of law school debt, there are many good law jobs outside of BigLaw that can provide an adequate lifestyle while paying off the debt.  It’s wanting it all now that makes BigLaw the “only” option for many.
    You asked about my experience when thinking about law school:  As I have stated before on this website, law school was a “default position” for me.  I felt I needed another degree to get a “good” job, I had no interest in hard sciences, and I knew that law school left a lot of doors open.  I also thought that I might not go (due to fewer options on graduating), if I didn’t get into a top school — whether I lucked out or not when Harvard accepted me is another story.  [I must admit that I had absolutely no idea what a "lawyer does" when I chose to go to law school -- and, I knew no lawyers.  Of course, even if I had spoken with a few lawyers doing different kinds of jobs, I would have only scratched the surface.]
    Please note:  I applied to law school 32 years ago and things were much different:   In the 70′s colleges did very little career counseling.  More important, in the 70′s and 80′s the vast amount of literature about a troubled legal profession did not exist — both because satisfaction was higher and because the Greatest Generation didn’t talk much about their feelings.  They worked to make a living, not for fulfillment.  No one has that excuse now, and the existence of the internet makes it far too easy to ask the right questions and locate the right information.
    You bet many college and law school students are still kids, even though they insist on being treated like adults.  But (unlike my generation), they have lots of people trying to tell them about credit and budgeting, about finding the right career fit, about listening to sales pitches with skepticism.  Most of Sherry’s conclusions are overstated or plain wrong.  Targeting the “we” of the profession, without one word about the responsibility of each “me” involved treats applicants and graduates like defenseless children.  I respect them too much to take them off the hook, if they make a momentous decision like going to law school without investing some sweat equity in the choice. 

    Comment by David Giacalone — May 24, 2005 @ 2:11 pm

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