Legal Education

9
Feb

Karl Llewellyn was one of the leading lights of American jurisprudence from the 1930s through the 1950s.  Not only was he the dean of Columbia Law School, he participated in the drafting of Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code, and was active in efforts to promote its enactment in the different states.

Add this: Llewellyn was a clear thinker and a gifted writer, and a lawyer through to his core.  At his death, he left an unpublished manuscript, The Theory Of Rules.  Here are some excerpts, as true today as the day they were written:

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“Any lawyer dealing with any problem is looking for a rule of law to cover it, and any lawyer recognizes as a rule (allegedly or actually positive) a formula setting forth in general terms a type of fact-situation and laying down a legal consequence therefor.”

Right – That’s what we do.  We look for rules to cover a fact pattern.

“The concept fits not only the speech-usage but the working practices of the profession … Side by side with this functional attribute sits another: rules of law are rules with the function of accomplishing control by language communication.”

Right again – Rules achieve their results by the use of language.

“Unless the language of a purported rule of law is clear enough to mean roughly similar things to different officials about what to do with [roughly similar] states of fact, that purported rule fails … to the extent to which its meaning varies.”

And now a word about what law schools teach to aspiring lawyers:

“That I wrote such an observation implies … that I am judging the bad [rules] by the good ones, seeing their defects against the pattern of what we can do.

“And that our best ones are not the general run is simple to demonstrate.  First, if they
were, it would verge on the criminal to give so large a portion of our law curricula over to study of how to deal with not-so-clear rules.”

And now, Llewellyn shows his skills: “There is a touch of weaseling in this proposed division, in that recognition is itself a concept of fact; but the weasel is one capable of muzzling, with care.”

Karl N. Llewellyn, The Theory of Rules, edited and with an introduction by Frederick Schauer (Univ. of Chicago Press 2011)

Category : Legal Education | Blog
2
Oct

Prof. Andrew McClurg is the author of an excellent guide to the first year of law school.  Below are short excerpts relating to mental health issues that can affect law students.

Self-Doubt

Law school is the undisputed champion of causing talented people, people who have achieved at a high level their entire lives, to almost instantly begin questioning their self-worth.  As one student put it, “It seems that law school is designed to make the student feel unsure of himself and inadequate.”

“Cognitive distortion” is a psychological term used to describe a condition that occurs when a person internalizes neutral or mildly negative external stimuli as signs of severe personal failure.  Law school establishes optimal conditions for this to occur.

Everything a student does is judged and it never seems good enough.  Every word uttered in law school classes is critically scrutinized.  Professors often critique student classroom comments even when they wholeheartedly agree with them.  It’s the nature of the Socratic beast.  Some students shrug it off, but many take it personally and let it diminish their self-image.

Depression

Law students also suffer disproportionately higher rates of depression than the general population and other graduate students.  On depression scales, 17-40 percent of law students in the second University of Arizona study mentioned above were found to suffer from much higher rates than exist among the general population.

A 2000 study of University of Michigan law students found that more than half of law students showed symptoms suggestive of clinical depression by the end of their first year and that these high levels remained throughout their law school careers.

Comparing the law students’ scores on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale to scores for other groups subject to extreme stress yielded somewhat startling results.

The 50 percent of law students who scored above the depression cutoff compared to rates of:

●    30-45 percent for unemployed people
●    30-45 percent for people testing HIV-positive two weeks after they received notice
●    50 percent for people experiencing the death of a spouse or marital separation in the past year
●    50-60 percent for persons being treated for substance abuse, and
●    50-70 percent for homeless people.

This isn’t to suggest, of course, that being a law student is as bad as the listed traumatic events, but law school can strongly push the brain’s depression buttons.

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As with anxiety, the gloominess pattern continues after graduation.  A Johns Hopkins University study found that lawyers ranked fifth in the overall prevalence of depression out of 105 occupations.  When the data were adjusted to focus on the association between depression and the particular occupation by taking into account non-occupational factors contributing to depression, lawyers moved into first place.

The study of Arizona and Washington lawyers mentioned above found that 21 percent of male lawyers and 16 percent of female lawyers exceeded the clinical cut-off measure for depression, significantly higher than depression rates found in the general population.

1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor’s Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School (2nd Ed.) by Andrew McClurg

Category : Legal Education | Blog
17
Sep

Many smart people think about attending law school.  The stress factor is not always considered by prospective students.

Prof. Carroll Seron at the UC Irvine School of Law candidly acknowledges this issue. “It is a rite of professional passage that the first year of law school is highly stressful and, indeed, is designed to be so.  Five interrelated factors contribute to this stress.

“First, students are called on to learn a new, often arcane body of knowledge; this is stressful in itself.

“Second, [ ] there is, as a general matter, relatively limited feedback to students about the quality of their work, which tends to create great uncertainty and anxiety among students about how they are doing by way of mastering these new materials.

Fresno real estate lawyer

“Third, though the Socratic method is not the only pedagogical style used by law faculty these days, it remains nonetheless popular with many.  As a result, students find themselves in a situation where they confront the daily possibility of exposure and embarrassment for not knowing how to answer a question.

“Fourth, all students admitted to a highly selective law school have known academic success; in law school, they are confronted with equally successful counterparts and must become accustomed to being below average.

“Finally, there is the competitive aspect of law school as students seek to impress their peers and their teachers … In a word, first-year law students are simply worried about getting through the hurdle.”

Carroll Seron, A Law School for the 21st Century: A Portrait of the Inaugural Class at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, 1 U.C. Irvine L. Rev. 49, 55-56  (2011).

Category : Legal Education | Blog