Law in Contemporary Society

The Jekyll and Hyde Components of the Legal Profession

Our justice system depends on the functional training of future lawyers in law schools across the country. This legal training is a flawed one filled with many countervailing forces. The most significant of these contrasting forces are the desire to educate legal and social leaders who, with the proper legal morals and sense of justice, can best serve their clients and the general population, and the economic drain this form of education imposes on future lawyers causing them to seek mainly capitalistic endeavors upon graduation. We will refer to the former force as the Jekyll component and the latter as the Hyde component.

The underlying consequences of the current system

Law schools pride themselves on the idea that they are training Mr. Jekylls, client devoted and resourceful individuals, to venture into the world swinging the hammer of justice in the name of the oppressed. In reality the system in which law schools train their students has an underlying crippling effect. The necessity to repay six figures worth of loans is feeding these innate Hyde tendencies. Graduating and having Uncle Sam knocking on their door is sending students crawling to big firms with the innocent intentions of working a couple of years and eventually pursuing the true reasons they came to law school. My guess as to why they are so many unhappy people at big firms is because they weren’t meant to be there to begin with. They are not becoming the leaders they were meant to be but rather are now sheep. Steven Harper the author of “The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis,” alludes to the possible reasons why lawyers have one of the most “miserable” jobs out there. Harper states, "You didn't go to law school because you thought you're getting to sit in front of a computer screen for hour after hour after hour reviewing documents.” "You thought you'd get into court once in a while, maybe meet a client, maybe do a deal, be involved in a transaction in a significant way” (

I reminisce about my past ambitions of helping some weak unrepresented group I wrote about in my personal statement. I wonder why now being canned meat doesn’t seem quite so bad, at least just for a little bit. I can help my group of choice for the time being with the simple signing of a check; perhaps one can make a reasonable argument that this of course doesn’t initiate true change. I feel more the pressures of paying off the large amounts of accumulated student loans than the pressure to stay the course one would believe I was on by reading my personal statement. Maybe the problem is that law students are being instructed in the ideologies of Jekyll but not instructed as to how to make this ideology economically salient on their own without the aid of some other firm or organization.

Why the instruction persists

The chains of capitalism currently weigh down on the current structure of a legal institution and as a result students are being forced to help keep this structure standing. I am told if I want to make money I go to a big firm otherwise I can take a pay cut and go into another legal subfield. There needs to be a middle ground where students are trained to seek out clients who will pay them the monthly nut they require. If law schools stopped illuminating these big firms as the only alternative of getting a payday then those firm checks and grants may stop rolling in. Students are being instructed to be leaders and seek creative endeavors but at the same time heavily incentivized to put these goals on the backburner to first work under someone else in the name of currency. As the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde illustrate, the two cannot coincide without some destructive results. A recent example of this is Nancy R. Heinen, previous Apple General Counsel, responsible backdating stock options for Steve Jobs. Heinen was working in a system that to make money you had to be someone’s employee. She was slave to her inner Hyde; she was not. We should be denouncing the system that continuous to foster this type of thinking and behavior. The legal system is incentivizing young lawyers to chase the heels of big corporations and fit into a pre-made model of what a lawyer should be rather than build their own. Though incentives are only incentives at the end of the day and not commands, it is hard to say no to a six-figure pay check when the only alternative presented in these legal institutions are ten years locked into a job in the public sector. There is no room to grow and change one’s mind as to the type of lawyer one wants to be.

When the Hyde is adequately fed the Jekyll component becomes compromised. When a six-figure loan meets a young scholar who thought they would use their law degree to save some unrepresented neighborhood or population, unfortunately the loans tends to win without sufficient guidance as to how to make this ambition profitable. I had the opportunity work at a big law firm prior to law school. Too often I heard young associate talk of how they would only be in at the law firm for a couple of years till their loans are paid off. Too often I heard a senior associate talk of how they planned on practicing for just a couple of years but it was too hard to walk away from the lifestyle they were accustomed to living. Too often I heard an ex lawyer tell of how they had to quit the profession because the firm culture made them unhappy. This idea that one must first pass through a big law firm before pursuing ones goals is having a crippling effect on the lives of many attorneys.

Saturation throughout the legal field

The Hyde component permeates throughout the legal field. Many firms have now created positions labeled “contract lawyers” ( These lawyers tend to have gone to lower ranked schools or for whatever reason incapable of locating a job in a law firm. These Contract Lawyers see nothing that they can use their degrees for other than be slave to these firms in anyway possible. They were not given the skills, or perhaps the confidence, to believe they could do more with their J.D. than to conform to one of these pre-made associate models crafted by firms.


Law schools and their faculty are resistant to the changing of legal education. If law students are to be instructed how to build up themselves rather than relying on others then some of the traditions of legal education have to change. Law students will have to be instructed by mentors who are actually experienced in the fields they are going to work in, not just career scholars. Law schools will have to reevaluate their prerequisite course requirements. Clinics and externships should be at the forefront of ones legal education rather than say a Torts class, where you learn nothing about modern day practicing. This though would require schools to say no to all the money firms throw at them to shuffle their students into their sweat factories. It will no doubt me an uphill battle. -- By BiyeremOkengwu - 25 Feb 2013


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r6 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:15:33 - IanSullivan
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