Sunday, October 19, 2008

Songs About Law School Part 3

This is the third installment in the "Songs About Law School" series. This is Joy Sadaly's entry into the Access Group's "One Less Worry" scholarship contest. Joy's song reminded me of the "UPS syndrome" that my fellow law students used to talk about 30 years ago - comparing our financially miserable circumstances as law students to the financial security enjoyed by our high school friends who eschewed higher education for a career in in short brown pants and shirts. It sounds like little has changed in 30 years.

I wish I could confidently advise all undergrads that financial insecurity in the legal profession is limited to their time as a law student. Unfortunately, for those who choose to practice in the parts of the profession that serve the poor, the neglected, the forgotten, the politically and economically powerless, the young, the disabled, the accused - in short, those doing the most serious and important work for society will enevitably be the worst paid. That includes prosecutors as well as public defenders. It is difficult for a civic minded law student, interested in public service, to watch a classmate of inferior ability earn a salary many multiples higher than her own simply by choosing to do less socially important work for clients with means. I strongly recommend that students who are drawn to law school because of an interest in public service read "Broken Contract" by Richard Kahlenberg. It will help you to understand this syndrome and its causes so that you will know what to expect in law school and beyond. Again, the lesson is NOT, "Don't go to law school," it's "Go to law school expecting it will challenge you socially, culturally, and ideologically as well as intellectually." Knowing that this will happen will put you in a better position to maintain you ideals, values and personality as you go through.

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