This blog is about living the American Dream at the dawn of the new millennium! I am a nameless, mid-20s, bottom 150 Law School Graduate who finds himself marginally attached and awash in a sea of overeducated but underpaid, indentured peers who feel, and were, duped by the promise of a better life through debt and modern chemistry. Let's get to the point. The Law School Industrial Complex is a scam that has destroyed a generation out of greed. Vendettas were once legal and the pursuit of one was seen not only as moral, but necessary. This newly minted lawyer is going to continue the practice. DON'T GO TO LAW SCHOOL YOU MORONS! Ce qui suit est ce qui reste!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Brave New World: Law School As Proof of Huxley's Dystopian Nightmare

He laughed at his earlier idealism, his schoolboy vision of a brave new world in which justice would reign and men would be brothers. - taken from Germinal, treize de Les Rougon-Macquart

There are many things they don't tell prospective law students about law school (even before the impact of Great Recession and the disappearance of the job market).  One of my favorite discoveries about the nature of law school, and subsequent legal industry, is that it's a real world example of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.  If  you've read the book, probably as a required reading in pre-law life, then you should have already noticed the parallels.  A couple warrant revisiting here, and now....

Brave New World v. Law School Industrial Complex!

#1 - INESCAPABLE RANKING SYSTEM



**see bottom for photo comment, also a lot of 0L's think Law School will transform them into this
 


In the Brave New World, the future society is stratified based on biological factors (haha Harvard 3L ).  This future society is broken into five different tiers...errr I mean colors...pretty pretty colors (race plays a part in the book as well just like in the real world, HLS 3L LOL).  Alpha, Beta, Gammas, Deltas, and Episilon (all from the Greek).  There is almost no commingling/likeness between say an Alpha with a Gamma.  They are on the far side of the world from each other.  It turns out that the law is a lot like that too. Which would be fine if people didn't profit from lying about it (looking at you law schools).

In an early chapter of Brave New World, Huxley writes a scene where the teacher of a class of Alpha children, who are the best but "even Alphas have been well conditioned."  The Alphas recite the following to get things clear, but each tier  color is told similar things in the US News Rankings society about who they are and how they relate to everyone else.
 
"Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and the Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able..."  You get the point.

In Law, we obviously have the tier system.  It is inescapable.  You are the tier you get into for life and nothing will ever ever change it in today's world.  Is it possible for a lower tier lawyer to make a living, absolutely not, sure there is!  But will your success ever make up for the taint of your tier?  Nope.

For those lucky few, we also have the low achiever genetic lottery affecting your color status.  This is where you find young, plucky attorneys working at the BigLaw firms.  WTF?!  You ask?  Well if they could get a job at BigLaw going to a toilet like this, then surely I can!!!

Here's the topic that isn't discussed, but is just understood, amongst the ruling class (I know I grew up with them & went to prep school with them).  The BigLaw anomalies are largely explained as the children of a successful lawyer or wealthy family, who couldn't get into one of the higher tiers, but had the "networking" &  "connections" to land a BigLaw job or a great boutique job at the family firm.  In the good old days of white, landed, male aristocrats in Europe, this was called the nobility.  But then eventually a bunch of second, third, and fourth born sons got sick of primogeniture (*see America, established 1776.)



Look, here's the thing I get that the American dream is supposed to be about the elimination of class life and success for everyone but it's just not true.  I prefer real dreams to cultural myths.  Law school is powerful because it combines a couple of different cultural myths into one.  Some people see through it though and seek instead what the Greeks called the good life, see Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soul Craft.

#2 - DESPERATE NEED FOR MOOD ALTERING DRUGS

In the Brave New World, everyone is on the drug soma (a mind altering happy-on-demand drug).

In Law School & the Practice of Law you are going to be miserable, and it will destroy what you call your mind.  It turns out that the lay translation for the oft quoted "Thinking like a lawyer" actually means living in the permanent midnight of lifelong depression always dancing on the edge of suicide.  Even though the usage rate of anti-anxiety and anti-depressants is skyrocketing amongst the general population, it's even worse for lawyers.

Even if you go to school and get a job here's a small & incomplete snippet of what you get to look forward to:

a)  Johns Hopkins 1991 study ranked lawyers #1 out of 105 different "professions" for clinical depression
b) 1992 OSHA report found that male lawyers in the US are TWICE as likely to kill themselves versus the general population
c) Other research shows lawyers have "clinical anxiety, hostility and depression" at rates ranging from 8 to 15 times that in the general population.
d) 11% of North Carolina lawyers think about killing themselves at least once a month

You're surprised that the school you want to go to didn't tell you about the website www.lawyerswithdepression.com as research?


Jesus fucknuts LiLo get a grip!!!

Martin Seligman's research has shown 3 main causes of lawyer's miserable lives:

1)  Law encourages a Pessimistic outlook & rewards it (miserable people are inherently better lawyers).

2)  Low decision latitude in high-stress situations (translation = you are put into high pressure work but have very little say or freedom to make choices essentially turning you into a servant to your overlords, debt has accentuated this effect for those who have jobs).

3)  THE MOST IMPORTANT SOURCE OF LAWYER MENTAL ILLNESS? The adversarial, zero-sum orientation of the law, where one side loses and another wins, is inherently destructive, even to the winners (as every study in every field has shown).

Seligman offers some potential solutions based on the psychological data for let's call them "policymakers" which have been totally ignored:

"The zero-sum nature of law has no easy antidote. For better or for worse, the adversarial process, confrontation, maximizing billable hours, and the "ethic" of getting as much as you possibly can for your clients are much too deeply entrenched. More pro bono activity, more mediation, more out-of-court settlements, and "therapeutic jurispudence" are all in the spirit of countering the zero-sum mentality, but I expect these recommendations are not cures, but Band-Aids."

The problem is that BigLaw or even average law firms struggle to make money, let alone the big bucks, with that kind of business model.  Why do you think the dropout rate and turnover of law jobs used to be so high?  The big firms may pay Seligman and his disciples some money to come do a bullshit lecture or seminar, but let's not shit a shitter.  The law model ain't gonna change for a long time (although I'm hoping the recession is a kind of restart button on the insanities of modern life but that's for another post).

Do you really want to sign up for destroying your mind for this so called career?  Did you not read Matthew 16:26, For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

#3 - IF YOU'RE NOT ALREADY IN THE LAW TRIBE, YOU ARE HUXLEY'S SAVAGE & ENTERING THE INSANE "UTOPIA" NOT A GOOD IDEA...SPOILER ALERT, HE HANGED HIMSELF AT THE END

Besides the Alphas thru Epsilons of the soma infused "utopian" society, the only other people really mentioned are the "savages" found on special reservations outside of the cities.  This is how most attorneys view lay people (don't even bother flame commenting or emailing you know it's true).  Exceptions? Sure, to every rule.  But this is the legal field's cultural norm.

And why shouldn't it be?  I have yet to meet a professor or practitioner who isn't at some point, or on a regular basis, infatuated with the smell of their own bullshit.  While we're at it, the inner monologue goes something like this "I went to school for 3 god damn years! I read thick books of horseshit!  I should have a doctorate just like those assholes in the white coats!  I'm unique and special and better than everyone else" (the pissing contest between the pompousness of J.D.'s and M.D.'s and Ph.D.'s can get overwhelming for those of you who just have a bachelor's or master's degree. Tsk tsk they say. Thought about more "education"?).  They encourage a culture of "experts" that infantilizes the rest of society as a way to justify their own existence and legal fees (about 90% of lawsuits are horseshit and other professions/artists make far better planners and regulators than attorneys do so we have to cultivate a mysterious and exclusive air about the law).

In Brave New World's foreword, Huxley writes that at the end of the story, "The Savage is offered only two alternatives, an insane life in Utopia, or the life of a primitive in an Indian village, a life more human in some respects, but in others hardly less queer and abnormal."

Well that's pretty much the human condition (Huxley thought this two choice solution was a false choice and one of the main reasons he later wrote Island).

A lot of my fellow scambloggers out there have gotten vicious comments and criticisms from defenders of the system.  They've been derided, castigated, smeared, threatened, ridiculed, etc.  Know the real reason why?  They're traitors to the profession. The legal version of this guy:


Anyone remember the shitstorm the guy above caused?

Scamblogging about the state of the legal profession is an unheard of pulling back the curtain.  It's the equivalent of saying the Emperor has no clothes (although as Neil Gaiman wrote in Sandman, "the emperor is still an emperor" hence the anonymity).

It annoys the ever living hell out of many Esquires to point out that there's a man behind the curtain, but you readers get to benefit by our experience and insider knowledge rather than find out yourself the hard way:



In closing you should know something important most people don't because Brave New World gets all the props.  Huxley also wrote another book called Island.  The methods and techniques that created the society in Brave New World are the same ones that are applied to the society in Island.  The difference is that in Island, those methods led to harmony and mutual dignity where as in Brave New World they led to dystopian, creepy horror world.

Why did he write Island?  Because Huxley refused to believe that Brave New World was inevitable.  Ultimately, we are the decision makers.  It's our choice.  The world is what we make of it.



The above is the only worthwhile part of that movie. Happy three day weekend!

**Incidentally, Ralph Lauren's real name is Ralph Rueben Lifshitz born to Ashkenazi Jews in the Bronx.  He's a self loathing jew, more common than it really should be, but had a vision of a beautiful WASP world that he never felt he would be part of and recreated it in fashion.  In fact, he perfected it for them and helps perpetuate it.  He makes his real money by selling the fantasy to people like him, those who feel that they will never belong but like to play dress up. Vanity Fair had a great feature on it a couple years ago but I think it only ever appeared online (they knew better than to publish it in the actual magazine).

2 comments:

  1. Law school deadens the soul, in many ways. In the final analysis, lawyers are glorified clerks to the status quo/power structure. They always have been. And, yes I am even referring to the "big guns" as mere pawns in this system. Great, you made partner and now pull in high 6 or low 7 figures. You help your criminal clients accumulate and hide 8, 9, and sometimes 10 figure fortunes. Your mothers must be so proud of you.

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  2. I'm not saying there's anything necessarily with being a pawn. Especially if it's with "informed consent" and totally "voluntary" on the part of the pawn (regardless of the compensation and if you live that kind of life it does become "compensation" rather than "earning a salary").

    I just think that there should be some self-awareness on the part of those who undertake such an endeavor. Let's call a spade a spade, don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining, and to each his own. If you want to be chevalier d'industrie go ahead but be conscious of it.

    One of the main themes of Michael Clayton was that Arthur became self-aware of exactly what his life's work had amounted to thus far and it horrified him.

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