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Only one who can appease a man’s conscience can take his freedom from him. –The Grand Inquisitor With graduation looming, 3Ls are anticipating finally cashing in on their involvement with the law instead of gathering debt with all the momentum of the War for Re-election. Only in the last few lame duck months of law school can the graduate inquire how and where his legal education impacted him — and how that fits into becoming a lawyer. Three years of real world education either changes law students or makes them even more the same — born lawyers or born-again lawyers. The principle behind a legal education is to teach a way of thinking rather than specific techniques or a body of knowledge. This implies thinking is done in law school, when in fact most students have broken down the machine they call Identity and Function to ascend Mount Making Bank: learn and highlight The Rule in every case like a myopic Rust Belter who has read the Bible during “Wheel of Fortune” commercials ever since Jim Crow died; figure out how to regurgitate The Rule in whatever way will earn an A; become a precedentophile of IRAC (Issue-Rule-Analysis-Conclusion) technique, since lawyers get to have as many original thoughts as W gets to write his own speeches; graduate; get paid; get a prenup (and keep a few copies for a few marriages); make partner; die richer than those you climbed over to die rich. A simple formula. Time-honored. Plan of action for the master of the free-flowing fetish. Cha-ching makes my hollow soul ring. Soul and life need not join ‘long as the kid is making coin. Step back and watch it work — the machine we call Civilization and Society. Is there room for a morsel of process when the world is one big, fat result with the old, greasy, green, fuzzy cheese of cynicism and the nasty, sour, bony, aftertasting anchovies of disbelieving things could ever be otherwise? There must be more. There are future lawyers out there who not only reflect on who and what they are about to become, but do something with that reflection other than to repress it until the occasional sixth-drink paroxysm of idealism bursts out of them like a seizure jumping out of a comatose body — DNR (Do Not Resuscitate); it’s easiest on everyone that way. For the reflectors, their legal education changed more than their LEP (Lifetime Earning Potential — a handy index for quantifying the value of a life in wrongful death suits as we grieve over the tragedy of underpaid plaintiffs). 3Ls going into law firm jobs are about to gain so much money and power they could only more quickly improve their lot by marrying an inbred European with a first name like Princess. JADED MAN AND THE ATTACK OF THE REALITY-CHECK George feels what almost all graduates do at this stage: joy or anxiety at having or lacking a job; and some kind of emptiness where once, law school was only full of it. “I spent three years of classes, two working summers and an externship to learn what my granddad always feared I would know: The law is a business just like any other.” George’s grandfather had been a federal judge in Capone’s Chicago. “Law school only looks like a school when in fact it’s a factory designed to pump out lawyers exactly like the ones that have always been around.” “What about the warning signs? No windows, no first names; squashing creativity like a bug; that comforting nausea of joining the vacuum of rhetoric.” “Classes were always Socratic at D’Angelo. It seemed they wanted us to explore policy issues, to think critically about the values at play. But the exams of course only asked for rules and analysis. And that’s all we cared about — to get the grade to get the summer job to get the real job to get … “ “Something.” “Exactly. What we were after wasn’t clear, but it was definitely an external achievement, not an internal change. In the long run, no one was interested in how the law ought to be but how they could get their claws into it. All those discussions were just playing the game as it was played in our neighborhood of power. “All these years of top-notch education and do you think my interviewers cared about what I had to say on the law? where my convictions lay? Not to enact those beliefs, mind you, but just to understand the values of their hirees. No, all they cared about was buffing up their reps with another Chicago graduate. They cared about my malleable abilities and avoiding personality conflicts. Any beliefs I held were quaint or quixotic and in the long run, moot. One interviewer even told me that, confidentially, he ‘admired the courage and risk involved in being real and honest.’ How sad is that?” “What were you expecting?” “Three years ago I was someone else expecting anything else. I had never talked to a man on death row. I had never earned a pay check of $8,000. I had never seen adults act like the last chapter in ‘The Lord of the Flies’ only with IQ, ties and pretended dignity. I thought that selfishness was a personal trait while the law was a social institution meant to balance justice and power.” “What is it really?” “The law is the power to keep justice out of the way of power. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or, like I was, na�ve. Enron, Watergate, warnings of Columbia, warnings of 9/11, the election fix, MIAs still alive in Vietnam, our buildup of Iraq’s military in the ’80s … that’s the tip of the iceberg. And lawyers were behind them all. Two kinds of people need to understand the nature of power: heroes and villains. To be either one, you need money and a J.D. Are you surprised three out of four Congressmen have J.D.s? The world is only run on money. It’s run by J.D.s.” “Having a J.D. is a kind of superpower?” “Sure. You get nicknames, a weakness, a uniform, arch-enemies, a secret weapon, an alien language in which to speak, a double identity … “ “And you’re going ahead with your legal career, Jaded Man.” “A J.D. is a document proving you know how to work the world. That was why I became a lawyer. Most people go to law school for the same reason; it’s just that they want to use their power to work within the world to their advantage and not try to better it.” “Can’t you be your own kind of lawyer? What others do doesn’t determine your behavior.” “It’s not that simple. My field went from being what I wanted to becoming the very cancer I wanted to cure. Law school showed me that even at 27, there’s growing up to do, that attitudes matter as much as actions. I expected the world to be true because I believed I was. But the world doesn’t care about being true.” “The world is what the people in it think.” “The people in the world think whatever the world tells them they are. Optimists, Machiavellians, saints, victims … “ This was getting good. “How do you know how things will turn out?” “Oh, I’ll enjoy it all the more now that the expectations aren’t there. It’s just that I won’t believe in it.” “Aren’t the jaded graduates the ones without jobs?” “I’m not jaded. I just feel like I woke up to a sadder reality. Everything feels grey. Maybe it always was, and I just never looked.” LEGACY OF LUNACY Dave is more astounded at the power the law holds over the people involved in it than how it dominates everything else. “I became a lawyer because there’s been one in my family pretty much ever since King John signed his X on the Magna Carta.” (Dave is to trivia what Cheney’s health is to American sanity.) “My father sold me on the tradition thing. I went into law school thinking I was fulfilling my destiny, or, at least getting my father off my back — thus dealing with at least one of the two great forces of the Universe.” “What did you expect going into law school?” “Basically, I didn’t. I cared more about landing in the top tenth [of my class] and getting a job than what it would be like. But it hit me last summer that the law, for its inhabitants — it’s almost impossible to be a mere participant — is a lifestyle, a life of its own. “That was when I got my divorce. It got a little messy and my dad, for my birthday, said he would take my case pro bono. A free expert I was getting, he bragged. What a guy. I figured he would be businesslike to make things easier. “I had never seen him work before. As important as the family legacy was to him, he always kept business separate, said he owed that ‘coldness of competence’ to his clients. You know what I saw? My dad loved it. He loved every second of taking my case. It had nothing to do with family loyalty or helping me financially or protecting me from her shark, who was, in fact, her uncle. He just loves lawyering that much. He was too f–king tunnel-visioned to notice things like my taking up smoking again or how depressed I was or that had I lost faith in marriage. My father loves me as much as any father loves his kid. I believe that. I just believe he loves the law more.” “It took over?” “It was always that important. He’s like a virus in its ideal environment. Many lawyers live to play God. Doctors only get to do it with life and death. Transient stuff; just ask any Torts specialist. Lawyers get to involve themselves with — no, they get to become — power.” “It’s not just having it, but being it?” “Yeah, I’ve found that becoming a lawyer — not just as an occupation, but as a mentality, is a morbid religion — become unenlightened.” “A career in the law gets you farther away from the Buddha.” “Sure. Just ask yourself what is the last job the Buddha would have taken.” THE LEGAL UNIVERSE Sondra has taken the universal approach. “The law is everything. It’s the only institution that represents every bit of humanity. After college, I read and traveled and thought and wrote and drank and prayed. But it was law school that gave me the feeling of everything.” “The law is a microcosm of humanity?” “The law is humanity. You can find everything in it because there everything manifests. Child molestors, churches, philosophers, bars, the homeless, condemned buildings, building condemners, human rights victims, human rights violators … everyone and everything has a lawyer fighting for it or fighting to destroy it, sometimes both and sometimes without their knowledge.” “You found what you were looking for?” “I was trying to find the world, a way to encompass it so as to make sense of it. Religion is fading and science is sterile. It’s the law! Remember in ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ where The Devil explains he came to Earth as a lawyer because it was the only way to get his teeth into everything? God and Devil, protection and destruction. It’s all there.” “The reality religion for our secular scenery.” “Amazing, isn’t it? Everyone looks into the law and finds what they want. You want things to write about or corruption or joy, and you find it. George wanted a reality check, and he found it. O.J. was a double — a poor black man and a rich white man — who wanted vindication as someone who could win within and without the system, and he found it. Clinton needed affirmation that he is this generation’s golden child, and he found it. “A person’s involvement with the law is basically what they want from the world and what they think the world wants from them. People struggle to change things or struggle to be rich or struggle to seem rich or struggle to be seen struggling.” “Where did you get this conclusion?” “At rock bottom, where else? I was such a mess the first two years [of law school]. One day I thought I wanted to save the world and the next I wanted to conquer it. Then I wanted to conquer it to make sure no one else could save it because the world didn’t deserve saving. College-stuff with a little power fix. After bouncing all over the place I realized that the law was doing all of those things, every day.” “So you don’t think the law is good or evil …” “… but both. And everything in between. People who get freaked out by the law had expectations about how things should be run. Problem is, people make worldly expectations before going to law school, something no one should ever do. You know nothing about the world you want to change or fit into before law school. Nothing.” “And you don’t expect anything?” “I expect everything! Good guys usually lose but there is room for some heroism. Life is hard but things may get better. See? Any platitude with any truth to it can be thrown at the world and the law in the same way. If aliens came here and needed one person to explain how humanity worked, I wouldn’t send a holy man or an historian or even Oswald Spengler. I’d send a lawyer and tell him his client was everyone.” Free-lancer Mitch Artman, who lives and writes in New York, is a frequent contributor to law.com. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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