When I lived in the Washington DC area, I once went to a job fair advertised in the newspaper. I got connected there to what seemed to be a legitimate modeling agency. Their business consisted of getting their workers to comb the streets on foot, passing out business cards to anyone that looked like they could be a model. By the way, ugly people can also be hired as models given the appropriate sort of advertisement. In other words, anyone could be a possible model with the “right look.”
If any of the model prospects “discovered" by the on-foot scout called the number on the business card he or she was handed, they would not be immediately recruited, but would receive information about this modeling agency’s school. In fact, 60 Minutes did an exposé on this scam, especially as it entailed underage teenagers who were recruited by scouts and then in turn begged their parents to attend the modeling schools, sometimes with tuitions that racked up quickly into the tens of thousands of dollars. Although the graduates of these schools completed their studies successfully, they never got work as models.
The bottom line? No one needs to go to school to be a model.
Here’s a leap, but one I intend to argue later: no one needs to go to school to be a lawyer either.
Whatever you think about free enterprise and caveat emptor, these modeling schools are still scams. They intentionally cheat people. They are businesses that live off of dreams they implant in their heads of their victims. They are businesses that suck money out of their victims and give them very little in return. They are businesses fully aware that they are going to take money (lots of money) from unsuspecting people and then close their doors tight to them. They are truly bunco artists.
But the best of bunco artists know that you can never sting the victim without finesse. You have to be classy. You have to make the victim relax and trust you. You have to dress sharp and grease the victim’s palm a little, if not a lot. Stroke their vanity. Speak fast. Get your mark giddy.
Welcome to law school. Law school is the ultimate bunco operation. And guess what? They know it!
If you’ve been through a law school’s orientation, you know how they operate. First they stroke your vanity: “congratulations on being accepted to our school; you are now one of us.” Law schools have their own halls of fame and traditions. These are deliberately and unrelentlessly instilled upon you before you even get to learn how to “IRAC” or fondly appreciate the writing style of Justice Benjamin Cardozo.
And never underestimate the power of food. They feed you! For free! Sumptuous orientation dinners. BBQs. Cocktail mixers. Boxes of pizza stacked all in a row, according to their ingredients. Boxes of bagels and coffee all free for the taking during your first “mid-term.”
Then there are the seating charts! You get to glance briefly at them as you enter the lecture hall. There you are on the seating chart with your name and picture. You belong somewhere. Over there. Next to the cute blond girl with the tie-dyed t-shirt.
Like any graduate school, there are the visits from celebrities. Go see a television personality talk. It’s free. You can even ask this personality a question or two, if you screw up your courage and ask them something.
Everywhere you go, the lawyers are warm, cozy, and cuddly. They brag about how generous they are. You hear anecdotes about alumni, who are now actively employed in the legal profession. You are bathed in abundance. In fact, you never knew lawyers could be so nice.
Then it happens. You are cut out of their program. In the back of your mind, you knew this was possible, but you were convinced it wouldn’t happen to you. Some law schools cut up to 30% of their first-year students, all based on a brutal curve. Your work could even be satisfactory, but someone has to get that “C-." If there is anything unusual about your writing style or thought process, or probably even if you are more confident than the others and can memorize cases and rules better than the others, the professors will put your exam on the bottom of the stack. They have the power, after all, to find the new star lawyers for tomorrow and they intend to use it, not out of a sense of responsibility, but out of the little extra charge they get from the feeling of the power of a kingmaker.
You were certain that the people who were cut would be the people not ready for graduate school in the first place. You were certain that the people who were cut would be people not engaged in the whole spirit of the school, who sat quietly in the back row, and never went to parties. You were certain that if you raised your hand and answered questions correctly, or related a case efficiently and accurately when called upon, you were on the right path. But, alas you weren’t. And there are no comments from the teacher about what is wrong with your work. You are going to be cut from their program, and someone has to be cut, so just sit back and let yourself be that poor “stung” victim who has little else to do but squirm.
Then it dawns on you. You’ve been set up! You’ve been cheated.
I already have a PhD, so there’s no excuse about being ready for graduate studies. I raised my hand in class. I wrote things carefully and thoroughly. I’m a professional journalist with over 300 publications, after all. I have more experience than most of these law professors in writing. In fact, in dealing with family health matters and other financial matters, I’ve probably even been in court more than these professors. But to these lawyers, something isn’t quite right. Hm. Let’s give the “C-” to this guy.
All the good feeling being coddled by law school purges away as the first round of grades start trickling in. That’s when you can finally get the opportunity to look into the faces of these law professors and see them for what they are: blank and soulless. They have to be that way. They are not responsible for your demise, the system is. They are all just barnacles on a massive ship that is carrying them somewhere they are not even privy to. And didn’t these same law professors tell you repeatedly that it doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, you must be prepared to argue both sides of an issue?
You now visit the professors during their office hours with the purpose of going over the exams with them, but they have already developed a method to deal with you. If you show them mistakes they made in correcting things, they know precisely how to hem and haw. Some of them won’t even return the exams to you, but make you “check them out” like a library book--view them for a few days, but they must be returned. Don’t make a copy of the model answer either (sort of like tearing off that mattress label under penalty of law). And if your exam had multiple choice questions on it that were graded by computer, you’ll never even know what answers you answered incorrectly, because you’ll only get the written portion of your exam back.
Different professors have different styles of sitting down with the students: some snowball through the session, trying not to give you a moment to even think; others snarl at you (no joke about this); others roll up their sleeves and circumlocute until you are literally dizzy.
But if you are lucky to get a law professor who thinks he or she is intrepid enough to look you in the eye and take any punch you might throw, you’ll see just exactly where the tens of thousands of dollars you spent on this so-called “education” went. These intrepid law professors, who no doubt once intimidated you when you hadn’t yet got your lawyering sea legs, are little else than scared puppies working for a system that feeds and clothes them, but does not encourage or require them to either teach or participate in the grand dialogue that is the academic side of legal profession. That doesn’t mean they won’t teach or participate as academicians, but it does mean that when pressed, you’ll see that they haven’t mastered the intricacies of law that they pretended to clobber you over the head with during their lectures. They are lazy, in fact. They are all style, no substance. They are not even intellectuals.
Let me emphasize this one more time: the system is cheating you, not the law professors. These law professors know that they cannot possibly be the legal experts they are expected to be, who can peruse and read one hundred exams every semester and competently separate the legal wheat from the chaff. They can’t do this and keep up with new developments in the law because no one can.
That leaves this prestidigitation they call processing law students. Like the modeling agency mentioned earlier, law schools hope they can keep enough people satisfied to keep up appearances, while taking the money of the other poor victims. They hope the victims will suck it up and just leave their school quietly once they are academically disqualified. In other words, they are like any other bunco artist. The best stings are those too embarrassed to report their loss to the police.
At least this sting has a blog. He also has $36,000 in debt that a certain law school induced him to spend so that its law professors will have money to put braces on their children’s faces and make payments on their BMWs. He has to admit, on the other hand, that he did get free pizza and bagels now and then. He also got important lessons about, let’s face it, an evil and corrupt system.