Monday, July 10, 2006

Law Revue, Part 2: Outrunning the bear

Law school is like three years of being trapped in the woods with a bear: you don't need to outrun the bear, you just need to outrun everybody else. I'm referring, of course, to the dreaded grading curve. There seems an element of preposterousness to the idea that your Con Law exam didn't actually test how well you understood Con Law, but it's the truth; it only tested how well you understood Con Law as compared to everyone in your section. I suppose that's the unfortunate reality of the adversarial nature of the practice of law: that it's not about how well you know the case, it's about how well you know it as compared to the opposing counsel.

But consider this. I recently read a report that law schools are one of the few grad schools to impose grading curves. I'm not sure whether that fact is true, but there is a lot of evidence to suggest that the proliferation of the grading curve is partly to blame for the high rates of depression and substance abuse among law students. And why wouldn't it be? Whether you like it or not, the fact of the matter is that from the moment you are Oriented you are in a constant state of competition with everyone around you. The people you drink with at Bar Review, the blond with the legs in the first row, that handsome fellow whose blog you read: these aren't your friends. They're your ENEMIES. CRUSH THEM. DESTROY THEM. Unless you want to be condemned to a life of suing insurance agencies on behalf of people who can't speak English, then these people are the only thing that stand between you and six figures of glorious salary and a loan-free life. Think about that, and then wonder why so many law students go into law school with the hope of crafting a better tomorrow and come out cold-hearted, calculating, and cutthroat.

Some people say that the grading curve is a necessary evil because, for better or worse, it serves as a means of ranking students, thereby making Big Law Firm's interview process easier. That's wonderful, except law schools don't exist to make things easier for law firms; they exist to make things easier for law students.* They're SCHOOLS, see? I suppose by making things easier the firms schools thereby make things easier for the students by making it easier for them to get jobs after graduation, and I could swallow that argument from lesser-tiered schools like the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Want To Practice Law Good. But does anybody seriously think that if Harvard and Yale got rid of the grading curve Merger & Acquistion LLP would stop hiring Harvard grads?

* MARK: Sam, why did the President veto the bill?
SAM: There are--
AINSLEY: Because it guaranteed by law that ninety-five percent of the money go directly into the classroom and bypass the pork-barrel buffet, which is troubling to this President because he doesn't work for the students...
SAM: Well that's just--
AINSLEY: ...and he doesn't work for the parents of the students. He works for the teachers' union.

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