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!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tales from the Trenches: The Living Fossil (Boomer Lawyers)

"I've never responded well to entrenched negative thinking."  ~ David Bowie

So, I recently had to go to a state bar event as part of my CLE (for the uninitiated CLE stands for Continuing Legal Education and it means that you have to sit through a bunch of horseshit seminars/lectures/workshops about some general/specific area or aspect of legal practice that literally does nothing to help anyone).  It's bullshit, everyone knows it's bullshit, but depending on your state they force it upon you regardless of your 8th Amendment rights. 

Today, we're going to discuss the recent impact of changes made to state property code x and the tax implications...would you like a blindfold?

The CLE was for one designed for new attorneys.  This meant that it was filled with more than the usual amount of B.S. about the legal profession in general (as my older associate tells me, they pretty much just go through the motions after they are with the 3+ years of experience crowd).  However, as a cultural archaeologist, I was fascinated to encounter that increasingly rare creature--a living fossil like the Coelacanth or Cher--also known as the Baby Boomer Litigator/Lawyer.  Once again I don't want to stereotype, but everyone has seen the Fossil Lawyer.  

Above picture depicts how the Fossil Lawyer views self.

In general, they are pot-bellied, white men over the age of 50.  When they speak, they do so both loudly and clearly while slightly tipping their head back so as to give the impression that they are looking down on the audience from a position of authority.  Penny loafers & braided leather belts would not be out of character for them...nor brightly colored ties or pocket squares from high end brands.

This was the generation responsible that spawned most of the shameless whores populating the law schools throughout the country right now.  It's also the generation that had the most ridiculously inflated lifestyle viewed against the backdrop of  to the history of the profession (I'll explain & provide evidence in a later post).  It's the generation that always defends the current state of affairs and their culpability by saying "We built this country! We gave it civil rights! We gave it women's rights!"  **See below

Of course, I'm being somewhat facetious & exaggerating for dramatic effect/rhetorical flourish, but not by much.  The lunacy and fallacies of the cognitive processes from both sides in the above clip should be apparent to any enlightened/thinking reader but I digress.

Rather than a diatribe on the Baby Boomers, I was far more interested in the justifications/public relations spiel these living fossils gave to the new crop of debt slaves who have a slim to none chance of achieving a good life for a long long time (and slim just left town).

So first, I had some old dickweed attorney tell us about how law is a "calling" (coincidentally I heard this same phraseology used well over a dozen times both pre-law and during law school). This whole "insert profession/activity" is a calling argument has been getting so overused lately that it annoys the ever loving shit out of me. The idea of a "calling" entered into our vernacular from protestant theology, which has given us so many awesome ideas over the centuries, and in its original understanding literally meant a message/duty given to an individual directly from God.  Ergo, your rational, thinking mind has no part to play & to disobey it means to go against God's will.  Perhaps this is why so many Zero Lemmings seem to continue to go over the cliff and enroll in law schools (I call it magical thinking).

The downfalls of any profession being a "calling" should be pretty apparent if you spend at least 5 minutes digesting it in your mind (for example, suppose you never find your calling---this means that your entire life was meaningless & wasted...which is why having a "calling" or "divine message" usually doesn't end well for either the receiver or the bystanders around them).

I was also told I and my fellow participants/newly minted lawyers had "inherited a legacy."  Great, that's like finding out I'm a carrier of a rare genetic disorder that makes my genitals spontaneously combust and then kill everything I love.  That's not all though..

"We're not plumbers or retail clerks.."

No you're right, they have a lot higher salaries and job security than we do assclown.  They also probably have a better sense of self-worth or at least didn't go into a bottomless hole of interest based debt to on a dice throw of a chance at becoming plumbers or retail clerks...but please continue.

"You join the ranks of Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, Clarence Darrow, Thurgood Marshall."

Ok, you sack of shit.  Being a human, being an American, being a male, etc.  There are all kinds of similar identity based comparisons to draw.  The people you mentioned were great human beings WHO HAPPENED TO BE ATTORNEYS not the other way around.  It's correlation not causation.  If being trained in the law & practicing it turned a person into a great soul like the names mentioned above, I'm fairly certain that we wouldn't be in so many messes right now (for example, Elizabeth Warren is a great soul/character who happens to be a lawyer).

You know who else were attorneys based on your logic by analogy (a terrible way to think but one of the most prevalent in the legal realm)?  *See nazis, rapists, murderers, thieves, etc.  Ok you fucking moron what else you got?

"Of course the greatest member of our profession was described by Justice Jackson in 1950.  The country seat lawyer...blah blah blah"

I couldn't believe he was serious.  In no other profession, save the clergy, do they idolize the past like the law does.  Imagine if you went into a doctor's office for major invasive surgery and she told you, "I'm going to use a method from the 1950's because that's the ideal. Also, we're going to be adhering to the same ethical standards from back then because we obviously can't garner anything new."  Wait wait wait, don't you have something a little newer based upon decades of trial and error, experiementation, bold thinking and innovation?  "Fuck no," she says, that whole MedMal craze back in the 70s/80s put the kaibash on that kinda shit, it's all defensive medicine now."

We didn't get to the moon on a fucking horse.  The living fossils know this.  But they're assholes, of which they should be more aware.  They love to find some romanticized version of what they do for their self image and conceptualization, but it's a thin line between that kind of esteem builder and a guy in a padded room claiming to be Napoleon in my eyes.

At this point, we got to break into our smaller workshops.  At this point, I was considering whether the dry wall would be strong enough for me to smash my head against to go into unconsciousness rather than endure what I knew was coming.  

I tried to delay by talking to one of the people doing registration who I recognized as a judicial assistant from the courthouse.  As I struck up a conversation with her about how we both hated being stuck for this kabuki dance, I asked about whether our feedback forms ever actually got read.  She informed me that yes she was the one of the people forced to read them (I also have a strong suspicion that a lot of the "bar exam graders" are really just paralegals too but that's another discussion).  I asked what's changed compared to last year and what was the general feedback from participants.

"Well, it's mostly practical.  Lots of write ins for how to practice law, how to interact with the court employees, how to write pleadings and memorandums, how to dress and address the court..."

As she went on my eyes started to glaze over as I groaned internally.  All of these "practical" requests were the kinds of things that one would think would have been covered in the course of 3 years and over a hundred thousand dollars of tuition at "law school."  But sadly no.  This is probably the greatest indictment I have of the whole law school scam.  If you left school actually ready to practice, save for perhaps your own anxiety/trepidation, then I would have very little to criticize (ignoring of course the ridiculous cost & no attempt to help students find employment).  But law school isn't training for being a lawyer.  It's a fleecing scheme that sucks out as much of your hope, faith, energy, dreams, soul and cash as it can get.  Then it kicks you right in the genitals before throwing you out the door with a pat on the ass and a smile.

Eventually I had to go to the workshops so I could sign the attendance slip and get my credit (I also had to pay for the privilege of these assholes raping my ears with this bullshit).  One presenter went on and on about the gap between school and practice, that it's a problem that has been going on for years.  

Tell you the truth Theo, I just don't think about it.

During the question and answer session, I took the opportunity to make a statement-question to the presenter about whether he thought about the whole educational system and its effect on the profession.  To which he responded,

I don't like it but that's the way it is.

I then asked, 

Well out of sheer academic curiosity, how will any of this change for the better?

He said, and I quote, "Uh...well...uh, no idea. Get involved in the argument!"

Alright...let's "argue."

The day dragged on, and on, and on.  At this point I had my head down like a tired 4th grader sleeping through math class.  One of the living fossils, who was wearing a blue blazer with shorts and boat shoes for no other reason than to look like a dick, was talking about the "hanging judge" problem.  

Fossil Lawyer then asked,  

"What would you do if your client is worried about a hanging judge?  How can you alleviate their fears or convince them you have it under control?"

That's odd sounds a lot like the kind of thing a retail clerk has to deal with when, let's say, some slut at a J.Crew asks whether this pair of overpriced jeans makes her ass look big (Oh yeah, law is so different from retail..worked there too if you can't tell).

From my position of half-sleep, I decided to quote one of my professors in law school and shout out from between my arms,  

"Justice is blind so that shouldn't be a problem."

The fossil let out such a long and throaty laugh that I hoped suspected he would die of a coronary.  Alas, his bullshit lecture went on for another half hour.  At some point, the same fossil who was laughing at my half-ass assertion that justice is blind later said "we have the finest judicial system in the world."   

For the uninitiated Zero Lemmings, let me give you an insider secret right now---we really don't & Santa Claus doesn't exist either.

Herein lies another problem Zero Lemmings.  When you attend something like the event that Locke participated in the other week, you should respond to the assertions made by presenters the same way the old lawyer responded to me.

When they make some vague/general/broad statement like "At our school we have a very strong international law program" you should laugh out loud & throw something in their face ask specifics.  For example, say a Zero Lemming says, "I'm going to work for the UN."

Really?  Tell me more.  How about some specifics?  Does your school have a formal externship/placement program with the UN?  If so, does everyone who applies get into it or is it highly selective?  If your school doesn't have that kind of program that's a pretty good chance/guarantee of job placement, how is your resume regardless of the J.D. degree?  Are you going to be working in the main NY headquarters in a specific department or are you going to be attached to a mission or field office?  Have you already applied to a program or have experience working for the UN and have a list of contacts who you have built a relationship with over time and they want to use you as an attorney?  How many languages do you speak, and if so which ones?  See what I mean...I highly doubt that kind of reality check takes place.  It's just a dream.

Without specifics, you may as well be a kindergartner telling me that you're going to be an astronaut when you grow up (by the way that program is over too, go go American decline!).

Till Next Time!!! If you went through Higher Ed---Your Mind is the Scene of the Crime!!!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Experience Trumps Education - Updated

So, there's been a story circulating the internet sources about the most recent development in the BP Gulf Oil Spill that caught my eye.  Last week, I posted a lengthy discussion about my book recommendation, Shop Class As Soul Craft, and the importance of working with your hands.  In the book he defends the trades as a real world application of knowledge that leads, in some ways, to a better more fulfilling life.  Neither the book nor I want to idealize the trades as being something they aren't, but this story made me laugh to myself for some time.  Hopefully it pans out & the new cap holds.

Here's the story itself, entitled "Berkely prof: 'Mystery plumber' may have designed the new BP containment cap."

Pretty self explanatory.  However, I find it rather telling that when it happened all the news media, BP corporate, and our political representatives, especially the Obama administration, touted the expertise and experience on the case.  None of these assclowns, from the Nobel Laureate Dr Chu Chu Chu-seless, who became a talking point, to the squadrons of corporate engineers could create a fix.

Instead, it came from an everyday plumber, although I should note this is alleged as they're still trying to verify so who knows how long that may take.  In addition, the plumber didn't even want to be named.

Here's what happened:

"Six weeks ago, University of California, Berkeley, engineering professor Robert Bea received a late-night call from an anonymous plumber. According to Bea — who had formerly worked as an oil-industry executive before his present gig as an academically backed manager of engineering crises — the "mystery plumber" reached out to him because he had an idea for how to plug BP's busted well in the Gulf. The plumber provided Bea with sketches of a containment cap that upgraded some of the design flaws in the cap the oil company deployed in its unsuccessful bid to plug the leak several weeks ago.  Bea passed the plumber's sketches on to a contact at the Coast Guard, and to a panel of experts who were evaluating proposed schemes to repair the leak submitted by the general public. Jonsson writes that when Bea first got a glimpse of the containment cap that has stopped the flow of oil into the Gulf, he noticed striking similarities to the designs dreamed up by the plumber. "

Now, here's the kicker:
"The idea was using the top flange on the blowout preventer as an attachment point and then employing an internal seal against that flange surface," Bea told Jonsson. 

"You can kind of see how a plumber thinks this way. That's how they have to plumb homes for sewage."

Are you fucking kidding me?  This Berkeley Professor--- who had formerly worked as an oil-industry executive before his present gig as an academically backed manager of engineering crises--didn't come up with the idea.  Neither did the Nobel Laureates.  Neither did any of the other members of the "genius team" that BP & the Obama administration had put together.

Maybe if any of them actually did something with their lives instead of being cloistered in the their respective cocoons and join some of us in the real world this could have been solved weeks ago.   How many other problems that we're facing have similar solutions that aren't being implemented?  Makes you think huh?

Thanks Mario the Mystery Plumber for doing what no one with their multiple degrees, awards, professorships, and executive positions could do---help their fellow Americans in need and do something!!!

Nevermind, the cap is leaking. Probably building even more pressure in the seabed & making it harder to contain. Gulf's still fucked. As you were.

Till Next Time, Everybody do the Mario!!!

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!!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

OLM Book Club -- Zero Lemmings! Read this! You Ignorant Bastards! Part Uno

"It is by having hands that man is the most intelligent of animals." ~ Anaxagoras

"Following a doctorate in political philosophy at the University of Chicago, I took a job as executive director of a Washington 'think tank.' I was always tired, and honestly could not see the rationale for my being paid at all--what tangible goods or useful services was I providing to anyone?  This sense of uselessness was dispiriting.  The pay was good, but it truly felt like compensation, and after five months I quit to open the bike shop...This book grows out of an attempt to understand the greater sense of agency and competence I have always felt doing manual work, compared to other jobs that were officially recognized as 'knowledge work.'  Perhaps most surprisingly, I often find manual work more engaging intellectually.  This book is an attempt to understand why this should be so." ~ Matthew B. Crawford

I interrupt my time traveling misadventures through the graveyard of the legal profession to bring you back into this century, dear readers.  If you're a Zero Lemming who has received an acceptance letter to ANY higher ed program, especially law school, or some poor schmuck deciding that their life needs to go into a different direction & more education is the answer---


The book I am talking about is entitled "Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work" by Matthew B. Crawford.  

Some background....

Back when the Great Recession started to turn into a real thing, there were whole "special themed" sections of book stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble, usually for shit like Twilight or Harry Potter, devoted to just the nature of work and employment (don't get me started on the decline of the publishing industry and what people read I just arranged the books like I was told--yes I've worked in bookstores).

There were the usual reader's digest quality tomes; old faithfuls like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, that are kept in stock at a steady stream (because our inventory bore out that we could absolutely sell a certain number of them no matter what we did).  The two newest works were Shop Class by Matt, who I'm going to call Matt because I have a feeling he probably prefers that to Dr. Crawford, and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton (the pretentiousness of that name pretty much speaks for itself).  

Botton--left & Crawford--right.  Really? Whoever did Botton's press photo should have been shot!  Look at the subconscious sex appeal on the right versus the left, which one do you think the casual book buyer will likely go for? Also, what the fuck is Botton getting ready for without his shoes on...sitting at the edge of the bed..who's ready to cover his bald head in oil and have him rub it all over your body, Raise your hands ladies!

I read both and like most of Botton's work---it was purposefully inaccessible and boring (spoiler alert--the major gist of Botton's book is "Oh who the hell knows why we have jobs besides providing basic needs---but at least it keeps us from thinking about our inevitable death. WOW! Great reason to jump out of bed in the morning!  Botton's book was also pretty much a compilation of journalistic stories rather than in-depth analysis that wouldn't surprise any knowledgeable reader. Don't worry Alain, your last book was product placed in 500 Days of Summer to give it more "indie/hipster" cred---your book sales will be fine).
Meanwhile, Crawford's book...well, I could literally transcribe the whole thing and never tire of it.  It's also the kind of book that colleges would never make their freshman read the summer before fall semester began---lest they got crazy ideas like not going into lifelong debt to attend.  Shop Class combines Matt's personal life story with some of his anecdotes as a mechanic/academician, some historical perspective on the evolution of Higher Learning, the decline of trades and a philosophical reflection on all of the above.  It was a total page turner, but a few sections are pertinent to this blog, hence the endorsement.

In chapter 6, The Contradictions of the Cubicle, there's a section entitled "Interlude: What College is For."  Matt flat out states, 

"But many people seem to regard college, and even graduate school, as an extension of compulsory schooling.  More than 90 percent of high school students 'report that their guidance counselors encouraged them to go to college.'  In this there is little accommodation of the diversity of dispositions, and of the fact that some very smart people are totally ill suited both to higher education and to the kind of work you're supposed to do once you have a degree.  Further, funneling everyone into college creates certain perversities [sic] in the labor market....a cycle of credential inflation that 'could go on endlessly, until janitors need Ph.D.'s and babysitters are required to hold advanced degrees in child care.'"   

Huh.  That's odd, as many of my fellow scambusters often say "College is the new high school."  This shit got out of hand a while ago and now we're all getting to see the beautiful let down first hand!

Matt then asks the question, "What the hell is going on?  Is this our society as a whole, buying more education only to scale new heights of stupidity?"  Short answer-yes.

In fact, I have another, insert air quotes, "book" that has this magical proof called "data" showing this is exactly what's happening (which I may touch on in a later post). 

"And in fact, corporate recruiters say they care little about a student's grades.  The university itself is trusted to have done more than enough cognitive sorting on the day it admitted a student.  In their book Higher Education and Corporate Realities, the sociologists Phillip Brown and Richard Scase quote one recruiter saying, 'We find no correlation at all between your degree result and how well you get on in this company. Not at all. I wish there were. I would then be able to say, 'Unless you've got [a good GPA], don't bother.'  The irrelevance of what you actually learn (or don't) in school for job performance is hard to square with a technocratic view of the economy, which is invariably coupled with a sunny presumption of meritocracy."

I can just see the Zero Lemming holding that acceptance letter in his/her hand, reading this post & softly saying to themselves, in their newly darkened room, "That won't be me...I'll be different."  Yea, no you won't ass clown.

In fact, this race to the bottom/educational arms race actually impoverishes learning.

"Further, the technocratic/meritocratic view of education treats it as instrumental--it is good for society, and for getting ahead--and this has a corrupting effect on genuine education...'Formal characteristics of schooling--such as grades, credits, and degrees--come to assume greater weight than substantive characteristics, as pursuing these badges of merit becomes more important than actually learning anything along the way...Teaching takes a back seat to the more socially salient task of sorting, and grading becomes more important for its social consequences than for its pedagogical uses."  

Sometimes you want to give a student a D for a number of actual reasons to improve their studies...

"But give someone a low grade, and he is likely to press upon you the fact that his admission to law school hangs in the balance.  The Sort is on.  With this attitude, students are merely adapting themselves to the marketlike ethic of the institutions that school them.  'Educational institutions find themselves located in a hierarchy of their own, forced to compete with other institutions for position in order to enhance the marketability of their credentials to socially mobile consumers.' The result is a growing emphasis on producing selective symbolic distinctions rather than shared substantive accomplishments. That is, what matters is your rank among your peers; it matters not if the whole lot of you are ignorant.  When the point of education becomes the credentials rather than the cultivation of knowledge, it forfeits the motive recognized by Aristotle: 'All human beings by nature desire to know.' Students become intellectually disengaged."

Or as I would say, in my sometimes derided as "bitter" way, every "serious" and regular contributor to sites like Top Law Schools can literally take a step back and fuck their own face.  Contemporary law students/recent grads are the example par excellence for Crawford's argument.  A whole group of over-educated, under-experienced, useless ass clowns drowning in debt and finding themselves without purpose, place or direction...and they made the choice to be such (yeah I'm drowning with many of you--my pointing it out doesn't change the fact that we're still all drowning so STFU).

Matt also has some first hand experience that I would consider similar to what the majority of jobs like BigLaw and doc review are like for the "lucky" law grads.  

"Rather than go back to the electrical work I'd done after college, I wanted to put my new degree [a master's degree] to use and claim my place in the sunny uplands of the meritocracy.  This turned out to be more difficult than I had anticipated.  I landed a job as a clerk at a prestigious Palo Alto law firm, but the job only paid ten dollars an hour.  So I worked there from eight to five, then taught SAT prep classes (for fifteen dollars an hour) farther up the peninsula after work, and often tutored in Marin after that.  I was driving about a hundred miles a day in a three-bridge loop around San Francisco Bay before returning exhausted each night to my sublet in Berkeley.  Then I was let go from the law firm.  Shortly after that, the SAT prep company went bankrupt (I never saw the thousand dollars in back pay they owed me).  At this juncture it would have made sense to chuck the "meritocracy" and go back to doing electrical work, for much better pay, but somehow I wasn't able to see my situation clearly and take this step.  I had a master's degree, goddamit."

I mean really...when I read this I was a year out of law school in the wilderness and this paragraph struck me deep.  Some of the scambloggers want to get our "movement" more into the mainstream but I think they should just expand the scope beyond internet news searches.  This book topped all kinds of best sellers lists etc.  Social movements and perceptual shifts amongst a population are always hard to measure--just ask someone w/ a sociology/anthropology/pollster background---but trust me, the scam of higher ed as a whole is happening--even if in slow trickles.  This also shows that even if you're debt free, it's not all rainbows and unicorn kisses.  If you're debt laden, you're probably very very pissed.

"In 1942, Joseph Schumpeter wrote that the expansion of higher education beyond labor market demands creates for white-collar workers 'employment in substandard work or at wages below those of the better-paid manual workers.' What's more, 'it may create unemployability of a particularly disconcerting type. The man who has gone through college or university easily becomes psychically [sic] unemployable in manual occupations without necessarily acquiring employability in, say, professional work.'  My self-regard as a Master of Arts was hard to sustain through the extended trauma of job hunting, with its desperate open-mindedness and rising sense of worthlessness."

Wow.  So back in the 1940's, a guy called it before any of us.  Also, take into account Crawford's trials and tribulations were back in the "good old days" of the "booming economy."  Who'd have thunk it.

Stay tuned for Part Deux!!! Where I'll talk about Matt's evolution, eventual discoveries about his life, our world, and the nature of the "knowledge worker" born out of the higher educational complex!!! 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Last Century's Lawyers

"America did not exist.  Four centuries of work, bloodshed, loneliness and fear created this land. We built America and the process made us Americans...Not great, but fitted by our very faults for greatness." ~ Britney Spears

So, it was technically America's 234th birthday weekend.  Being as I am, I spent a very contemplative weekend thinking about those revolutionary days versus where the nation finds itself today.  We're facing the longest war in our history, we've got the worst oil spill off of our coasts in our history, we've got one of the worst economic situations in our country's history...the list goes on and on.  Great...let's have a party...what?  Can't afford fireworks?  Not surprising....

Throughout my three years of fleecing law school, it was often drilled into us by every pompous windbag who stood in the well of the lecture hall how important the role of lawyers is to our society.  You have answered a noble calling, they would say.  You are the pursuers of justice, the defenders of liberty, the blah blah blah.  I often found myself wanting to ask back, "If it's so great and so important why the hell aren't you out there?!"
It's odd that somehow we have more lawyers than ever in this country, and yet all of these awful, essentially systemic, regulatory/legislative based problems keep popping up. 

What was the role of the lawyer in all of this?  What should the role of the lawyer be?

Many of my fellow scambloggers focus specifically on the bullshit crime that is the Law School Educational Complex, and let's face it just because the sovereign has not written words on paper declaring that something is a crime does not prevent it from being one in fact, but some of us also attack the legal profession as whole.  Lawyers have been around about as long as two of the other oldest professions, whores and spies, and attacking lawyers as the vile, parasitic, monsters and/or assclowns has been around just as long (the irony of me setting out to join the ranks of these useless assclowns is not lost on me dear readers).

Over the weekend, I found this series of books in a used shop around the corner from my cardboard box in a shaded alley cuz it's summer and in the winter I put it over a warn vent house that struck me for its relevance to 2010.  It's called...

"Vocations: Setting forth the various phases of the mechanic arts, home-making, farming and woodcraft, business, the professions of law, ministry and medicine, public service, literature and journalism, teaching, music, public entertainment and the fine arts--with practical introductions by a corps of associate editors."

Jesus tittyfucking christ, I thought I was a rambler (btw, guess which of the above 'professions/trades' focuses on women folk).  The series was published exactly a century ago and I couldn't wait to crack open the section on the legal profession to see what kind of shit these post-Victorian assholes had to shill.  The articles included had titles such as The Young Lawyer, Lincoln the Lawyer, The Opportunity in the Law, The Lawyer and his Client, Three Classes of Lawyers, True Success in the Law, and The Ideal Lawyer.

So for your educational benefit, and my own personal amusement, I'm pretty much going to be posting shit from this 100 year old book verbatim and see whether you think it's telling of how far we've come.

Let's begin!!!

The legal profession affords in America unusual opportunities for usefulness.  That this has been so in the past, no one acquainted with the history of our institutions can for a moment doubt.  The great achievement of the English-speaking people is the attainment of liberty through law.  It is natural, therefore, that those who have been trained in the law should have borne an important part in that struggle for liberty and in the government which resulted.

Wow, look at the ego on this fucking asshole.  Useful?  An electrician is useful.  My ability to highlight awkwardly put together words on a fucking page serves no practical use whatsoever (although University of Michigan Law Grads have the rare opportunity to put this skill to use in India for less money than a short order cook!--btw fuck the Wolverines--Go Spartans!).  History of our institutions?  You mean institutions like slavery?  There was a winner.  This is ridiculous, I wonder what else this pompous asshole has to say about this "important part in that struggle for liberty."

The whole training of the lawyer leads to the development of judgment.  His early training--I mean his work with books, in the study of legal rules--teaches him patient research and develops both the memory and the reasoning faculties.  He becomes practiced in logic; and yet the use of reasoning faculties in the study of law is very different from their use, say, in metaphysics.  The lawyer's processes of reasoning, his logical conclusions, are being constantly tested by experience.  The facts are running up against him at every point.  Indeed, it is a maxim of the law: "Out of the facts grow the law"; that is, propositions are not considered abstractly, but always with references to facts.

You know where some judgment could have come in fucking handy?  WHEN I WAS CONSIDERING GOING TO LAW SCHOOL IN THE FIRST FUCKING PLACE!!!  METAPHYSICS!?!  Holy fucknuts this is an old book.  Practiced in logic?  Have you read case law?  A judge's decision pretty much comes down to a load of horseshit to jusitfy one of the following: 1) Eh, I don't like the plaintiff/defendant, 2) Eh, I don't like this because of my political ideology, 3) Eh, I don't want to really rock the boat what did some dead asshole before me do? yeah that'll work.  I pretty much don't even have to go any further with deconstructing...let's see what else this assclown has to say.

It is true that at the present time the lawyer does not hold that position with the people that he held seventy-five or indeed fifty years ago; but the reason is not lack of opportunity.  It is this: Instead of holding a position of independence, between the wealthy and the people, prepared to curb the excesses of either, able lawyers have, to a large extent, allowed themselves to become the adjuncts of great corporations and have neglected their obligation to use their powers for the protection of people.

This guy is such a fucking...wait, what?  Uh...nevermind...go on.

We hear much of the "corporation lawyer" and far too little of the "people's lawyer."  The great opportunity of the American bar is and will be to stand again as it did in the past, ready to protect also the interest of the people.  The leading lawyers of the United States have been engaged mainly in supporting the claims of the corporations; often endeavoring to evade or nullify the extremely crude laws by which legislators sought to regulate the power or curb the excesses of corporations.

Ok, this guy clearly must have been some wild-eyed, pinko commie on the fringe.  I bet he didn't go to a Top Law School or have any kind of real success because only a fucking loser who blogs in today's world would have any kind of notion...but I wonder what else this bitter weirdo has to say...

If these problems are to be settled right, this condition can not continue.  Our country is, after all, not a country of dollars, but of ballots.  The immense corporate wealth will necessarily develop a hostility, from which much trouble will come to us unless the excesses of capital are curbed, through the respect for law, as the excesses of democracy were curbed seventy-five years ago.  There will come a revolt of the people against the capitalists unless the aspirations of the people are given some adequate legal expression; and to this end cooperation of the leaders of the bar is essential.

Uh...this is from a hundred years ago?  Pretty much sounds like today's problem...keep going, although I'm assuming your title is "Comrade."

For nearly a generation the leaders of the bar, with few exceptions, have not only failed to take part in any constructive legislation designed to solve, in the interest of the people, our great social, economic and industrial problems, they have failed likewise to oppose legislation prompted by selfish interests.  They have often gone further in disregard of public interest.  They have, at times, advocated as lawyers legislative measures which as citizens they could not approve, and have endeavored to justify themselves by a false analogy.  They have erroneously assumed that the rule of ethics to be applied to a lawyer's advocacy is the same where he acts for private interests against the public as it is in litigation between private individuals.

This confusion of ethical ideas has prevented the bar from taking at the present time the position which it held formerly as a brake upon democracy, and which I believe it must take again before the serious questions now before us can be solved.  Here, consequently, is the great opportunity of the bar.

The next generation must witness a continuing and ever-increasing contest between those who have and those who have not.  The industrial world is in a state of ferment.  The ferment is in the main peaceful, and, to a considerable extent, silent; but there is felt to-day very widely the inconsistency in this condition of political democracy and industrial absolutism.  The people are beginning to doubt whether in the long run democracy and absolutism can coexist in the same community; beginning to doubt whether there is a justification for the great inequalities in the distribution of wealth, for the rapid creation of fortunes, more mysterious than the deeds of Aladdin's lamp.

Well, there's really no point in publishing the other snippets in the usual italic red I reserve for my opponents because I can't really take issue with anything this marvelous mind is saying.  I'm just surprised that it's from a hundred years ago and I'm probably going to hate who the author turns out to be.

The people have begun to think; and they show evidences on all sides of a tendency to act.  Those of you who have not had an opportunity of talking much with laboring men can hardly form a conception of the amount of thinking that they are doing.  With many it is the all-absorbing occupation, the only thing that occupies their mind.  Many of these men, otherwise uneducated, talk about the relation of employer and employee far more intelligently than most of the best educated men in the community.  No shit Sherlock! Oh...I apologize for interrupting, please continue.

The labor question involves for them the whole of life and they must in the course of a comparatively short time realize the power which lies in them.  Many of their leaders are men of signal ability, men who can hold their own in discussion or action with the ablest and best educated men in the community.  The labor movement must necessarily progress; the people's thoughts will take shape in action, and it lies with us, with you to whom in part the future belongs, to say on what lines the action is to be expressed; whether it is to be expressed wisely and temperately or wildly and intemperately; whether it is to be expressed on the lines of evolution or on the lines of revolution.  Nothing can better fit you for taking part in the solution of these problems than the study and preeminently the practice of law.  Those of you who feel drawn to that profession may rest assured that you will find in it an opportunity for usefulness probably unequaled.  There is a call upon the legal profession to do a great work for this country.  

So who in the hell wrote this press release for the Politburo?

Louis D. Brandeis...uh...

Justice Louis D. Brandeis of the Supreme Court and Harvard Law School?!  Holy shit! Let the bashing of Brandeis' politics & legacy begin!