Jewish Journal

Three Cheers For the Law

by Tamara Shayne Kagel

January 11, 2011 | 2:34 am

Yesterday, was my first day of my last semester of my last year in law school, which according to the current climate is a bigger waste of time than the summer I spent after college writing my novel when I never had time to write.  Over the weekend, this NY Times piece came out and has been a topic of much discussion among my peers who mostly don’t have jobs.  It certainly made my earlier blog on alternatives to being a lawyer seem very real.  But essentially, the article insinuates it is not worth it to go to law school for most people because they will never work as lawyers and even if they do find jobs, the jobs will never pay enough to make the requisite 250k debt worth it. 

But as someone who’s 5 out of 6 semesters in, with no legal job prospects, and only went to law school because she wanted to write for Law and Order, I’m here to tell you, that there is one thing that makes the whole experience worthwhile which the article doesn’t make one mention of: a legal education.  The knowledge you gain from three years of law school is an incredible tool to have in life and I couldn’t be happier that I decided to stick with it.

I actually sort of love law school.  I mean, I hate the exam part, and the first year truly was a brutal existing, but I love knowing what I know.  Knowing about our laws affords you an incredible amount of power in this world.  And I’m not talking about the whole thinking like a lawyer hogwash, people tell you.  If you were analytical before, it doesn’t make you think any differently.  If you struggled with analysis, you’ll be better at it and be able to apply it casually.  But the real benefit, is this vast body of knowledge, hundreds and hundreds of years of case law on the rules that make up our society gets poured into your head.  So by the end of it, you know so much more. 

For the people that never end up working as lawyers, their law degrees are not merely serving them as a badge of prestige.  They will forever make better decisions about contracts because they will have a general understanding of contract law.  When their landlord threatens to charge them for something not in a lease, they will know their rights.  And when a cop who pulls them over for speeding asks them to open the trunk, they will know they can refuse.  The law touches every aspect of the world we live in, and just understanding how makes you better be prepared to live your life.  I’ve seen how this is true even in a creative field where people are always telling you what’s illegal and what can’t go in your contract.  Now, this may not be worth going 250k deep in debt for alone, but if your goal is an education, there’s something to be said for that, even if it no longer means you graduate with a 160k a year salary.

This applies even in dating too.  This past fall, I took a negotiation class and loved it.  I had no idea how useful skilled negotiating can be in the dating arena.  In fact, I wrote my final paper for my negotiation class on relationships which I will happily post for you as soon as my grade goes up.  In the meantime, fellow advocates, all I can say is buck up – you may have no job, terrible credit, and debtors calling you daily, but you’ll always be able to threaten to sue people who piss you off and you’re less likely to get screwed on a prenup.  Beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam!

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Tamara Shayne Kagel is a twenty-something fixture on the Los Angeles scene currently living in Santa Monica.  Currently, Tamara is a successful freelance writer (just ask her...

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