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Reputation

Lawyers’ Bad Reputations Start with Arrogant Law Students

In every industry, there appear to be some people who cling to the old school ways and others who fully embrace innovation. Apparently in publishing, there is animosity between writers whose work is published by the Big Publishing Houses and writers who self-publish.  Allegedly some people who are represented by Big Publishing claim that people who are self-published do not qualify as authors because they didn’t go through the same process to publish their work. In the big picture, it doesn’t matter. All writers have the desire to communicate their work and have to work hard to cultivate a following — let alone put the words on the page.

Gavel | Andrew F. Scott: P6033675

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In the Arizona legal community, one source of animosity is the law school from which one matriculated. Until recently, Arizona had only two law schools: Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arizona (UofA). There is an ongoing rivalry between these school based on who is ranked higher. In 2004, a new law school entered the scene: Phoenix School of Law (PSL). This school is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA); however it is not ranked in the top 100 law schools by the U.S. News. PSL has the reputation of being the school that people go to when they couldn’t get into ASU or UofA and that students hope to perform well enough during their 1L year so they can transfer to a better school.

I was not prepared for the hostility that some people have towards PSL graduates. Earlier this summer, an article was released that stated that 1/3 of 2010 law school graduates have jobs that do not require passing a bar exam. The responses from two of my classmates were appalling.

  • “This is why I hate…… PSL kids….. yes I’m going public with this comment and I don’t G.A.F.  If you want to be a lawyer, go to a real school and stop saturating the saturated market.  Was that too harsh? Whatever, I know everyone is thinking it.”
  • “I agree.  And the ABA could have a huge role to play by making law school accreditation more difficult. The problem is that there is a consent decree with the FTC which means that the ABA can’t refuse accreditation to more law schools or cut off accreditation to make fewer lawyers because it would be “anti-competitive.”  The problem now, of course, is that there’s too much competition and too many bottom-feeding, hungry lawyers.”

These comments were made by two people who had not yet taken the bar when they made these statements. My response: Who are they to judge? We all took the LSAT, got into a law school, passed our classes, and graduated. Everyone who passes a bar exam has the right to be a lawyer if they chose to be (and can find work), regardless of the road they took to get there.

These comments show the immaturity, insecurity, and enormity of their egos. During my 1L orientation, the then-dean of the law school encouraged us not to tell lawyer jokes because it perpetuated the image of the legal profession as being full of soulless, greedy, and unscrupulous ladder climbers. Unfortunately, this reputation is still earned by many lawyers now coming out of the gate.

My friend, Eric Mayer, is a brilliant criminal defense lawyer who says, “Good lawyers are not made by their law schools.” Law school is just the beginning of a legal career. A lawyer’s reputation should not be based on where they went to law school, but rather on their intelligence, competence, and ethics. I surprised an ASU law professor this week when I told her that I did not care about the future reputation of my law school because the body of my work will be more determinative of whether I’m a good lawyer.

If the legal profession wants to change its reputation, it should try to screen out these arrogant people when they apply to law school and continuously foster the idea that there’s a place for all types of people to be lawyers. More realistically, I suppose, schools should integrate elitist conversations into their classrooms and truly take the time to debate students who repeatedly demonstrate this type of arrogance. I hope comments like those enumerated by my classmates are not the norm for my class, my school, or the legal profession, but I have my doubts.

Having a different educational background does not make a person a bad lawyer. It just makes them different, and it’s this diversification that permits the profession to grow and remain relevant. Just as self-published writers may be looked down upon as being less credible, it is those who take a different path that are now spearheading certain areas of the industry. If you have a hang up about a person’s legal education, hire someone else.

Top Ten Ways To Annoy Your Fellow Law Students

I started my final year of law school last week.   It made me reflect on what I’ve learned about being obnoxious in class.   Doing any of things listed below puts you at risk of being viewed as inconsiderate & called a “douche” by your fellow law students.

10.  Forget to Mute your Laptop Before Leaving the House.
No one wants to hear that your “file’s done” or that you have a new message or email.   It’s also generally annoying to hear the standard sounds your computer makes when you first turn it on.

9.  Print a Ton of Documents at the Library & Forget to Pick Them Up from the Printer.
It is one thing to occasionally forget to pick up a single-page print out from the printer, & another to print hundreds of pages & forget to pick them up.  Making your fellow classmates sort through the stack of papers on the printer to get to their print out is bad form.

8.  Type Loudly.
This behavior received the most complaints.  Don’t pound the keys of your laptop, or worse, type with long, acrylic, or press-on fingernails that make a loud “click” every time you touch a key.  Women are usually the culprits, & they are usually oblivious to how much they irritate everyone around them.

7.  Be Needlessly Competitive with your Classmates.  Take Advantage of Every Opportunity to Show Them that You are Smarter than They Are.
You’re in law school.  Congratulations – you’ve already proven that you’re smart.

6.  Come to Class Drunk.
If you decide to have a liquid lunch or to blow off steam by heading to the bar after a stressful morning midterm, don’t come back to class in the afternoon.  Just stay at the bar.

5.  Talk About Grades.  
Rule #1 at law school is, “Never discuss grades.”  This rule extends to discussions about class rank & how well you think you did on exams.   When the final is over, don’t talk about it.  Move on to preparing for the next test or better yet, talk about anything that’s not related to law school.

4.  Be Late to Class.
This is particularly bothersome at my school because every classroom is set up with the door at the front of the room.  Watching & listening to you walk through the room & set up your laptop is distracting.  It’s ok to be late if you have a good reason, but these instances should be few & far between.

3.  Make Argumentative & Irrelevant Statements during Class Discussions.
Every class has at least one of these guys.  Don’t be that guy.

2.  Monopolize the Professor’s Time the Week Before a Paper is Due.
When I was a 1L, my professor had very few office hours during the week before our first memo was due.  One day, the first person in line used up 45 of the 90 minutes he had for office hours that day.  By the time she was done, there were 11 of us waiting – not cool!  I don’t think she meant to be that inconsiderate, but she definitely earned the reputation that day.

1.  Talk Excessively & Loudly in the Library.
The library becomes a second home to a lot of law kids, but that doesn’t give you permission to treat it as such.  It’s still a library & people are trying to work.  Talking at what would otherwise be a normal volume is too loud.  Take your conversations outside – & I mean outside the entire building.  If you’re talking in the lobby, we can still hear you.  Don’t think that getting a study room is an acceptable alternative because the walls aren’t soundproof.