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!

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Paper Chase Warned Us

Almost everyone who has gone to law school in the past few decades will inevitably come across, or have someone mention to them and ask more about it, some item of pop culture about law school/the legal profession.  In fact, many schools have saved Zero Lemmings the trouble and simply handed out copies of Scott Turow's One L with orientation (although a friend who went top tier and told me that she received a copy did so pre-Great Recession so who knows if they're still doing it...based on the amount they're overcharging the the idiots that keep enrolling I'll bet law schools are doing just fine).  As the unimaginative worm great intellectual that is the typical law student evolves from the raping of any future dreams  law school into  the unemployment line with a lifetime of debt solo practice, that list of culturally relevant media also evolves (for several reasons I may cover in a future post, My Cousin Vinny is the favorite amongst every practicing attorney I have met).

Now, I happened upon the 1970's movie The Paper Chase mostly because my parents, two successful baby boomer professionals who idolized higher ed and therefore made it mandatory for my siblings and I upon exiting the womb lest we be uninvited to any future holiday dinners, remembered it as being one of the hot movies when they were in graduate school.  In fact, I quite enjoyed The Paper Chase when I saw it for the first time after being accepted to a puppy mill littered with neglected corpses  my prestigious alma mater.  Unfortunately, I burned my dvd copy of the movie along with my "interview" tie in a trash can on the streets with a homeless Operation Iraqi Freedom Vet my fireplace to stay alive this past winter (as I realized that both items were of little use to me).

First years are hard years, much more than we know
But good friends to love us, we'll build every road
Stay open to all things: unknown and new
And one day we'll all say, "Hey look we've come through!"
"Hey look we've come through!"
And one day we'll all say, "Hey look we've come through!"
The first year...

Are you fucking kidding me?! They went all in on this shit & made a tv show of it?! FOR FOUR FUCKING SEASONS?! HOLY FUCKING SHIT!!!  

I don't even know where to start with this horseshit...Actually yes I do, is the asshole singing the ridiculous Paper Chase Series theme song the same one from the Rankin/Bass Hobbit movies?!

Hold on, I need to vomit into my own asshole so that I can feel something more enjoyable than this.

If this show had aired when I was going through the hell of law school, I would have driven to my local affiliate station and taken down their transmitters with an axe.  I've never seen it, but I can tell from the few clips on the net that it would either make me laugh uncontrollably from being so far off base or make me weep with regret.  Either way, I don't think that it'd be a good thing to do in the place where I'm stealing my WiFi (also where I spend most of my time as I am effectively homeless unlike some of the people in here who are literally homeless).  Also, Mr. Show did a much better attempt at showing the insanity of a law class:

However, I have seen the movie version so let's revisit that shall we?  The Paper Chase follows the trials and tribulations of a young, idealistic Midwesterner in his first year of Law School at the greatest place of learning ever known to man and the cosmos, Harvard Law School!!!  The viewer gets to follow young James Hart, hardy har har I get it Hart = Heart = Soul/Normal Person...right, as he faces the trials and tribulations of memorizing and being tested on huge amounts of useless, mind numbing case law in the most obtuse way so as to destroy common sense make him "think like a lawyer" (if Doctors learned this way, we'd all be dead).

Oh Shit! Looks at the balls on that one! He asserted himself like a...uh...oh like a lawyer! THIS MOVIE IS AWESOME JUST LIKE LAW SCHOOL!  In reality though, no law student on earth would ever do that, nor would any of the professors I've ever come across take an insult like that in stride.

In the movie, Hart interacts with 4 entities: his professor, his girlfriend, older law students, and his study group:

I guess calling someone a pimp was offensive back then. And yes, there were people in my class who would do things like make an outline that was longer than the actual book...they didn't do very well.

No...really. Watch the movie.  Hart does not say a single word to anyone who isn't affiliated with the law school (but for the hotel manager during exams when his friend Ford threatens to burn down the hotel and he then threatens to call the newspapers telling them that they're running a drug smuggling ring out of their room).  All of the law school people that Hart does interact with are depicted as either shallow stereotypes or meaningless throwaways.  Even Susan, who is supposed to be the emotional core of the film that draws Hart back into the world of the living, is pretty bitchy for most of it.  This lack of real world interaction is important in showing the lack of normalcy because "learning the law" consumes his every waking moment.  The possibility of any outside interaction is like someone in hell dreaming of heaven.

Guess what Zero Lemming?  That's what it'll probably be like for you too!!!  I was lucky that I happened to find and become friends with the few actual human beings in my school who found themselves similarly surrounded by nutjobs (they also passed the bar in terms of people whose friendship & company I would have sought out pre & post law school).  Not surprisingly, all of the people I became friends with were older than me and had lives/careers/families outside of law school that kept them grounded (and if it hadn't been for their friendship & support through the years I probably would have succumbed to my depression demons and killed myself as it may frequently cross your mind through school & its actually a part of the plot for one character in The Paper Chase).  Interestingly, I'm actually still close with my friends from law school whereas a lot of my classmates seem to have let their strategic alliances connections fall to the wayside upon graduation...hmmmmn that's odd...

As I see it, the failure of the movie is that everyone seems to miss the entire god damn point.  If Zero Lemmings watched the movie before Law School & understood its central message, then they would have said to themselves, "Fuck this, I'm going to learn how to do trim carpentry." 

The key scene, and where the title of the film comes from, takes place a little over halfway through the movie in a grocery store where Hart tries to explain his frustrations with Susan.  Hart blew her off to spend all weekend in his dorm, really living in a dorm?, and the library working on a "special" project for his Contracts professor (you'd be amazed at the number of kiss ass assignments that law students are willing to do for a prof's article in the hopes that it will somehow land them a job...didn't work for anyone I knew).

Unfortunately, I couldn't find a clip of the scene but here's a transcript:

Hart:  We could uh go to the Cape next weekend!
Susan: WE aren't going anywhere. Christ.
Hart:  I wish you wouldn't treat me like this I haven't had a decent meal in four days...I haven't had any sleep! Susan! Look he tested me, I failed. I worked so god damn hard on that paper...Well he may flunk me!
Susan: They finally gotcha didn't they Hart? They sucked all that Midwestern charm right out of you. Look, he's got you scared to death. Oh you're going to pass, because you're the kind the law school wants.  You'll get your little diploma, your piece of paper *reaches for toilet paper roll* That's no different than this *motions to toilet paper* and you can stick it in your silver box with all the other paper in your life! Your birth certificate, driver's license, marriage license, your stock certificates, and your will. Excuse me.
Hart:  You don't even care...
Susan:  I wish you would flunk there might be some hope for you.

Get it?  The Paper Chase?  Incidentally, Susan is chasing her own piece of paper in the movie...a finalized divorce from her husband who was a Harvard Law Student who subsequently cracked and lost his marbles.

*Sidenote, if I had the chance to hate fuck the living shit out of a professor's daughter as revenge for having to sit through the class date a professor's daughter, I wouldn't be anywhere near conflicted about it as Hart makes out to be in the film (he also has a quasi-homosexual idolization of his Ktracts professor that you sometimes get with the more rodent like law students that Susan comments on at one point in the film).  Throughout the movie, Susan tries to shatter some of Hart's misconceptions about the law and the experience of law school (as she should know having had a husband who went through it and whose father is the embodiment of the institution).  Having also gone through law school, I can say with confidence that from all of my moments on this Earth, the ones that mattered the most did not come with a piece of paper.

As the main character Hart finally realizes at the end.  If you get an acceptance letter from any postgrad/law school you should follow Hart's example:



  1. The Paper Chase is a great, great movie and it pictures law classes fairly accurately for the time. It amazes me that many Gen Y law students and even some young lawyers have not seen it. Highly recommended.

    The TV series lasted too long and went downhill.

  2. Law school beats the creativity and humanity out of many people. "And all for the low, low price of $128,498.12!" (Which is more like $250K when you finally pay the bastards off, in 25-30 years.)

  3. The Paper Chase is nothing like law school. The students struggle to answer basic questions that any (especially from Harvard) law student would know with even moderate preparation. This movie offends my intelligence as a law student.