Law in Contemporary Society

Creativity in Law School

-- By MorreaseLeftwich - 25 Feb 2020

To be creative in law school, we must take what we want from law school while leaving what we don’t.

That is…

Come in to law school knowing what our goals are, or alternatively, while in law school, resist the urge to tunnel our vision and instead craft our goals with consideration of modes of success which are not popularly contemplated in law school.

In lieu of that…

Law school is intended to be a presentation of the law and the legal profession to law students, who are expected to have no knowledge of it. Given the state of new law students’ minds, law schools basically get to determine how law students will view the law and the legal profession. At top law schools like Columbia, the law is presented to us as an academic discipline and the legal profession is presented as if all that exists outside of government employment is the largest business law firms and a few boutiques. Though this presentation that the highest paying law students are receiving is deficient, there is internal validity within it. When the only form of legal knowledge that law students are gaining is that which has been bestowed upon them by the ivory towers, those law students are missing out on what they need to be self-sufficient in the legal profession—the skills of lawyering. So, the only forms of employment that we actually qualify for are those which don’t initially require us to be lawyers. This is why top law schools funnel us into employment which offers significant lawyering-training, which a lay person would assume law school gives. Thus, it is a self-sustaining system; students don’t learn how to be a lawyer in law school, so we have to work for an employer who will either teach us to be a lawyer or will allow us to work as high-paid paralegals.

However, we have a choice…

As for those of us who attend a top law school, we have a safety net that enables us to do law school in a way that cuts against the goal of the generic law school presentation set out above.

By safety net, I mean…

As students at top law schools, we can rest assured that so long as we pass our classes and graduate, our resume will be marked with prestige regardless of our grades or any other specifics of our law school career. Moreover, at many of these top law schools, like at Columbia, passing grades are quite easy to come by.

As to doing law school in a way that cuts against the goal of the generic law school presentation…

We can take advantage of the relatively inconsequential nature of grades at top law schools in order to explore and do law school in a way that prepares us for careers in law that we actually want.

In practice…

As 1Ls, we have few options about shaping our legal education. After mandatory legal methods, we were enrolled in four fall courses which we also did not choose. It was not until the Spring that we were allowed a choice of topic for our second legal methods course and one elective to take during the semester, along with three mandatory courses. Even faced with so little choice, a Columbia Law student still has the leeway to do law school in a way that is different from the norm, given the fact of our safety net. Students could capitalize on the safety net by refusing to stress over classes that they will pass anyway and instead take the time to enjoy the learning experience instead of studying for the exam. By first treating law school as a learning experience instead of a process revolving around exams, we can allow ourselves the time to contemplate what we most enjoy about the law and to translate that into a path to legal work that we will enjoy.


Webs Webs

r1 - 25 Feb 2020 - 15:54:59 - MorreaseLeftwich
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