What They Don’t Tell Students at Law School Part-2

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Law students truly need to understand that their aspirations for glory and achievements have value only in the context of a happy and well-balanced life. Career goals should never be created upon the perception that higher standards of living can substitute higher standards of life. A happy farmhand can have a much better existential experience than an unhappy and dissatisfied lawyer with the best bungalow, the best cars, the best food and the best of everything money could buy. As Krieger and other researchers on the issue found to their dismay, most are unaware:

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  1. We do not sufficiently encourage law students to balance their drive to be at “the top” with the understanding that being at “the top” does not assure a fine life, but many who are not at “the top” actually lead better lives.
  2. Unyielding devotion to excessive hours of work, seen as a preparatory habit for law firm employment, or leading the life of an attorney, leads to illogical workaholism and loss of health and comfort in working lives.
  3. Abusive work-environments are not glorifying, and all those elegant offices and brass doorknobs cannot make up for the time you lose overworking for others. You are expected to provide service for money, but without doing a disservice to yourself or to your family.
  4. There is much more to a good life than constant achievement of goals and completion of tasks.
  5. Law students need to realize that they can live like humans if they act according to their personal values, conscience and ideals.
  6. Silencing personal ethics in favor of analysis and ‘objectivity’ is expected of killers, not of lawyers.
  7. Analytical skills and substantive knowledge is important, but not to the extent that it should subsume one’s personality.
  8. Study of law is useless if you constantly allow it to consume and subjugate your subjective life – your personal time, family time, emotional intimacy with your near and dear ones.
  9. Shallowness, greed and dishonesty adorn the common caricatures of lawyers because law students allow the pressure of syllabi, and false notions about career to severe their connection with their inner feelings and sense of self
  10. Most successful lawyers were neither at at top of the class, nor on law reviews to attain success in working lives
  11. Participation in adversarial process should not be misconstrued as an imperative to prevail at all costs
  12. Outcome of specific cases ‘influence’ success and reputation, but they do not ‘determine’ them.
  13. The best personal attributes of law students are more important than their best skills or performances.
  14. Who you are is more important than how you do something.
Only fools judge worth and achievements by the amount of money a lawyer earns, and even if in a social circle the majority happens to be such fools, your personal life is not open to being ruled by external democratic referendum. Your personal life depends upon healthy values and ‘your’ own personal value system. Trying to be a better man and a good lawyer provides a higher quality of life and state of existence than trying to be an immoral money-generating machine. This is a part of what they never teach you at law schools.

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As Krieger says, “law students often manifest extreme concern over how they may appear to or compare with others (including how their performance reflects on them). It is interesting to note that, of all the psychological scales reported in the Beck/Sales study, attorneys displayed the highest incidence of dysfunction in the area of "interpersonal sensitivity" a measure of insecurity specifically focused on the need to compare one's self with others. An astounding 35% of the responding attorneys were found to be distressed to the "clinical" level on this scale. One manifestation of this phenomenon may be the self-inflating posturing not uncommon among lawyers (and law students)--a sort of egotism that results from the sense that one needs to be better than others. In contrast, genuine self-esteem involves the sense that one is inherently good, without comparison with or reference to others, and regardless of whether one committed palpable errors that day.”

Get well soon.


Lawrence S. Krieger, "What We’Re Not Telling Law Students - and Lawyers - That They Really Need to Know: Some Thoughts-in-Action toward Revitalizing the Profession from Its Roots," Journal of Law and Health 13.1 (1998)

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