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, July 12, 2010

OLM Book Club -- Zero Lemmings! Neidermeyer Says You're All Worthless & Weak! Part Deux

"Those who educate children well are more to be honored than parents, for these only gave life, those the art of living well." ~ Aristotle, Philosopher & Sex Predator Pederast Lover of Hermias, Aeschiron, Palaephatus & Theodectes (that we know of)

"The time is ripe to dwell on this unease rather than dismiss it. The scope of the economic crisis is still uncertain as I write this, but it appears to be deepening. We are experiencing a genuine crisis of confidence in our most prestigious institutions and professions. This presents an opportunity to reconsider some basic assumptions. The question of what a good job looks like---of what sort of work is both secure and worthy of being honored---is more open now than it has been for a long time. The meta-work of trafficking in the surplus skimmed from other people's work suddenly appears as what it is, and it becomes possible once again to think the thought 'Let me make myself useful.'" ~ Matthew B. Crawford, Philosopher & Motorcycle Mechanic (my how times have changed)

When I last left off, Matt had spoken about how hard it was to sustain his personal identity as a "master of arts" with the reality of the job market (also this was back in the 1990s so just imagine how masters of arts--or hell--doctors of law are faring today?...What?...They're all unemployed?...carry on).  But how did he find himself in that spot and how did he turn it around? Matt explains....

"I started working as an electrician's helper shortly before I turned fourteen.  I wasn't attending school at that time and worked full-time until I was fifteen, then kept the trade up during the summers while in high school and college, with steadily increasing responsibility.  When I couldn't get a job with a college degree in physics, I was glad to have something to fall back on, and went into business for myself, in Santa Barbara."

Although he's making a tacit endorsement of putting kids to work as early as possible, so that they stand a chance in today's world rather than book learning, it doesn't bother me that much as I have a lot of criticisms with what the average kid in today's world gets as "education"(interestingly, putting kids to work on mastering a sport so they can become major league athletes doesn't seem to bother the society as a whole does it? Just ask King James).  Although he eventually got a Ph.D. in political philosophy, Matt started out in the sciences.  I don't know many kids from grad school or law school with anything remotely resembling what I would consider a real degree---i.e. anything science related like physics or engineering.  

Hey asshats, just because you add "science" to the end of "political" does not mean that you have anything useful to contribute whatsoever (it also doesn't make it a science).  But hey, I heard a law dean lie about say there's great jobs for useless degrees (if you spend another 3 years of book learning and mortgage your future to the hilt by lining their pockets with sweet sweet federal taxpayer money)

Besides being an electrician, Matt also began working in a Porsche repair shop at the age of fifteen.

"At this time, Emeryville [California] was a mix of light industrial and black residential neighborhoods; my mother had recently bought a house there, and I was living with her. I used to walk by the shop and admire the 911s behind barbed wire in the adjoining yard.  One day I walked in and asked for a job.  The proprietor, whom I shall call Lance (not his real name), asked me what kind of skills I had.  I told him about the electrical work I'd done, and a little carpentry as well."

Unlike most Zero Lemmings, who seem to think they'll be the partner of a BigLaw firm within the first year of their graduation either literally or in terms of salary, it took a long time for Matt to earn Lance's trust.  He was employed doing minor, dirty odd jobs for a long time until he was finally allowed to get near anything that even resembled a car (if you want the whole story go read the book in a public library you ass, it's still free...for now).   There was a lot of other stuff I left out about his experience with other mechanics and car culture but back to his later life,

"I went to UC Santa Barbara for college, and got introduced to philosophy in my senior year. It was a jolt of clarity. Graduating with a degree in physics, I couldn't find a job based on that credential, so I continued to work as an electrician (as I had throughout college), and continued to feel the tug of philosophy. This tug was strong enough that I started going to night school to learn Greek, the language of philosophy, and eventually found my way to the University of Chicago.  My studies there were interrupted by a stint in a cubicle job."

This was back when he was merely a master and not a doctor.  Although let's check out the quality of his life in said cubicle job....

"Finally I landed a job as an indexer and abstractor at Information Access Company, then a division of Ziff Communications, and stayed there for eleven months.  My new job was to read articles in academic journals, index them under established categories, and write abstracts of about two hundred words, which were then sold on a CD-ROM to subscribing libraries, where they could be viewed on a system called InfoTrac.  I was to be a knowledge worker."

I've never worked Doc Review.  However, the above picture is pretty much how it feels according to my friends who have done it (literally something to keep them off the streets and rationalize at the end of the day as being "related" to their JD--although for top 10 law grads without the corresponding "network connections" as members of the right social club who get such jobs today will be amongst the "lucky" ones).  Actually, even from the few classmates and friends I have in the wasteland legal industry at firms of all sizes, that pretty much describes all legal work.  But surely, being a knowledge worker, like an abstract writer, has absolutely no bearing to being a doctor of law, I mean for fuck's sake my degree has latin awesomeness---Juris!  Let's just glance at being a lawyer to the stages of Matt's job as a abstractor/knowledge worker.  There are 3 major phases of becoming a lawyer in America: 1) go through law school 2) pass the bar 3) daily grind as a real live attorney!

"My job was structured on the supposition that in writing an abstract there is a method that merely needs to be applied, and that this does not require understanding (like a computer that manipulates syntax while remaining innocent of semantics).  I was actually told this by the trainer, Monica, as she stood before a whiteboard diagramming an abstract. ..Monica seemed a perfectly sensible person, and gave no outward signs of suffering delusions. She didn't insist too much on what she was telling us, and it became clear she was in a position similar to that of a veteran Soviet bureaucrat who must work on two levels at once: reality and official ideology."

Well that's odd...I could replace a few words in the above quotation and pretty much describe my entire "legal education" (a shot of liquor and a slap in the face is pretty apt too) Strike 1!

"My starting quota, after finishing a week of training, was fifteen articles per day.  By my eleventh month at the company, my quota was up to twenty-eight articles per day (this was the normal, scheduled acceleration)...More than anything, I felt sleepy.  This exhaustion was surely tied to the fact I felt trapped in a contradiction.  The fast pace demanded absorption in the task, yet that pace also precluded absorption, and had the effect of estranging me from my own doings.  Or rather, I tried to absent myself, the better to meet my quota, but the writing of an abstract, unlike the pulling of levers on an assembly line, cannot be done mindlessly.  The material I was reading was too demanding, and what it demanded was to be given its due."

And that pretty much is a dead on description of reviewing for the bar exam (you know that thing that makes your J.D. supposedly worth its salt---Btw, Good luck to all you poor bastards reading this & studying for the bar, may tiny baby infant Jesus have mercy on your sanity). Strike 2!

"Now, it is probably true that every job entails some kind of mutilation.  Working as an electrician, you breathe a lot of unknown dust in crawl spaces, your knees get bruised, your neck gets strained from looking up at the ceiling while installing lights or ceiling fans, and you get shocked regularly, sometimes while on a ladder.  Your hands are sliced up from twisting wires together, handling junction boxes made out of stamped sheet metal, and cutting metal conduit with a hacksaw.  But none of this damage touches the best part of yourself....

At lunchtime I had a standing arrangement with two other abstractors.  One was from my group, a laconic, disheveled man named Mike...the other guy was from beyond the partition, a meticulously groomed Liberian named Henry, who had worked fro the CIA in his country...Over lunch Mike would recount the outrageous things he had written in his abstracts, which were then published under the names of untenured assistant professors...Always funny and gentle, one day Mike confided that he was doing quite a bit of heroin. On the job. This actually made some sense."

How was it that I, once a proudly self-employed electrician, had ended up among these walking wounded, a 'knowledge worker' at a salary of $23,000? I hadn't gone to graduate school for the sake of a career (rather, I wanted guidance reading some difficult books), but once I had the master's degree I felt like I belonged to a certain order of society, and was entitled to its forms.  Despite the beautiful ties I wore, it turned out to be a more proletarian existence than I had known as a manual worker."

Strike 3!  Well, shit!  That hits the nail right on the head of what it's like to be a practicing lawyer.  Maybe that's why lawyers are the most depressed population on the planet and those who don't absolutely need the money flee the profession like rich people on the Titanic.  You stupid, arrogant, blind fucks Zero Lemmings sure you want to do this?  If I have one critique of Matt, and this is more to do with his personality I think than his logic, is that he seems to constantly flirt between the two choices--academia & trade work.  He wants to have his cake and eat it too (that idiom never made sense to me, although no idiom really does that's why they're idioms).

"But ultimately I earned a Ph.D. in the history of political thought.  I then managed to stay on with a one-year gig at the university's Committee on Social Thought, on the third floor of Foster Hall...for a number of reasons, I failed to develop a sincere aspiration to be a professor. The responsible thing would have been to figure out, quickly, how I was going to make a living come June. But my response was more like denial: I retreated to a makeshift workshop I set up in the basement of a Hyde Park apartment building, tearing down a 1975 Honda CB360 and rebuilding it as a cafe racer."

Whereas you Zero Lemming, find yourself similarly situated following your lustrous polisci/history/gender studies/anthropology/communication/business/insert pretty much all bachelor's degrees---I highly doubt you do anything near rebuilding a motorcycle as an "escape." the lucky ones retreat to suckle off the teet rather than man up and get a life...looking at you Nicholson...bag of shit.  I can understand the panic amongst some of you other Zero Lemmings.  You say to yourselves, "I need to delay the real world some how...I know I'll be a lawyer!"  That's kinda like someone who's been sexually assaulted going out on a date with the rapist while he's still wearing the ski mask, isn't it?  Meanwhile, Matt continued to fuck around with motorcycles and befriending/admiring a friend who was a professional motorcycle mechanic.

"Over the next six months I spent a lot of time at Fred's shop, learning, and put in only occasional appearances at the Committee [on Social Thought].  As it happened, in the spring I got a call from a former teacher, now in Washington D.C., asking if I was interested in a job as director of a certain think tank.  The salary was huge.  Hell, yes, I was interested. I interviewed, and ended up getting the job.  But I would quickly discover it was not to my taste. It was concerned more with the forms of inquiry than with the substance; the trappings of scholarship were used to put a scientific cover on positions arrived at otherwise.  For example, part of my job consisted of making arguments about global warming that just happened to coincide with the positions taken by the oil companies that funded the think tank.  

Fred's life seemed more liberal.  One of the earliest uses of the word 'liberal' was to draw a distinction between the 'liberal arts' and the 'servile arts.'  The former were those pursuits befitting a free man...I landed the job at the think tank because I had a prestigious education in the liberal arts, yet the job felt illiberal: coming up with the best argument money could buy. This wasn't work befitting a free man, and the tie I wore started to feel like the mark of the slave.  As I sat in my K Street office, Fred's life as an independent tradesman gave me an image of liberality that I kept coming back to...After five months at the think tank I'd saved up enough to buy some tools I needed, and quit.  I was going back into the business of fixing motorcycles."

For those of you paying attention, I'd like to point out how Matt got his job and one of the reasons why he takes our culture's so called "meritocratic" view of life to task.  At least he has the decency to flat out admit that he didn't get the job from any particular effort, but fit the demographic desires of the think tank (he takes this "cognitive sorting" to task in the book as well).  At least Matt didn't expect it--whereas the Top Law School crowd absolutely did.  And why shouldn't they?  That's the way the system worked--to the detriment of everyone in it and the society as a whole.  Today, we're seeing how much of a movie set the whole enterprise of BigLaw truly is (especially in light of global competition).  

What kind of culture is it when you rate a person's worth to a single, subjective test, which claims to be both objective & the best indicator available, and their score on it?  Here's the formula the legal profession has operated on for years:  

Take test + score a _____ + Go T14 = Summer internship/associate position.  

Once you get that "in," then get they pretty much got hired at a six figure salary.  Now that this formula is disappearing, this group is losing their fucking minds.  Largely because the vast majority of this group has never actually done anything--like get a motorcycle working or start a business or raise a family or fight in a war.  They've been in an echo chamber of school for years.

Here's a question: Does getting "accepted" into a "top law school" entitle people to the, often, outrageous expectations?  Should it?  Will that make them happy?  

It didn't make Matt happy and so he left to pursue his passion.

Back in the golden years of the legal profession, I'm being both nostalgic and facetious when I describe it as such, of the 1990's--following the cultural icon L.A. Law--many BigLaw associates pulled a similar bait & switch.  Once it was clear that they would never break the glass ceiling of the partner, therefore the pinnacle of money and power in their worldview, associates left for greener pastures (should have checked out being a Dean at a law school).  If I had a nickel for every 40 or 50 year old "reformed lawyer" I've met or known who used their savings following paying off their debt to open up a business of some kind of get into another profession/vocation I wouldn't have to suck dick for coke I seen it! I could have afforded a Nimbus 3000 by now.  

I've left a lot of the book out, as Matt goes through what he believes to be the history, trends and logic behind our current system (he does so by relying on other people's work--he was an abstractor after all).  The ultimate question he asks in terms of professions/career/life is the one that no one in my generation really seemed to ask themselves before applying to grad schools or has been lost in the shuffle.

The question is---What is the good life?

"We are preoccupied with demographic variables, on the one hand, and sorting into cognitive classes, on the other.  Both collapse the human qualities into a narrow set of categories, the better to be represented on a checklist or a set of test scores. This simplification serves various institutional purposes.  Fitting ourselves to them, we come to understand ourselves in light of the available metrics, and forget that institutional purposes are not our own.  If the gatekeeper at some prestigious institution has opened a gate in front of us, we can't not walk through it.  But as a young person surveys the various ways he could make a living, and how they might be part of a life well lived, the pertinent question for him may be not what IQ he has, but whether he is, for example, careful or commanding.  If he is to find work that is fitting, he would do well to pause amid the general rush to the gates."

Aha! So that explains the Top Law School phenom and how all of this ranking shit started....

Alright fine.

"Aristotle's understanding of happiness can shed light on those activities that truly engage us; maybe it can teach us something about work and leisure as well...In Greek, its telos. In English, this teleological understanding of happiness get condensed in the proverbial saying 'Happy as a pig in shit.'...There is a classic psychology experiment...Children who enjoy drawing were given marker pens and allowed to go at it.  Some were rewarded for drawing (they were given a certificate with a gold seal and a ribbon, and told ahead of time about this arrangement), whereas for others the issue of rewards was never raised.  Weeks later, those who had been rewarded took less interest in drawing, and their drawings were judged to be lower in quality, whereas those who had not been rewarded continued to enjoy the activity and produced higher-quality drawings.  The hypothesis is that the child begins to attribute his interest, which previously needed no justification, to the external reward, and this has the effect of reducing his intrinsic interest in it."

So maybe you aren't one of the ignorant morons who is going to law school because they supposedly "love the law" as described above (I'm sure you kids just love to go over case law and jurisprudence like a real live Theodore Boone---Kid Lawyer!)

The other explanation I've heard many of you reh-tards Zero Lemmings say, "But the law is so prestigious! The respect I will get from being an attorney makes my genitals quiver with power!" (quasi-actual quote from a former classmate of mine during our 1L year...he had never had sex in his life...he was 32).  Is it prestigious? Really?  I think it's probably more important to be a good person instead.

"Socially, being the proprietor of a bike shop in a small city gives me a feeling I never had before. I feel I have a place in society. Whereas "think tank" is an answer that, at best, buys you a few seconds when someone asks what you do and you try to figure out what it is in fact you do, with "motorcycle mechanic" I get immediate recognition.  I barter services with machinists and metal fabricators, which has a very different feel than transactions with money, and further increases my sense of belonging to a community."

Even back in the good ole days of BigLaw wining and dining every kid who had a pulse in the top law schools, how many of them genuinely felt what Matt describes above? A sense of community?  A sense of belonging?  A sense of contributing?  The myth of the lawyer as a social good in their community is just that--a myth.  Every time I hear some old blowhard talking about the wonders of the Legal Profession and the Ideal Lawyer, they always describe the life of Atticus Finch---not anyone who really existed.  In reality, it is alienating, destructive, and hollow---which is why so many lawyers burn out or quit (back when they had the option because there were other jobs to be had).

"My point, finally, isn't to recommend motorcycling in particular, nor to idealize the life of a mechanic.  It is rather to suggest that if we follow the traces of our own actions to their source, they intimate some understanding of the good life...To live wakefully is to live in full awareness of this, our human situation.  To live well is to reconcile ourselves to it, and try to realize whatever excellence we can.  For this some economic conditions are more favorable than others...For thinking is inherently bound up with doing...A humane economy would be one in which the possibility of achieving such satisfaction is not foreclosed ahead of time for most people.  It would require a sense of scale.  We in the West have arranged our institutions to prevent the concentration of political power, with such devices as the separation of legislative, executive, and judicial functions.  But we have failed utterly to prevent the concentration of economic power, or take account of how such concentration damages the conditions under which full human flourishing becomes possible (it is never guaranteed)."

That's what I and the other scambloggers have been trying to explain to you Zero Lemmings.  Right now, you still have a good chance to turn your life around in a positive direction as hard as that may seem to you now.  If you think it's bad now--just watch what happens when you lose 3 years of your life in the horrible malaise of law school & add into your Giant Pool of Student Debt.  

Law school is not an answer to your problems.  You don't love the law.  You don't even know what it is (and neither do most attorneys, they certainly don't have a sense of justice).  It's not going to make you rich or even allow you to really have a decent wage or support a family.  The "power/social currency" you get from being a "lawyer" won't make up for your insecurities and personal failings.  It'll just add fuel to the fire of your self-perceived shitty life.  Get over it, times are hard.

I don't really give a shit about legal reform anymore because it's clear to me that these bastards in the Law School Educational Complex can't be stopped.  *See below for the law dean victory dance

Only when the hard reality of the legal profession, at least in terms of profitability, meets the false image shilled by the profiteers will something change for the better (probably take a couple more cycles of students---i.e. next 3-10 years).  In the meantime, he who saves one person saves the world entire.  I know I've kept at least 1 poor soul from making the mistake of going to law school, so I've kept up my end.

Till Next Time!!! If they hate then let em hate!!!!  And watch the money pile up, the good life!!!!


  1. TL;DR

    Geez,man, have you ever heard of brevity. Perhaps law wasn't for you?

  2. And that's another contradiction in the law. We're taught in law school to be concise, but how about all those cases? It's more about the judge or clerk showing off his prose.

  3. Demos gets into the mind of a lemming more than any of the other scambloggers. It's almost like we're lying down on his couch while he dissects our reasoning for wanting to go to law school. Keep up this style!

    If you want brevity, visit the JD Underdog.

  4. So....there are two authors here, right? Someone named Matt and you, right? Good stuff, but a little unclear what exactly is going on...

  5. "When I couldn't get a job with a college degree in physics'

    Gee, someone with a degree in a HARD SCIENCE couldn't find a job? How is that possible? I thooght it was the Scamblogger Credo that education in hard sciences, plumbing and nursing were sure-fire routes to wealth and job security?

  6. Yes, Homeless, the bold blue quotations are from Matt's book. Everything else is me.

    Anonymous @ 11:04 -
    1) I follow no credo.
    2) I am judging the legal profession alone not idealizing "hard" sciences, plumbing, or nursing.
    3) I also have never said anything about sure-fire routes to wealth or job security.
    4) It doesn't surprise me the author went from physics to philosophy as there is some overlap.
    5) The point of this post isn't about how much money Matt or anyone makes in their profession but rather what does the good life consist of? Money is one element but it is not the sole determining factor.

  7. Demos, great work. I love how you dissect the rationales given by lemmings. Lawyers are very unhappy people. Many are also unhinged, mentally. Just look at the number of misogynist, racist and homophobic comments on ATL - a site for "elite" law students and JDs.

    I have seen unhappy doctors and lawyers, but I have not come across any that simply revel in putting others down. Certainly, not to the level of attorneys and law students. (Admittedly, I enjoy this too. However, I generally reserve these beatdowns for those who have PROVEN themselves to be clueless, slobbering idiots.

    We, the educated, have lost much of our humanity. We have become robots/automatons. We must engage in doublespeak, corporatese and mindless jargon. We have become enamored with procedure and archaic rules. It's embarrassing.

    The happiest people I know are simple, in many respects. They own modest homes, have reasonable expectations from life, are in committed relationships, and they generally have no more than a four-year degree. They are not engaged in constant self-doubt. It is a sick world.

  8. I'm a refugee from litigation, not as an attorney, but as a technical geek. It's a great victory of my life that I didn't hit law school, and tho I've put about 10 years in (various size firms, various roles) I've slipped the "golden handcuffs". S&M isn't for me. The politics are absolutely mind-blowing, and completely divorced from reality, yet accepted as a matter of course. Gossip can and does ruin people, and no group, even construction, ever gossiped so much. I did find good, normal attorneys in the many I worked with. Some were truly decent. But the majority were arrogant, secretly fearful and self-absorbed. Mostly they seemed to deny themselves a real life (when young, to get ahead) or couldn't find one (older and disillusioned). I've seen real sadness cross the face of a top senior partner when mention of their family - rare - came up. I love Matthew Crawford's work. "He who hath a trade, hath an estate" B. Franklin