Welcome to Law School 2023

Just like clockwork, the Spirit Halloweens are popping up and law students are heading back to campus, which means it's time for our Welcome to Law School episode. Come for the updates, and stay for the milk crate challenge!

A podcast where we usually dissect and analyze the Supreme Court cases that, blah, blah, blah.


0:00:03.7 Peter: Welcome to 5-4, where we usually dissect and analyze the Supreme Court cases that, blah, blah, blah.

0:00:11.2 Rhiannon: Yeah.


0:00:12.6 Peter: But once a year, instead, we talk about law school.

0:00:16.7 Michael: That's right.

0:00:17.3 Rhiannon: Yeah. Something a little different, but maybe just as depressing.

0:00:21.1 Peter: Yeah. It's our back to school episode baby.

0:00:23.7 Michael: Yeah.

0:00:24.1 Rhiannon: Yeah.

0:00:25.0 Peter: All over the country, little law students, packing their lunches, putting on their backpacks, and they're going off to learn. And a few years ago, we made an episode about it called Welcome to Law School, and people liked it, and so we thought we should probably drop it in our feed in some form every year to make sure that no incoming student misses this precious knowledge.

0:00:52.3 Rhiannon: That's right.

0:00:52.8 Michael: That's right.

0:00:53.2 Rhiannon: Yeah, very important.

0:00:54.7 Peter: And then also, we wanna add a little bit. Have we learned anything new in the past year or so that we don't want these poor students to go without?


0:01:04.8 Peter: As you've heard, I am here with Michael.

0:01:07.1 Michael: Hey everybody.

0:01:07.9 Peter: And Rhiannon.

0:01:08.9 Rhiannon: Hello.

0:01:10.4 Peter: And Rhi, I think to give the incoming students a slice of law life, you have to tell the story that you just told us.

0:01:19.3 Rhiannon: Yeah, it was just... I have graduated from law school, got the degree, got that JD. And so I have a law job now, I am a lawyer. I actually work a lot with law students, so I'm excited that we're talking about this episode today with a sort of 2023 update. But I still do some lawyer things and so, what did that JD get me today? Well, today in mid-August 2023, this afternoon, I appeared before a judge, and that judge on the bench was chewing dip. Chewing tobacco with a spit cup.

0:01:55.2 Peter: Oh, it's so good.

0:01:56.3 Rhiannon: From the bench.

0:01:58.0 Peter: Texas baby.


0:02:00.8 Rhiannon: So, yeah, welcome to law school everybody.


0:02:04.1 Rhiannon: That's what...

0:02:04.6 Peter: Let me guess, you lost your motion that...


0:02:07.1 Rhiannon: Case dismissed actually, bitch.

0:02:10.6 Peter: Nice. Nice.

0:02:10.9 Rhiannon: So, yeah.

0:02:11.2 Rhiannon: Nice.

0:02:11.4 Michael: Look at that.

0:02:13.2 Peter: Rhi used the classic tactic, she also busted out her own dip to mirror the judge.


0:02:18.2 Rhiannon: Listen, I say this all the time, I may not sound like it, but I am. Texas born and raised. I can, "Hey y'all." With the best of them. So you better believe I pull some of that out when I'm in front of certain judges.

0:02:31.0 Peter: Absolutely, absolutely. Just like I do my best Tony Soprano in New York.


0:02:38.1 Rhiannon: So we're talking about law school, and welcoming students to the special hell that is law school. Like I said, starting this year I now work with law students, so going back and listening to this episode, I feel like largely, we get it right. There's not a lot more to say, because unfortunately, in the past few years that we've been doing this podcast, law school hasn't changed all that much. It's the same. And I think a really big thing, this time of the year, we talk about this actually in the episode, but this time of the year especially on social media, on Twitter, legal blogs, etcetera, the theme is like, law school advice. New law students, new 1Ls here's what you need to know to succeed in law school. And I think the theme of that advice is always really disappointing. The constant thing that everybody hears already, it's not smart or interesting. And that is, you gotta put your nose to the grindstone, you gotta work harder than everybody, you gotta get better grades than everybody, and that's the only way to succeed in law school. And I think our episode does a good job of this, but I just wanna reiterate off top that, that's bullshit for a lot of people.

0:03:51.7 Rhiannon: I think that you have to remember if you're an incoming law student, that you are a human being, you are more than a law student, you are somebody's kid, you are a family member, you are a musician, you have all of your hobbies and interests, you are a person who is loved and loves other people. You are not just a law student, you are not a robot, and success means something different for you than it does to everybody else. And you can build success in law school that looks like success that is meaningful to you that is different from the sort of one-size-fits-all definition of success that's churned out for everybody every year.

0:04:30.1 Peter: Yeah. There are a lot of people that'll say, "Look, it's unfortunate, but this is a competitive credential-driven profession, and therefore you have to play the game. You have to work extremely hard, non-stop, drape yourself in credentials, or else you will be out-competed by your peers." And I think that advice appeals to gunners because they are high achievers, but also to cynics, because it contains these little accurate criticisms of the profession.

0:05:00.6 Rhiannon: Yeah.

0:05:00.9 Peter: They go, "Yeah, you might think it's bad, but you still have to play along." And yeah, we talk about this in the episode, but I wanna drive it home because again, you will hear this over and over again if you're entering law school. Within law, there are a handful of very prestigious and/or very lucrative jobs that if you want them, this advice applies too. Right?

0:05:21.7 Rhiannon: Sure.

0:05:21.7 Peter: If you want your fancy federal clerkship or jobs at really prestigious non-profits like the ACLU, if you want to work for certain hyper-competitive big law firms, you'll need a great GPA, maybe some fancy internships, a father who you barely know who has connections within the industry, all that stuff. But that's like a very, very small slice of the profession, and my real advice is to think about what you actually want, because you can go that route, you can try to get the federal clerkship, get the big, fancy, high-paying job, go try to be the Solicitor General or whatever the hell you wanna do. But you can also go work in direct services, do public interest work that way, and you won't need any of that. There is a ton of demand for public defenders. There is a ton of demand for lawyers who do fair housing, right? And there are also middle roads, right? You can aim towards an in-house lawyering position and live a relatively quiet life, making a good but not obscene salary. That's a real path.

0:06:33.2 Michael: Yeah.

0:06:33.4 Peter: Right?

0:06:33.8 Rhiannon: Yeah, absolutely.

0:06:35.0 Peter: That's what I was trying to do for a bit. It didn't work out great for me, but it's relatively easy. Don't sweat people saying that there's only one viable path because it's just not true.

0:06:47.3 Michael: Yeah. I listened to the episode again this morning, and there's something that we talk about a little bit, but maybe not as much and probably I think because it's not as pertinent to 1Ls in particular, but something that professor Steve Vladeck said on our podcast that I've been thinking a lot about the last few months is that, law schools have sort of two identities, right? Part of every law school is a sort of graduate school philosophy of law, academic institution, and part of every law school's identity is like a trade school that's preparing you to pass the bar and join a profession.

0:07:29.3 Michael: Every school's mix of those two identities is different. And then within that school, you're gonna have, regardless of the mix, you're gonna have some professors who are very academic, some professors who are very brass tack, some classes, right? I tended to gravitate towards professors who taught seminars and were very academic. But I took classes like evidence 'cause everybody was like, that's a great bar prep class. You take that 3L, and then you don't have to worry about that section of Barbri when you're preparing for the bar. And I think it's good to really sort of have that in the back of your mind when you are doing things like picking out what classes to take in 2L, and if you're frustrated with your professors who you feel like are bullshitting you because they are sort of hiding the ball about the real power in the law or whatever, is to remind yourself that part of what you're doing there at the very least is preparing to pass a brutal professional exam and be licensed to practice a profession.

0:08:39.8 Michael: And that's gonna be part of it. That's just part of the experience is learning the status quo of the law, taking it at face value, taking opinions at face value, because you're just trying to get through material so that you will be ready. And that's frustrating, but that's just part of the process. And I think being aware of it will maybe help deal with that, with those frustrations when a class isn't quite what you want it to be or a professor is not quite the teacher you want them to be.

0:09:09.8 Rhiannon: Yeah. I think all of this is not to say that you shouldn't take part or try to change a negative or toxic culture that you find yourself in, right?

0:09:20.5 Peter: Yeah. No.

0:09:20.6 Rhiannon: Or at least recognize that you are separate and apart from that and that you don't have to buy in. And so if that looks like taking the classes with the professors that you want, then do that. If that looks like making sure that you get practical experience while you're in law school by taking clinics, you should do that. If that looks like taking classes that you know are gonna be tested on the bar 'cause you're just trying to get through the bar and get that license, then do that. I think the whole point is that again, you're defining success for yourself. And you have the power to build your own path.

0:09:53.8 Michael: Almost every class I took, I took, because I was like, that sounds interesting.

0:09:57.4 Peter: Yeah.

0:09:57.6 Rhiannon: Absolutely.

0:09:57.9 Peter: 100%. Same as college. I think that our podcast in a lot of ways is about cutting through a lot of the bullshit in law and locating the moral center of it and the philosophical center of it. And I think that leaves a lot of law students to think that we're recommending that they treat law school as some sort of moral crusade and like, no, you don't need to. Relax a little bit. It is a place where you don't want to lose your morals, but you're allowed to be practical and realistic in the way that you structure your career.

0:10:33.6 Michael: Yeah.

0:10:33.9 Rhiannon: Right. You came to law school for a reason.

0:10:35.4 Michael: That's right.

0:10:35.7 Rhiannon: You came to law school for a goal that was post law school, right?

0:10:39.9 Peter: Yeah. Someone in your family told you that you were good at arguing and you didn't know what else to do.

0:10:44.7 Rhiannon: That's right.

0:10:44.8 Michael: Yes. That's right.

0:10:45.9 Peter: The only thing I wanna add before we move on to the episode is, this is a dark time for lawyers. Some of our colleagues, our brothers and sisters in the bar.


0:10:56.9 Michael: I already know where this is going.

0:10:58.2 Peter: Are being criminally charged.


0:11:00.7 Michael: Oh my God.

0:11:02.2 Peter: Merely for giving advice to a former president who was trying his very best to win an election. And it's up to all of us as barred attorneys...

0:11:15.3 Rhiannon: And future lawyers.

0:11:16.2 Michael: To rally around.

0:11:17.4 Peter: Rally around those heroes and ensure that this sort of injustice does not... [chuckle]

0:11:25.4 Michael: You can't write a memo explaining the best way to depose the incoming president and overthrow American democracy, and then help put that memo into action by organizing fake electors in seven different states.

0:11:40.4 Peter: Then what advice can you give?

0:11:41.9 Michael: Right. Exactly. Nobody is safe.

0:11:43.8 Peter: No. And that's why we here at 5-4 stand with John Eastman and Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani, the vanguard of our profession as I consider them.


0:11:55.1 Rhiannon: I hate this.


0:11:57.7 Rhiannon: More importantly, everybody, if you are an Archenemy subscriber on our Patreon, we are doing a very special law school themed Zoom for Archenemy tier subscribers. This episode is coming out Tuesday, August 29th, the Sunday coming up, Sunday, September 3rd. In the evening, we will be doing a Zoom Law School themed. You do not have to be a law student to attend. It'll be fun. We're gonna shit on law school. We want to hear all of the crazy things that you've already heard in law school. If you just started, join us, sign up at our Patreon. You can check out fivefourpod.com/support to see what your signup options are, and we will talk to you on Sunday night.

0:12:42.7 Michael: Yeah.

0:12:43.6 Peter: I wanna hear those awful law school stories.

0:12:46.0 Rhiannon: Yeah. Let's go.

0:12:47.5 Speaker 4: Oh sweetheart. You don't need law school. Law school's for people who are boring and ugly and serious.


0:12:58.4 Speaker 5: Hey, everyone. This is Leon from Fiasco and Prologue Projects. On this week's episode of 5-4, peter, Rhiannon, and Michael are talking about law school, what's wrong with it, how to fix it, and how to survive it. Whether you've already been to law school or you're just about to start, this episode will help you understand the difference between learning about the law, and learning about justice. This is 5-4, a podcast about how much the Supreme Court and law school suck.

0:13:33.5 Peter: Welcome to 5-4, where we dissect and analyze the Supreme Court cases that have eaten away at our civil liberties like rabbits to a suburban vegetable garden. I am Peter. I'm here with Rhiannon.

0:13:46.9 Rhiannon: Hey. Hello.

0:13:47.9 Peter: And Michael.

0:13:48.6 Michael: Hi. Hi.

0:13:50.3 Peter: I see our producer is very confused about that, but my dad had a garden when I was growing up, so trust me, they are a scourge.

0:13:57.5 Rhiannon: I half expected a milk crate challenge metaphor today.

0:14:03.1 Michael: Yeah.

0:14:03.4 Peter: Yeah. Unfortunately, I have only recently been exposed to the milk crate challenge, and like, I think everyone else, I think I could do it. I think I could it.

0:14:12.8 Michael: I'm very confident I could do it. Absolutely.

0:14:13.5 Rhiannon: I'm 100%. My center of gravity is low. Put me on the crates.

0:14:18.5 Peter: Here's why I think I could do it 'cause I think people are misunderstanding it. And in fact, I think you just misunderstood it. This is not about agility and balance. This is about crate stacking and really getting a firm, solid stack of crates. And do I believe in my crate stacking abilities? Absolutely. Absolutely. Tens of thousands of listeners, you all hear me? I'm saying it.


0:14:44.0 Peter: Today's episode is about law school.

0:14:45.7 Rhiannon: Boo.

0:14:47.2 Peter: Seeing as the law is a profession so thoroughly steeped in amorality and faux intellectual brain rot that we felt like we had to make a podcast about it, we figured it might be useful to talk about the school you have to go to in order to join the profession.

0:15:03.1 Michael: Yes.

0:15:04.5 Rhiannon: Yeah.

0:15:04.7 Peter: I don't think that there's any way to present a comprehensive theory of what's wrong with law school. Law schools are awash in deep, systemic problems, some of them shared with other ostensibly prestigious grad programs and some unique to law. Like many institutions of higher education, law schools tend to reflect and reproduce the worst elements of the profession, and it's sort of hard to tell where the problems with law school end, and the problems with law more generally begin. But we will do our best here to break the worst aspects of modern law schools into their component parts for you.

0:15:43.5 Rhiannon: Yeah, I think we're doing a law school episode, and we went back and forth a lot during prep for this episode on whether we were going to make this, like, an advice episode. The law school advice threads you see on Twitter, there are whole books written for 1Ls starting law school with advice about how to succeed in law school, all that garbage. But I think we're not going to exclusively go down that road for a few reasons. One is that, there's too much law school advice already.

0:16:17.9 Peter: Yeah. And it's all gold, it's all great advice. Every book is like, if you have a baby, give the baby up for adoption.


0:16:27.0 Rhiannon: Well, another reason is that, law school success looks a lot of different ways based on the law student, based on what goals a person has, and to be frank, what law school a person attends. So for a lot of reasons, just doing, like, a full episode on here's some advice for you, I don't think it's particularly useful or interesting, but I do think throughout this episode, we will be including maybe less typical advice. Not your grandpa's law school advice, but having been through it, what do I want law students and young lawyers especially, and particularly if you grew up poor, if you're a person of color, if you are a queer law student, this is stuff that I wish I had known or wish I had known sooner.

0:17:14.4 Peter: Yeah, sure.

0:17:15.3 Michael: I'm not gonna say I have a lot to offer.

0:17:17.1 Peter: No. If you are a queer, POC, incoming law student, wait till me and Michael guide you through your experience.


0:17:30.3 Peter: I think we should sort of go through the problems that modern law schools have. And lucky for us, I think there is one that I think can pretty readily be described as the main problem with law school.

0:17:41.5 Rhiannon: Yeah big one.

0:17:43.3 Peter: Which is that it costs $200,000.

0:17:47.8 Rhiannon: Yeah, yeah.

0:17:52.4 Peter: That's too much money. This topic's been covered. But it's an institution that is just inherently going to be, because of the cost, more accessible for wealthier students.

0:17:57.7 Rhiannon: That's right.

0:17:58.3 Peter: It leads to enormous amounts of debt, which pushes students towards corporate jobs and makes the corporate path much more palatable than it might otherwise be.

0:18:08.4 Rhiannon: You can't deny how much the debt is a part of your life after graduating from law school. I mean, my loans are going to be with me from law school forever, because of the career track that I'm on, I'm never going to make enough money to pay those down. Whereas Michael and Peter had jobs after law school that allowed you to pay down your debt, but it's still an enormous undertaking for years that is with you. I am planning to get public service loan forgiveness, which means that after 10 years of paying my law school debt, the rest of my law school loans will be forgiven. But it's kind of a tenuous track. It's not really guaranteed. A lot of people have applied for the forgiveness after 10 years and not gotten it, so it's just not very sure.

0:18:53.1 Michael: Yeah, there's a very high fail rate with that.

0:18:54.6 Rhiannon: Yeah, exactly [laughter]

0:18:58.8 Peter: Yeah. And for the record, I did pay off my loans pretty quickly, and I did it by having a big law job and living in the flex bedroom of a 3 bedroom apartment with a 40 year old man and also a 23 year old man, which is just an unbelievable combination that no human being should have to experience.

0:19:19.8 Michael: I had the key to American financial stability and well-being, which is wealthy parents.

0:19:26.2 Rhiannon: Gorgeous. We love that for you.

0:19:28.8 Michael: I did have a friend who was married and he had massive undergrad and law school debt, and his wife had undergrad debt, and he was like a fifth year associate at a white shoe firm, so he was making what? 300 grand maybe?

0:19:43.8 Peter: Yeah, something like that.

0:19:44.9 Michael: Representing a huge corporate clients, and he lived in a four-story walk up, he had a roommate, he and his wife slept on a mattress on the floor in a lofted space. Like he didn't even have a fucking bedroom.

0:20:00.6 Rhiannon: My goodness, jeez.

0:20:02.1 Peter: So think before you judge with your associates at corporate law firm.


0:20:08.6 Peter: So I think this might bring us to another large problem with law schools, which is that the people that are in them, it's a bad combination of out-of-touch professors and students who are disproportionately wealthy climbers and a third party, completely unseen but the most influential in all law schools donors, and I think we should probably talk about professors first.

0:20:34.8 Rhiannon: Yes.

0:20:35.2 Michael: You know, the sort of classic career track for a professor is somebody who right now at least, went to one of a handful of schools, Harvard, Yale, Stanford. Clerked at a high level district court and one of the more prestigious circuit courts, at the very least, was in the conversation for a Supreme Court clerkship, probably interviewed, if not got one. Maybe, maybe, worked in the private sector for a year, maybe worked in government for a year, and that's it. And that's all they've done, but they've published and now they're adjuncts or something, and they're on the tenure track and they hop around from law school to law school until they get tenure. You gotta be smart and driven to do that stuff for the most part, but they don't know shit about shit.


0:21:31.0 Michael: I have worked for a judge, and I can tell you that that doesn't make me qualify to hold forth on the law, and I have more practical experience than the vast majority of new law professors do in the field as do Peter and Rhiannon. I guess reading a bunch of articles by a bunch of other law professors is supposed to be what gives them their authority, but I think that's kinda bullshit.

0:21:58.6 Rhiannon: I think that's exactly right. Although we should say that is a culture that is fostered and expected at the top law schools, and so at law schools across the country, there are different professor cultures from school to school. You could go to a school where many of the professors have a lot of practical real world experience, have actual law practitioner experience.

0:22:22.0 Peter: Yeah. But I think what drives a lot of this is that a lot of top law schools, even 50 to a 100 law schools, they've never quite figured out whether their trade schools are not.

0:22:33.2 Rhiannon: Yes.

0:22:34.0 Peter: And you end up with these professors who are academics and almost philosophers teaching students who are going down in almost every case, a much more practical path.

0:22:48.3 Rhiannon: Yes, yes.

0:22:48.3 Michael: What you have is a lot of people who did well in law school and believe that it's good because of course, they shine in it, and what it prepares you for more than anything is to be a law professor. That is what law school teaches you how to do.

0:23:03.9 Rhiannon: Yeah, yeah, and this isn't even getting into demographics of law professors. The field is vastly, vastly dominated by White men in particular, and it's also going to skew much older.

0:23:19.6 Peter: I think everyone, it's like a universal experience that you have at least one professor who like doesn't really know what's going on, moment to moment.

0:23:26.2 Rhiannon: Yes. Who is ancient.

0:23:27.5 Michael: Yeah.

0:23:27.9 Peter: I had one, I think it was fed courts where I figured out his pattern for calling on people, and then I would only come in on the days that I was being called on, and you could see on his face that he knew something was wrong, but he couldn't figure out what it was.


0:23:43.4 Michael: But this stuff matters, like the cultures that are prevalent on campus, there's a law professor named Eugene Volokh, who is an eminent First Amendment scholar, and he is also sort of infamous for loving to say racial slurs.

0:24:01.9 Rhiannon: Yeah, he's a massive piece of shit, is what he is.

0:24:04.6 Michael: Yeah. And he claims it's like a point of First Amendment principle, and he has all these sort of rationalization and back-filling about how, "Oh, you're gonna have to hear this in court." As if any fucking law student, a person of color or otherwise needs to hear slurs from their professors to be prepared to hear them in the real world. Like it's ridiculous.

0:24:30.5 Peter: And also there's something great about it, he's trying to make this academic point about like, we need to say the word that we're discussing, and stuff like that. But I promise you Black students have heard the word much more recently than you think.

0:24:46.1 Michael: Yes.

0:24:46.2 Rhiannon: Right.

0:24:46.7 Michael: Yes.

0:24:47.3 Peter: You're like, don't worry about it dude. We're all hearing it like this. But he thinks that if we don't discuss it in this academic discussion, and it's like we're ignoring it, and it's like, "No, the world is not ignoring the N word dude. We're just trying to use it a little bit less."

0:25:05.6 Michael: Right, we're just trying to acknowledge the humanity of our colleagues and friends. But so all these, especially White male law professors who generally think of themselves as liberal and I'm sure voted for Obama and gave money to Biden and all that shit, and I think that they are like champions for their POC students, but they allow a culture that says to their POC students, "You're not welcome." That's the message that Eugene Volokh sends. That they don't belong the way White people belong, and then they're not as welcome in the Halls of Academia and by treating Volokh as anything other than a pariah as recognizing him as an eminent first amendment scholar who has important things to say and inviting him to fucking symposiums and all of that bullshit, you're saying that, "You know, that's okay." Nobody buys his arguments because nobody else is saying slurs all the time and being like, "Pedagogically, he's got a point." I think we gotta say it guys. Like everybody knows it's total bullshit, and this is a major issue in a lot of places.

0:26:14.4 Peter: And if this feels like isolated incidents, for lack of a better term, I encourage everyone else to just wait it out because the affirmative action discussion in front of your Black friends and colleagues, it's about to happen. It's gonna happen sooner than you think.

0:26:30.0 Michael: Absolutely.

0:26:30.4 Peter: And it's about as completely insane and out of touch and uncomfortable as it sounds.

0:26:36.4 Michael: Yep.

0:26:36.9 Rhiannon: Yeah. I also wanted to say the lack of sort of demographic diversity among law school professors plays out in a lot more subtle ways every single day. I was a 1L in a property class who's very old, white, wealthy professor, made jokes all of the time about people who live in trailers, when I knew for a fact that there were students in my 1L section who grew up in trailers, and made jokes all the time about a used car salesman. Guess what? That's what my dad does. He sells used cars for a living. And so it's not to say that it's so normal, that's just the way it is and we should accept it. It's just to say that if you're out there about to embark on the journey, if you can prepare yourself to expect a lot of microaggressions, racism all of the time, that might soften the blow.

0:27:32.5 Peter: Maybe some macroaggressions as well.

0:27:35.1 Rhiannon: Yeah. Yeah.

0:27:35.1 Michael: Just another way that it's gonna be harder on women, on people of color to get through a very stressful time.

0:27:41.8 Rhiannon: Yeah. Good point.

0:27:42.5 Michael: Also, Peter reminded me with the affirmative action discussion before we continue, that another discussion you should just be bracing for yourself already is in 1L crim law. There will be at least one class where you discuss rape and it's going to be painful.

0:27:57.2 Rhiannon: Oh yeah. It's rough.

0:27:58.4 Michael: There are gonna be people who say some shit or raise some questions and you're like, "It's not fun."

0:28:04.1 Peter: Yeah. And then that dude's gonna be like, "Hey, you wanna go grab a drink?" And you're gonna be like, "No."


0:28:07.5 Peter: No, nobody does.


0:28:08.0 Michael: It's absolutely not.

0:28:09.3 Rhiannon: Absolutely [laughter]

0:28:11.4 Peter: We're done. You're out of the study group, bro. Alright. On maybe what you might call a less systemic note, I think we need to talk about gunners.

0:28:20.9 Michael: Yes.

0:28:21.9 Peter: Now, there are different perspectives on gunners among even the hosts of this podcast. So [laughter] I will give my opening statement, and then we will perhaps hear a rebuttal.


0:28:34.0 Peter: I think the cleanest definition is someone who participates in class discussions to a point that might be excessive such that their classmates become irritated. The gunner takes advantage of the discussion-based format of law school to interject their own train of thought over everything. And as a result, classes are frequently derailed because they think that some perceived nuance in the law that might not even exist and definitely won't be tested is worth chasing down in a 15-minute back and forth with a professor who is so thrilled that someone is interested in his shitty class, and he doesn't notice that he's simultaneously wasting the time of 75 people.


0:29:16.4 Rhiannon: Thank you, Counsel. You may be seated. Opposing Counsel, do you have anything in response?

0:29:20.5 Michael: Yes, I do.


0:29:21.7 Michael: I won't deny that I think the behavior you described could be accurately called gunner behavior. But to me, an important part of law school is the curve. And the idea behind the curve is that it's not how well you do, it's how much better you do than your classmates. And so a key part of being a gunner is being someone who is trying to, at the very least, not help their classmates if not straight sabotage them. And the excessive talking in class is just symptomatic of this idea that, "Well, if I am fucking raising my hand and jabbering all the time, then the professor will notice me and they'll like me and I will do better." Yet they don't realize that there's blind grading. Because I think gunning is really more of a 1L thing. In my experience, everybody sort of chills out after that. So, it's a striving in an obnoxious way.

0:30:21.2 Rhiannon: If I may interject, I have a question for the responding party Counsel Michael?

0:30:26.0 Michael: Yes.

0:30:26.3 Rhiannon: Could you have ever been described as a gunner?

0:30:30.7 Michael: I don't think I was a gunner. [laughter]

0:30:32.1 Rhiannon: Okay. We'll need some...

0:30:33.4 Peter: Rebuttal requested.


0:30:34.4 Rhiannon: Rebuttal requested.


0:30:35.8 Rhiannon: We'll need some witnesses on this point [laughter]

0:30:38.5 Peter: It is almost a universal truth that the gunner cannot recognize themselves as a gunner.


0:30:44.1 Rhiannon: That's right.

0:30:45.0 Peter: Because gunners waste time with frivolous or tangential thoughts in question.


0:30:49.3 Peter: To the gunner...

0:30:50.3 Michael: I did not waste time. I did not waste time.

0:30:51.7 Peter: Their thought or question is inherently important that is why they must speak it, therefore, they cannot be a gunner because they cannot perceive of themselves as frivolous. They're unable to see themselves for what they truly are because it would involve a level of self-reflection that they are constitutionally incapable of, it's almost existential. The primary tactic of the gunner when arguing about whether they are a gunner is to redefine the term to mean something more like "try hard" or something along those lines so that they can sort of cast themselves as unfairly maligned for putting in effort. You might bring up the grading curve or things of that nature.

0:31:25.4 Michael: I put in effort, and I won't apologize for it.


0:31:27.0 Peter: But that is not the true nature of the critique, and I think an honest observer knows that that is not the true nature of the critique. The small number of gunners who do admit to being gunners are the handful who believe themselves to be dominating the class' time and attention, because either they are uniquely smart and thoughtful, or because they don't really care about the class' time, because they are simply trying to climb the curve. Those people are diagnosable psychopaths in my experience.


0:31:57.4 Michael: Here's what I'll say in response. I was pretty good at law school. I wasn't interested in wasting my time, let alone everyone else's. If I asked a question in class, it was 'cause I thought it would be important for me to know in order to understand the material and do well on the exam.

0:32:13.8 Peter: I already addressed this. The gunner cannot perceive of his own questions as being a waste of time. I only wanna say one final thing, which is that the really smart students, they don't need to do this shit. The truly smart kids, they play online poker during class, they sit in the back, and when the professor calls on them, they read verbatim off the outline that someone else sent them. And then when the professor throws them a curve ball, they look him at right in the eye and they say, I have no idea. And you give him a look where the professor knows that he can keep pressing, but it's not gonna do anyone a single bit of good.

0:32:46.2 Rhiannon: There's no more blood to squeeze from this turn.

0:32:48.3 Peter: And then you get an A minus.


0:32:53.9 Michael: The one other thing I'll say is that there is a culture in some law schools of straight aggression to other students, and there's like infamous in some schools, people will tear important pages out of books in the library so that other students won't get like the information they need to complete an assignment. That is not only psychopathic behavior, but it is quintessentially gunner behavior.

0:33:19.0 Rhiannon: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's right.

0:33:20.4 Michael: And I would never do something like that.

0:33:21.9 Peter: We think you're nice, Michael. It's okay.


0:33:24.7 Rhiannon: We love you, Michael. Okay. Yes. Thank you to both parties. I will render my verdict later based on argument and briefings.

0:33:32.6 Peter: And vibes.

0:33:33.1 Rhiannon: Yeah, and vibes.

0:33:34.4 Peter: All right, so let's talk a little bit about law school classes. I think the first thing to go over is the required course load. Law school sort of mandates that you start off with a few specific classes, contracts, torts, criminal law...

0:33:51.2 Michael: Con law.

0:33:53.6 Rhiannon: Property.

0:33:53.7 Michael: Civil procedure.

0:33:55.0 Peter: Now, for the most part, I don't have a ton of objections here, but I would like to talk about property law a little bit. Since my time in law school, property law has been slowly yanked out of the primary curriculum at many schools. Property law is a class that's essentially about common law property principles which is notable mostly because almost none of these principles have any practical application today, as they've been replaced by actual statutes and regulations. Property law is a very American glass, right? It's sort of like a residual remnant of a time when the concept of like, who owned what land was important to Americans. And so you spend a whole semester learning about what amounts to legal philosophy because it has no practical application and...

0:34:37.5 Michael: And what sort of conditions can you put when you transfer the lid.

0:34:42.1 Peter: Shit like that. And it's so completely detached from the reality of like the practice of law that you have to take other classes to actually get good at property. If you wanna do like passing of property, you need to take like trust and estates. I took a class about zoning laws and variances and all the laws that really govern property in this country, which means that they required me to take property law, but then they had to create an entirely new and separate class to teach like actual property law.

0:35:08.1 Michael: Right.

0:35:08.1 Rhiannon: That's right. Yeah.

0:35:08.8 Peter: Just a great example of how much of law school is rooted in the past.

0:35:12.5 Rhiannon: Exactly.

0:35:13.5 Peter: It is. It's so fucking boring, dude.

0:35:15.4 Rhiannon: Yeah.

0:35:15.4 Michael: It is really boring.

0:35:17.9 Peter: Alright, let's talk about grades, because almost every law school has an aggressive curve, and the results is an intense focus and obsession within the administration and among the students on grades.

0:35:33.6 Rhiannon: Yes. You know, I think something that's really important as we move into these structural systemic critiques of law school is that, law school is not so much about teaching you how to be a lawyer, it is an extended three year long hazing experience, and part of that mandated cultural suffering to bring you into this prestigious elite club. Part of that is an obsession with grades. So first of all, this experience, again, is really different depending on where you go to law school, frankly, the rank and self-awareness of your law school and law schools. Even the elite law schools do grading differently depending on what school you go to. Harvard and Yale sort of are on these...

0:36:25.9 Michael: They don't have real grades. That's fake.

0:36:27.6 Rhiannon: Right. There's a fail and then a pass.

0:36:30.7 Peter: You get high pass. They've just created tiers that don't have the letters. But like, it's the same thing.

0:36:36.1 Rhiannon: It's like nice boy gets a kiss on the forehead.


0:36:39.1 Rhiannon: Yes, that's exactly right.

0:36:40.6 Michael: And Nice boy has been naughty. Those are the grades.


0:36:45.1 Rhiannon: Right. Some schools publicly publish student ranks at the end of every semester, depending on grades, that kind of thing. All of it, I want people to know is largely bullshit. And all of it, I want people to know is a culture that you can, depending on where you are, and depending on what your personal goals are, opt out of, if you would like. So, I went to a good law school and we were not ranked or anything, but people talked about their grades constantly, constantly. They talked about their grades in individual classes, and they talked about their GPAs all of the time. And even though on paper, I did very well, I never talked about my grades and that didn't hurt me. So to the degree that you can opt in and opt out of sort of individual, smaller aspects of the hazing culture, the prestige obsession of law school, do that.

0:37:43.5 Michael: It makes everybody miserable. You should be making each other feel better and lifting each other up.

0:37:47.5 Rhiannon: Right.

0:37:47.8 Peter: And success in grades doesn't map onto success in 95 plus percent of the profession. And nor do most of the metrics that the legal field is obsessed with. A lot of people will say, oh, LSAT scores are important because they're strong predictors of success in law school. Which is true, but also sort of lacking in meaning, you can go even farther. You can say success in middle school is important because it's a strong predictor of grades in high school, which are strong predictors of your ability to get into good colleges and your grades in college, which in turn are solid predictors of LSAT, which in turn are solid predictors of your law school grades. All of that is like statistically provably true. But what that is not a good predictor of, is your ability to lead a successful life as a normal happy human being or even to be a good lawyer.

0:38:37.0 Rhiannon: Exactly.

0:38:38.2 Peter: Like the only thing that elite law school grades are a particularly strong indicator of, is your ability to get elite law jobs after graduation. The system operates primarily as its own sort of self-contained prestige gauntlet, and the only notable function of it is to churn out sociopolitical elites. If your goal is to be an academic or grub for other prestigious positions your whole life, then yeah, you're gonna need to get into an elite law school and work super hard and get great grades. But if you wanna be a good lawyer, I would say you don't really need to worry about it too much. And I have practiced with a lot of people and I have never really noticed any sort of correlations between who I thought was a good lawyer, and who did particularly well in law school.

0:39:24.9 Rhiannon: Right. Or what law school they went to.

0:39:26.3 Michael: Especially what law school they went to.

0:39:27.7 Peter: Absolutely. And if you're in like big law, a pretty safe bet is that someone who was at a lower ranked law school is gonna be a better lawyer than some schmuck from Harvard.

0:39:39.4 Rhiannon: For sure.

0:39:39.9 Peter: Because they let any moron from Harvard walk into a big law job but you probably had to work your ass off to get in from a lower ranked school. And the last thing I wanna say about grades is, if the actual goal of law school grades was to determine whether you'll be a good lawyer, there wouldn't be a curve. Curved grading is meant to rank you relative to your peers, but law isn't generally a relative profession. Two people can represent their clients effectively at the same time. The purpose of the curve is to drive competition. And I think you can make the argument that in something like med school to a degree where the stakes are human life and health, you can maybe make that argument for a system like that where they want people constantly striving although they've even run into trouble in med school with mental health, et cetera, et cetera.

0:40:26.3 Rhiannon: Oh, for Sure. Yeah.

0:40:27.5 Peter: But in law, it's mostly just a way to foster and reinforce a high stress environment that trains students to prioritize prestige and certain formalized metrics of success.

0:40:40.1 Rhiannon: Yep. That's exactly right. And it brings me back all the time to remembering that law school is a business. Those businesses do better when students have prestigious clerkships that they're placed in after graduating and when students make shitloads of money. At base, that serves law schools in the form of big donations, all the alumni bullshit. That serves law schools more than it does law students and it puts enormous psychological pressure on students to engage in behaviors that are unhealthy, frankly. And so just remind yourself that it's all bullshit, prestiged obsession.

0:41:25.0 Peter: Yeah.

0:41:25.3 Michael: Yeah.

0:41:25.8 Peter: Oh God. I think we need to talk unfortunately about the Socratic method.

0:41:30.5 Rhiannon: Yes.

0:41:31.9 Michael: Yes.

0:41:33.4 Rhiannon: The Socratic method. So Socratic method, also known as "Cold Calling", it's the way, particularly the 1L, those doctrinal courses that Peter talked about. It's the way those classes are typically taught in law school. So the Socratic method, it's a model of teaching in which the teacher asks questions of an individual student in a dialogue, a kind of back and forth that's supposed to support the student in critical thinking to arrive at or discover the conclusions that are to be drawn on their own instead of being told the answers. But the way that the Socratic method is done, and why it's called cold calling is classically in law school, you're not gonna know when you're gonna be called on to engage in this back and forth, and you don't know what the questions are in advance. You can see a sort of justification for having this as one sort of teaching method, but it's also really stupid and part of that extended hazing ritual.

0:42:36.9 Peter: Yeah. I think it started presumably because it resembles certain aspects of litigation and maybe like philosophical dialectics. But I think the real reason that it remains popular is because it's brutal. It puts people on the spot. It forces you to be on high alert during class. It can be awful if you get caught off-guard or unprepared. And I think a lot of professors and students view it as sort of a rite of passage. And moreover, I think embedded in the adherence to these Socratic method is this sort of reactionary idea that struggle and conflict breed strength and weed out weakness. And Corey Robin wrote about this in his book, "The Reactionary Mind." This is a reliable strain of conservative thought, the idea that in order for people to truly meet their potential, there must be friction and conflict. And you see it in how many professors approach the classroom.

0:43:30.8 Michael: Yeah, you mentioned philosophical dialectics, and I think that's important. If you look at the educational backgrounds of law students and law professors, I think the three big ones are usually government, history and philosophy. And philosophy is very well represented in law schools, and this is how philosophy classes are taught. And you do the reading and you come into class and then there's a discussion and people offer different points of view and the professor prompts people and it's very similar to law school. But besides not being the way a lot of people learn very well and not necessarily the best way to teach this material, it also, I think ends up enforcing the idea of law as this sort of abstract and detached and philosophical thing. And that's not connected to the material realities of the people who are affected by the laws, right?

0:44:28.0 Rhiannon: Right.

0:44:28.1 Peter: All right. Why don't we take a quick break and we'll be back. Alright, we are back, and I think it's time to talk about journals.

0:44:36.8 Michael: Yes.

0:44:36.8 Peter: Law reviews.

0:44:38.3 Rhiannon: Stuff you can do in law school.

0:44:40.4 Peter: The beating heart of legal academia. [laughter]

0:44:43.9 Michael: That's right.

0:44:44.5 Peter: Journals are publications that publish what you might call academic research to the extent that that exists in law. And the way that they're run is a small army of unpaid law students.

0:44:57.5 Michael: Yeah, that's right.

0:44:58.8 Peter: Who field proposed articles from professors, and then they select a few for publication and they edit, do citations and all the sort of tedious stuff. Students are encouraged to do it as if it's going to be beneficial for their career. And one very practical piece of advice I have is, don't do journal. If you get on Law Review, sure, go for it. That looks good on a resume. Any other journal is irrelevant and will take up anywhere between 5 and 20 hours a week of your time. That time is precious. Don't throw it away to like the Journal of Business Law at your school. It is not worth it, I promise. And you know, money where my mouth is, I quit journal after the first year. As soon as I realized that it was like a viable option, I quit. And people are like, oh, can you do that? Like, isn't your employer gonna ask you questions about it? No, absolutely not. No one ever noticed. Not once.

0:45:57.8 Michael: The other thing about journal, though, is that like for law professors, teaching is sort of secondary. Their primary job is publishing.

0:46:06.5 Rhiannon: Yeah. Writing about the law.

0:46:08.3 Michael: And whether or not they get tenure is largely and whether or not they even hired in the first place is largely based on their success in placing articles and the quality of those articles, the quality of journals they're put in and all that shit. Which means that a bunch of shithead 2Ls or 3Ls who don't know anything about anything are making decisions that will impact tenure for professors and shape the next generation of law professors, which is so fucking wild and backwards.

0:46:47.8 Rhiannon: Right.

0:46:48.0 Peter: Not a single party involved is getting a good deal out of this.

0:46:51.6 Michael: No, no.

0:46:52.3 Rhiannon: No. Not at all. And that's to say nothing of the inadequacy of this kind of peer review. This is the lowest possible form.

0:47:01.6 Michael: Students checking your citations. [laughter]

0:47:05.0 Rhiannon: Right. A student who has no experience practicing or doing anything with the law that you're writing about, that makes no sense. In every other field, peer review means other actual scientists, not students working for no money.

0:47:23.9 Peter: That's law school. We should move on to the one thing in law school that you should do.

0:47:28.1 Rhiannon: Yeah, yeah. Turning to something that's maybe a little bit more useful, actually relevant to the practice of law. One thing you can do in law school is take clinics. So clinics are law school courses. You're usually getting class credit and these are special classes that are available usually to the second year and third year law students, where you are actually doing some sort of real world lawyer work under the supervision of a clinic instructor, clinic professor, usually a practicing attorney whose job it is to oversee the work of law students in the clinic. So, I for example, I was in three clinics in law school. I took the criminal defense clinic, the actual innocence clinic, and the capital punishment clinic. And in each of those clinics, you are doing sort of that area of the law. So in the criminal defense clinic, I had real life clients, people accused of crimes, misdemeanors, and I represented them for a semester or for the whole year under the supervision of the clinic instructor. Clinics are where you are learning how to do that work well. I talked to a few of my friends from law school in preparation for this episode and across the board, they said that none of them regretted not doing a journal so that they could do a clinic.

0:48:52.9 Michael: Right. Can I ask you something, Peter? Did you do a clinic?

0:48:56.0 Peter: Yeah. Yeah. I did a couple.

0:48:57.5 Rhiannon: Did you do clinics, Michael?

0:48:58.9 Michael: No. I didn't do any clinics. [laughter]

0:49:02.1 Peter: More of a seminar kinda guy.

0:49:03.8 Rhiannon: Yeah, yeah.

0:49:04.3 Michael: That's right. And most I loved my seminars.

0:49:06.1 Rhiannon: He's like, no, I was in a back and forth with my property professor.


0:49:11.2 Peter: So back on to the problems with law school. And I think we've peeled back a bunch of layers of this onion, and we are now at what is taught in law school and the problems with what is taught in law school. I think the fundamental issue for me is that law schools don't give a good understanding of the history or theory of law. They don't have enough normative discussion in most cases. But then on the other hand, they also aren't very effective training for the practice of law. Law school is hyper focused on jurisprudence, right? They wanna tell you exactly what the state of the law is in most classes. The emphasis on historical and political context is often missing. And as a result, the presentation to law students is sort of as if the current state of the law, the status quo is almost this force of nature. This thing that simply exists, not something that was built, but something that is simply there and you need to understand.

0:50:11.3 Rhiannon: Yeah, I think that's a really good point, Peter, about how, on the one hand there's a complete failure, I think, because law school pedagogy sucks ass. The way the theory is taught doesn't make sense and isn't how most people learn. And then on the other hand, it's very easy to graduate from law school and have no idea how to draft a contract or question a witness if you don't wanna learn those things.

0:50:37.3 Peter: I'd go the other way. I'd say it's difficult to graduate and know how to do...

0:50:39.9 Rhiannon: And know how to do it. Yeah.

0:50:40.6 Peter: Either of those things.

0:50:41.4 Michael: Absolutely right. Yeah.

0:50:42.1 Rhiannon: Yeah, really, really good point. And the only way you are tested on what you've been taught, supposedly, is one exam. And that's it.

0:50:51.7 Peter: Yeah. What law schools hold themselves out as doing is teaching you a form of analysis, right? You'll hear a lot that law schools don't teach you what to think. They teach you how to think.

0:51:01.9 Rhiannon: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

0:51:03.1 Peter: What they won't tell you is that built into how to think are a bunch of ethical and political presuppositions that go largely unchallenged. So, law schools teach a very formulaic case analysis where there are a web of rules that can be applied in different circumstances, all intended to foster the idea that you can apply rules to facts and come out with objective answers. Something that Duncan Kennedy discusses in his extremely good piece, legal education and the reproduction of hierarchy is the false idea that there's a difference between legal reasoning and policy analysis. Policy analysis is expressly about coming to outcomes that reflect our best and foremost values. My policy preference is safe and accessible abortion because I value reproductive freedom, et cetera, et cetera.

0:51:55.1 Peter: What law schools want you to think is that legal analysis is different, that it's simply about applying rules to different situations, but those rules are value judgments. When a court is weighing the interest of the state to regulate abortion in a case about reproductive freedom, that's not just a legal rule, that's a value judgment about the state's role in reproductive decisions. Legal analysis is policy analysis, it is ethical analysis. It's just done through a web of rules and frameworks meant to simulate the process of reaching an objective conclusion.

0:52:33.0 Peter: One of the ways that law schools teach formalistic analysis of the law is to insist that analysis cannot be driven by outcomes. The principled lawyer must follow the legal rule wherever it takes them, even if the outcome is manifestly unfair. And I understand the idea that remaining objective might mean reaching outcomes you don't like, and I think that's true to a degree, but I think that the formalistic insistence on largely ignoring outcomes, which is often taught in law school is very misguided. If you apply a rule and the outcome is plainly unjust, that shows you that perhaps the rule is not a good one.

0:53:10.7 Rhiannon: Exactly.

0:53:11.2 Peter: That there are circumstances it doesn't properly account for at the very least. So should you work backwards from the outcome you want? No. But outcomes are how you evaluate rules. Not only should they not be ignored, they should factor heavily into how you interpret legal rules into how you do legal analysis.

0:53:29.1 Michael: That's right. And shifting gears a little bit, something that frustrated me at my law school and I think is pretty common is that there aren't many or any structured paths in terms of when you get there and say, well, this is the sort of career I want. This is what I hope to do with my law degree, where like, these are the core courses you need to take. Here are the professors you need to talk to. Here's the clinic you need to take. Instead, everything is just kind of like, we'll get a bunch of credits, get a bunch of good grades, get on journal, and you're left to sort of grope in the dark about what would be best.

0:54:06.3 Peter: Yeah. And I think one of the results of leaving students in the dark like that is that, between the cost of school, the curriculum they push, the administrative services and the fact that students don't have a lot of guidance, many schools create a paradigm where the path of these resistance is corporate law. If you wanna do corporate law, it is essentially spoonfed to you, and if you don't know what you want to do, corporate law becomes the sort of default state. If you want to do public interest at least where I went to school, you have to ask some people some questions, and people will point you to resources. If you wanna do corporate law, you can essentially take just about any classes. You get emails with updates about corporate law firm hiring, and you know, all the information is provided to you. It's right in your face. That creates a circumstance where a lot of students who just don't know what they want to do, they're disproportionately fed into corporate life.

0:55:02.8 Rhiannon: Yeah.

0:55:03.1 Michael: You spend all of lL, sort of underwater, like trying to fight to keep up and get good grades, and then you're done and you're getting emails saying like, oh, on-campus interviews start in a few months. You gotta get your resume uploaded to the database. And it's like, if you don't know already what you wanna do and what path you are, and it's like, okay, I guess I should upload my resume. I guess I should prepare to interview with all these big firms and do OCI, and the red carpet is laid out for you. It's not like they're alternatives. It's just like, this is what everybody does and if you wanna do something else, you're really on your own.

0:55:40.0 Peter: And so people know law school is three years. After the first year there is interviewing for corporate firm jobs. You get an offer to go be a summer associate the following summer, the summer after your second year. Almost all summer associates will ultimately be offered a full-time position. And as a result, before you enter your second year, a huge percentage of students especially at the elite schools, know what law firm they will be working at after graduation. Only one year in out of three.

0:56:13.5 Peter: And, part of the reason that corporate law firms are doing that is to get out ahead of any career decision that you might otherwise make.

0:56:20.9 Michael: Right.

0:56:21.2 Rhiannon: Exactly.

0:56:21.6 Peter: They could easily do hiring a couple months before. Why don't they? Because this allows them to recruit as many students as possible, and it puts students in a situation where you feel like you have two choices. One, accept a corporate job right before your second year even begins, or two, roll the dice. You don't know what your job prospects are going to be without it. That puts students in a precarious situation, and a lot of them are going to choose to just go this "safe route" and become corporate lawyers. I know a summer associate that put a partner into a headlock at an event jokingly and got an offer.

0:57:00.3 Michael: Yeah.

0:57:00.8 Peter: Got an offer for full-time employment.

0:57:02.7 Rhiannon: Gorgeous.

0:57:03.2 Peter: It's impossible to blow it.

0:57:04.3 Michael: The only summer associate I know if we didn't get an offer at my firm was at a dinner with a major client and started openly questioning the firm's litigation strategy to the client.

0:57:16.1 Peter: Love that.

0:57:16.5 Rhiannon: Nice.

0:57:17.0 Michael: That's how you do it.

0:57:17.9 Peter: King. Okay.

0:57:18.3 Rhiannon: Rest in power.

0:57:19.1 Michael: It makes it super easy if you can land a summer associateship, you're set, and then you have two years to cruise.

0:57:26.3 Rhiannon: That brings me to another problem with law school, which is, it's too long.

0:57:31.9 Michael: Brilliant.

0:57:32.1 Peter: Yeah.

0:57:32.4 Rhiannon: The fact that there's three years of law school is stupid and useless, and again, only serves business interests. Law schools make more money because law school is three years long, and it really does not need to be. There are really interesting alternative suggestions or restructurings of law school where everybody would still take the doctrinal courses, but part of the second year or the entire third year could be structured around apprenticeships, practical real world experience where you are actually learning how to do lawyering because everybody in law school can agree that at least the third year is an utter scam that is useless.

0:58:16.5 Peter: Yeah. The problem is that if they restructured it, they would have to potentially get professors to teach students how to practice law.

0:58:23.0 Rhiannon: [0:58:23.0] ____.

0:58:23.5 Peter: And unfortunately they don't know how to do that. It's a huge logistical impediment to this sort of structure. They would need to have a different set of teachers because the existing set of teachers doesn't know how to teach the practice of litigation, the practice of corporate law, whatever it might be.

0:58:45.3 Peter: Yeah.

0:58:45.6 Michael: Yeah. I can't think of a thing I learned in 3L that helped me in my job. But to be honest, I can think of very few things I learned in 2L or 1L, that helped me in my practical jobs either. I used a lot of con law in my pro bono work, and that was... That's pretty much it.

0:59:04.1 Peter: So, before we move into the very last phase of this, I wanna quickly talk about something we've touched on in various regards, but the ways in which law schools foster relationships with government institutions, corporations, and big law firms. It is pervasive, especially at elite schools. Law schools foster these relationships because it gives them access to money. It lets them place students into better jobs, which allows them to claw their way up the rankings. It gives them access to fancy speakers at events and so on and so on. And of course, the result is a symbiotic relationship between law schools and money to powerful interests. And because of that, it's hard to conceive of law schools as they currently function, as ever being willing or able to attack and undermine existing power structures.

0:59:52.6 Rhiannon: Yeah.

0:59:53.3 Peter: No matter how many nods to liberal principles they might make, they are just too reliant on these hegemonic institutions to ever be truly dedicated to any sort of reparative or restorative justice. That's why I think the idea of like broad ideological reform of law schools, I mean, it's a lost cause, it's like talking about reforming the government.

1:00:16.0 Rhiannon: But is it not such an interesting and pervasive scam though? Because I don't think that, like most people know this about law school. I was one of these people, I don't know if everybody is like this, but I went to law school thinking that everybody there would sort of have at the very least an intellectual interest and at most, like me, a sort of passion for the idea of justice. And that is, it's just not the case when you get there.

1:00:45.5 Peter: No. It... There's a real institutional endorsement of the idea that law is abstracted from human life.

1:00:51.9 Rhiannon: Yes. Yeah.


1:00:52.6 Peter: I talk about these institutions being intertwined inextricably. But one very simple thing to do would be to prevent corporate law firms from donating to law schools. [chuckle]

1:01:02.0 Rhiannon: Yeah.

1:01:02.7 Peter: My law school had like, classrooms were for sale. Anyone could buy the name of a classroom and they would put a little plaque next to it being like the John H Dipshit classroom, and law firms would buy them. And when we were near graduation, a bunch of us were drunk late night on campus and we snuck our way into administrative offices, and I found a stack of plaques with law firm names on them. They were plaques that you would put above a classroom. They weren't for a specific classroom. All of the classrooms at the time were spoken for, so to speak.


1:01:37.2 Rhiannon: Yeah. Were donated for.

1:01:39.1 Peter: So what we theorized was that they used these to try to bribe law firms to be like, here's your plaque all it takes.

1:01:46.5 Rhiannon: Look at it. It's real.

1:01:47.5 Peter: It's a donation of $500,000. And we will slap this above the shadiest classroom in our basement, and you'll be remembered forever. They got that shit engraved.


1:02:01.8 Peter: So as we had head out, we know we didn't... Again, we didn't really wanna do advice 'cause I think students are just flooded with it. But I think it's worth talking about things you wish someone told you. I wanna say two things. One is that, every year, there's a bunch of Twitter threads about like, here's my advice to one else. And 80% of what you see is demonic, just absolutely without soul. Untouched by the light of God. The big one this year was Ian Millhiser, law and policy guy at Vox, whose work I like by the way.

1:02:42.6 Rhiannon: Yeah.

1:02:42.7 Michael: Absolutely.

1:02:43.4 Peter: And his advice was essentially neglect your mental health, neglect friendships and other relationships, prioritize this and do nothing but work for the duration of law school because that is how you succeed. And that is an awful way to think. You are, believe it or not, even if you're in law school, an actual functioning human being, and these are three years of your prime.

1:03:07.6 Michael: Yeah.

1:03:07.9 Rhiannon: Yeah. Sexual and otherwise.

1:03:09.7 Michael: Person A gets a 40 goes to Cravath, person B gets a 37 goes to Cleary Gottlieb, but gets laid many times.


1:03:20.6 Michael: Who was more successful, I say person B.


1:03:26.3 Peter: Like, look, I'm nearing 36.

1:03:28.1 Rhiannon: Whoa.

1:03:30.0 Peter: My knees creak at any amount of movement. It's not like, oh, if I go in this angle or whatever, any angle, any direction, it creak. All I'm saying, is that before you know it, your body will start to visibly fail on you. If you're in law school, you are probably in your mid 20s. You're shiny and full of life for the love of God. Do not sacrifice three years of your 20s or early 30s or later, if you've gone to law school later in life, do not sacrifice that for fucking grades. Are you kidding me?

1:04:03.5 Rhiannon: Yeah.

1:04:04.1 Peter: And the fact that this sort of stuff can be marketed to students as advice is disgusting. And I think that it freaks students out, even students who don't want to believe that that stuff's true. When they see stuff like that, they think, well, if other people are thinking like this, then I need to too. I need to keep up. No, you don't. We've said it in various contexts, it's just the manifestation of a sick profession. A profession that doesn't know what its ideals are. And if I could give one practical piece of advice to young law students, it would be that everyone treats law school like it's like a different thing. I have arrived in law school and this is gonna be nothing like anything I've ever experienced. It's gonna be harder and more intense and blah, blah, blah.

1:04:51.4 Peter: No, it's a class where they ask you questions in class and then there's a test at the end, like, you're gonna be fine. And I say this because a lot of people abandon things that like how they studied before and try to like figure out what's the system, how do I succeed here? And they think that whatever system has worked for other people will work for them. You don't need to do that. If you study a certain way, study that way. Find a group of friends, study with them. If you study better alone, don't, you'll be fine. Just go with what works for you and don't overthink it.

1:05:21.7 Michael: Yeah I agree.

1:05:22.5 Michael: Yeah, I agree with all of those things, Peter. And yeah, like I said, I've been thinking with some of my law school friends in preparation for this episode and asking them like what advice they wish they had heard. And across the board people said stick to your principles. Stick to the reason why you came to law school. And my friend Eva said something, shut out, Eva, that was super relatable to me. She said, "An idea that was taught to me that didn't serve me well in law school was the idea of "Keep your nose to the grindstone." I tried that a lot actually, and it didn't work. What did serve me was taking breaks to talk with people, to exchange ideas, to let my brain bump up against the lessons I was being taught, and fighting the current when that felt right.

1:06:15.1 Rhiannon: Keeping my nose to the grindstone didn't serve me much at all. And so I think that's really important, especially when we are inundated with ritual law school advice. Like Ian's, that's just like you gotta grind and you're gonna work all day long, and it's like nothing you've ever done before, and you need to work harder and be smarter than you ever have been. And I think in the process, that makes people forget what their strengths are, what brought them into law school in the first place, and then that makes people vulnerable to the brainwashing, to the sort of corporate law culture, this sort of funneling process where everybody gets put into this system where one path is made easy and pretty clear for everybody and you have to figure out everything else on your own.

1:07:07.6 Michael: Yeah So what worked for me was treating law school like a job and sort of clocking in at like 9:00 AM every day and clocking out at 5:00 PM and I'd go to class in-between and I would take breaks and take a, like a long lunch and just do my reading throughout the day in-between classes and whatever. And that gave me more than enough time to keep up to date with reading and being in class and all that. But what was important about it, what was good about it was the clocking out aspect and the giving myself time every day.

1:07:41.5 Michael: That was not law school time, right. That was time to hang out with new friends or with my girlfriend and just watch TV and fucking chill out and let my brain rest. That really helps push against like this tendency to get consumed. Like law school, like the prestige chase that has like a gravitational pull, and if you're not like aware of it, it's very easy to just get pulled into it's orbit. So I personally think like the nine to five thing was very effective for me, but more important than that specifically is just making sure you mark time for yourself that is not the law school's.

1:08:28.0 Rhiannon: Yeah. Yeah.

1:08:29.5 Peter: What worked for me was on the first day when I got to law school, I looked around, I found the biggest, toughest looking guy there. I walked up to him, I said, "What the fuck are you looking at?" And he was like, what? I hit him with a left and a right and he went down, beat the shit out of that guy. And from that day on, no one messed with me. [laughter]

1:08:51.3 Michael: Yeah.

1:08:53.0 Rhiannon: Great.

1:08:53.3 Peter: You have to make a statement day one. I do have a real story about day one, class one notoriously mean professor. Everyone's there like 20 minutes early, right? And we all wait, professor comes in. About five minutes later, a student walks in the door and the professor goes, "Late on the first day, I have never in my life seen this." And the student turns around, walks out, and I never saw him again.

1:09:19.9 Rhiannon: Oh my God!

1:09:22.4 Michael: That's awesome.


1:09:24.6 Peter: I don't know if he was in the wrong class or if he's just the coolest dude on earth. He was like, "You know what? No." [laughter]

1:09:31.5 Rhiannon: Not today. Not today.

1:09:32.4 Michael: Not for me.

1:09:33.5 Rhiannon: Not ever. Yeah, yeah.

1:09:35.2 Peter: No thanks.

1:09:36.1 Rhiannon: Goals.


1:09:39.8 Peter: So, I think we could probably go on about law school for a long time, but that's the basics. A too expensive, too long, people are too awful. The shit they teach is not good. How do you address that? Stay centered and beat up the biggest guy in school on day one.

1:09:57.7 Rhiannon: That's it. You got it.

1:09:58.0 Michael: There you go.

1:10:00.3 Peter: That's it.

1:10:00.3 Michael: Easy peasy.

1:10:00.8 Peter: You're gonna do great guys. And on a serious note, one of the best things I did in law school was when I was just full on broke living off loans. I was like, why don't I just take out another two grand and live off that? Why don't you take out another 10 bucks a month and just fling it over to us at 5-4 and we will put it to such good use I promise you don't even know. [laughter] Follow us on Twitter @fivefourpod and hit us up on Patreon and subscribe patreon.com/fivefourpod all spelled out. We'll see you next time.

1:10:42.0 Speaker 5: Five to four 5 to 4 is presented by Prologue Projects. Rachel Ward is our producer. Leon Neyfakh and Andrew Parsons provide editorial support. Our production manager is Percia Verlin, and our assistant producer is Arlene Arevalo. Our artwork is by Teddy Blanks at Chips NY, and our theme song is by Spatial Relations.