Law School and Its Discontents
Law school is a confusing beast. Law school lasts three years, and that schedule is pretty tough to defy. Part-timers can get away with it, at certain schools, but for most law students, it's six semesters living on campus, going to classes daily, and reading case after case of legalese. Law school is not graduate school, but we're all working towards doctorates, so what's the difference?
The difference? Law school is inherently schizophrenic. Graduate school is intended merely to create academics. If I had chosen to go to grad school, I'd be learning (or perfecting) several languages, researching academic philosophy, writing esoteric papers full of nonsense, and hoping that a handful of similarly reality-deprived eggheads would look favorably enough on my opus to pay me money to talk nonsense to students. Graduate school knows what it's doing, knows it's training potential academics, and goes about its task umambiguously. Law school, on the other hand, has several functions; it's more helpful to say that law school is training several classes of people, and those people have such different interests that the three years of law school really cannot possibly do any class justice.
Future academic - a very small percentage of law students will seek a general LLM degree and perhaps even an SJD. These students want nothing to do with actual practice of law, since it might ground their theories in reality, and reality is dull and pedestrian. The academics are served by law professors who never practiced or have not practiced in decades; these professors are convinced of their own correctness not by concrete application of their theories but simply by the approbation given their articles in law journals.
Future lawyer - those who actually want to practice law at some point after law school wish the theorists would stop bothering them. They have a point. Law school is probably a vocational school, and the only people not wanting to admit that are members of the above class. Law school trains lawyers. Lawyers don't want to know what Karl Marx thinks about liquidated damages; lawyers want to know whether their client's contract is enforceable at law.
Future judge - this class is a tough call. Judges need to know theory, and they need to know how law is actually practiced, since they are, for all intents and purposes, the arbitrators of the rules of the system. Judges need to referee the field of contention between rival lawyers, and they need to know the justification for case law, since judicial reasoning does not consist of arithmetic. That is, law is difficult, and judges need to use their brains a bit, since the rules are not clear and obvious in their mutual interaction. The schizophrenic nature of legal education may actual be most useful to potential judges; even so, it's amusing that this class is not nearly as large as the class of potential lawyers, so law school is at best serving a minority of law students.
Future legislator - oh, this one is rough. If I weren't in law school and couldn't observe the thick-headed imbecility of law students, I wouldn't believe that any legislator could ever have devoted himself to legal education. In theory, law school teaches students what the law is and how to practice law; in fact, law students revel in passing exams instead of actually learning the law. Law students are, for the most part, dim-witted people, and it comes as no surprise that some of these dim-witted people pass dim-witted laws.
So where does that leave us? Hell if I know. Law school's a mess, and it takes a lot of patience to work through that mess, selectively learn what you need to learn for your future career (ignoring, unless it's on a final exam, what will obviously be useless), take the bar, and leave the experience behind you forever.
And I'm just a 1L. Wish me luck, guys.