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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Six Reasons Liberal Law Students Are So Sad

Dana Lithwick asks What Are Liberal Law Students So Sad About? Her conclusion is that liberal law students are sad because their liberal legal heroes can't seem to get on the Supreme Court:
Since it's April, and America's law students have nothing else to do (kidding!), I've done a bunch of talks with student groups and classes in recent weeks. One of the most notable things about these events is the extent to which progressive students, faced with a Supreme Court vacancy, a Democratic president, and a Democratic Congress, are bordering on despair.... It's awfully hard to be inspired when your heroes are benched before the game even begins.
I understand the feeling. I never recovered from Robert Bork being Borked by a Senator who left a girl to die in a watery ditch at the side of the road and never spent a day in jail, while spending the rest of his life lecturing conservatives about compassion and decency. But that's just me.

I have some alternative views as to why liberal law students are so sad:
  1. Conservatives are happier than liberals in general. It's the nature of the universe.
  2. Religious people are happier than non-religious people, and conservatives are more religious than liberals.
  3. The Big Law model is failing, which means that liberal law students cannot do pro bono work for Gitmo detainees while getting paid $160k a year right out of law school.
  4. Liberal legal heroes are not that heroic because in a law school almost everyone is liberal; it's about as hard as riding first class on a frequent flyer upgrade. By contrast, being conservative in a law school requires the right stuff, much like test pilots, the Mercury astronauts, and the people who walked on the Moon.
  5. Far more people self-identify as conservative than liberal, and leaving the liberal law school cocoon sucks.
  6. Law schools cannot change the first 5 reasons.

There may be other reasons, but these are a good start. I'm open to other suggestions.


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  1. Liberal laws students want to change the world and bring about "social justice". Reality bites.

  2. I'd suggest that Liberalism and Law don't have a lot in common. Hence, the career choice presents quite an odd juxtaposition.... between "relativism," and a certain form of "black and whiteness."

    The heavy predominance of Catholics on the SCOTUS, for instance, suggests to me that even Progressive lawmakers prefer a degree of Conservatism when it comes to reading the law.

    Just my .02 worth.

  3. #3 gets my award for best laugh of the day.

  4. Your number 3 almost got it. I would expand that to --

    "Liberal law students sitting with a $200k debt bill and only one prospect from a small regional firm at $60k a year makes the cookbook 'Hotdogs 365 days a year' a tantalizing prospect."

    The Liberal law student absolutely freaks when someone reminds them that since its now a federal debt, the student loans aren't eligible for personal bankruptcy.

  5. It's not just liberal law students that are sad about number 3. As a conservative law student who is graduating in June, number 3 makes me sad as well.

    However, from my experience, the problem for liberals in law school is that the real world does not share their ideals. When they make it to big law, partners are mostly driven by PPP, not liberal ideals. And, that doesn't change if you work in mid-sized firms, or the private sector in general. In other words, they grow up and see that the real world is not like their liberal high school teachers, liberal college professors, and liberal law professors described. In the real world, their utopian liberal ideals wont get them very far.

  6. Professor,

    I think your analysis is spot-on. As a conservative law student myself, in Boston nonetheless, everytime you walk into school it seems like you are walking into another world. Not only are the vast majority of students liberal, the professors are as well. I find this one of the largest problems of law school. As much as it is preached that all views should be heard, I cannot name a single conservative on the faculty at my school (I'm sure there are though). I have been reading your blog for quite a while and your persepctive on current events are excellent. Keep up the good work

  7. 7. Their ideology is crumbling: aging demographics are causing the 80+ year experiment with social welfare states to fall like dominos around the world (Eastern Europe 20 years ago, Greece and Western Europe today - with the U.S. sure to follow if we don't make major changes in the next few years); people are resisting redistributing global wealth to combat man-made global warming without substantive proof it exists, or even if it does exist, that a climate catastrophe can be averted; a realization that a planet with 6 billion people is always going to have prejudice, bigotry, poverty and irreconcilable conflicts no matter how much they think they can mandate peace, love, rainbows, unicorns, and Kumbaya-ness in spite of electing a man who assured us "the rise in the oceans would slow and the planet would heal itself" if only he could serve as president for 1460 days.

  8. It is number 4 that got me :)

    Getting into first class on stand-by or frequent-flyer can happen. :) It did happen for us :)

    We got from Sydney, Australia to Los Angeles in first class. The tickets were booked as "staff travel". Long story cut short, we missed out on one flight that should have been our direct connection to NYC and ended up on the next flight. Up until the last 10 minutes we did not know we would be on the flight (and had to run like the clappers to get to the gate).... getting on the flight was important... then my husband looked at the tickets and we had first class!!! Next day after a stay in Los Angeles overnight, we knew we had business class, but we got first class again!! Ah what a shame that on the way home it was only business class... !! Again due to this being staff travel bookings we were not guaranteed a seat. As things turned out we thought we would make it to the first class but a delay out of NYC for the flight meant that we ended up in business class because of unexpected extra passengers.

    However all of your points about conservative vs. liberal are excellent.

  9. All of your suggested reasons and the comments reflect the underlying fact that the current liberal ideology simply is not sustainable in the modern world. The dynamic undergirding liberalism within the legal establishment is rapidly coming to an end. The end of "big law" is just the most obvious example of this. There are many other signs as well, notably client displeasure with the billable hour (something that affects virtually every lawyer) and a shift away from litigation to (cheaper) mediation and arbitration. The shift away from litigation lessens the practical ability of judges and liberal activist attorneys to shape policy via judicial decisions. How demoralizing...

    The intellectual foundations of modern liberal jurisprudence are also seriously crumbling. Look at the recent developments regarding the 2nd Amendment, not just in the courts but in the scholarly literature dealing with gun rights. Even Lawrence Tribe has shifted his view on the 2nd Amendment! This isn't a minor thing, either. Modern liberalism has a deep aversion to gun rights. Both politically and jurisprudentially the Left's hostility to gun rights has been largely undermined. How demoralizing...

  10. The Liberal law student enjoys the idea of representing al Al Qaida operative or a hardened criminal. They get some sort of sexual excitement from this however they eventually graduate and have a family and wake up except if your name is Ron Kuby or Lynne Stewart.

  11. Liberal law students are sad because they know they are LIU-sers.