n this recession-wracked economy, many people are scrambling to throw their hats in the ring at graduate-school programs. Do you have friends who desperately want to enter law school? Before they begin taking those grueling LSAT prep courses, encourage them to read the savagely hilarious rant of a disgruntled UCLA law student (and former classmate of mine), Why Law Schools are Neither.
Every year, thousands of high-achievers flock to the hallowed halls of mother justice where they undergo a transformation that would scare Dr. Jekyll. Perfectly likable people are turned into truculent, jargon-mumbling Hydes, schooled to a level of nitpicking that drives decent people mad. Three years later, the proud graduates are turned loose on a woefully unsuspecting society, full of piss and vinegar, and stripped of all common sense. Schools collect their fees, and the process repeats itself.
Law school grades, as one of my more frank professors acknowledged, "are just a way to sort you." Do they reflect ability? In all but the rarest instances, no. Do they reflect knowledge? Absolutely not. Do they reflect hard work, brown-nosing or even skill in the underappreciated art of bribery? No, no, and no. What, pray tell, do grades reflect then? Basically, a good day, the ability to write really, really fast, and the professor's mood at the time of grading.
Naturally then, with grades such a crapshoot for all but the Breyers, O'Connors, Rehnquists and Scalias of the world, the wise (and desperate) student will seek out other advantages.
Like the professor's ass.
You've never seen brown-nosing until you've seen the ten minutes after a law school lecture. Students who have just spent the better part of the past 50 minutes snoring and drooling all over their blank notebooks flock to the foot of the lectern. "Professor! Professor!" they scream like prepubescent teens at a Motley Crue concert, "Please! Please! Tell me more about the rule against perpetuities!" (Regretfully, I must confess, I am not an innocent here. On occasion, I too have engaged in such conduct. If it means anything, while I was doing it, I felt silly, dirty, ashamed and--most importantly-- that it was getting me nowhere. I would pose my question, and the professor would stare blankly at me, the awkwardness of the moment sounding off in the background. Then, shaking his head in complete exasperation, he would curtly explain how, for example, I had absolutely no understanding of nude dancing in Indiana. When all was said and done, I inevitably ended up quietly shuffling away, mumbling to myself, "Yessir, I am an idiot.")
And for what? To the casual observer, brown-nosing might seem utterly fruitless. Most schools, after all, have anonymous grading policies, so unless you manage to sneak into your final exam some secret codeword known only to the both of you ("hornswoggle" has always been a favorite of mine), all brown-nosing gets you is a brown nose.