There are days when I'm thoroughly sick of this whole business, and this is one of them. Here's an email I got a few days ago from somebody who just graduated:
Prof. Campos,I sent this person a much nicer reply than he deserved, but I'm now inclined to use this correspondence as a cautionary missive for anyone who might profit from reading it.
In your recent blog post, you twice criticize state-court clerkships as one-way tickets to legal unemployment. I am writing to ask about your basis for those statements. Also, are you referring primarily to state district court clerkships or do you also disparage state intermediate and supreme court clerkships?I am a recent graduate set to start a state intermediate court clerkship in the fall. The competition was extremely stiff and those who will be working there are primarily from the top quartile of a T20 law school. I'm wondering (hoping) that there is a certain degree of hyperbole in the relentless "no matter what, you're all hopelessly screwed" meme. I understand the importance of puncturing the relentless sugar-coating of the law school deans and career services counselors, but I'm wondering if going overboard in the other direction has a perverse effect of insulting and demoralizing some people unnecessarily.
Don't be this guy, OK? Don't be somebody who resents being exposed to disturbing information because it makes you feel less warm and fuzzy about all the gold stars you've been collecting as a junior achiever. Or if you're going to be that guy, don't read this blog. There are plenty of places on the internet you can go to feel good about yourself and argue about the constitutionality of the ACA. For now anyway.
Nearly 30 years ago, Paul Carrington, then the dean of Duke's law school, suggested in the pages of the Journal of Legal Education that there was no place in legal academia for certain kinds of teaching and scholarship. "When the university accepted a duty to train professionals," Carrington asserted, "it also accepted a duty to constrain teaching that knowingly dispirits students or disables them from doing the work for which they are trained."
Carrington's point was that certain critical perspectives on law which might be perfectly appropriate to pursue within the walls of a political science or sociology classroom should be excluded from law school classes, because they tended to have, one might say, a perverse effect of insulting and demoralizing some people unnecessarily.
Carrington was concerned that genuinely critical teaching and scholarship might interfere with the professionalization function of law schools. He needn't have worried: the social structure of legal academia ensures quite effectively that there won't ever be much work of this kind -- and in any case the vast majority of law students have no interest in exploring whether their (hypothetical) faith in The Rule of Law ought to be questioned. They just want to get a job.
What really risks demoralizing people are not critiques of the intellectual or political or metaphysical underpinnings of the legal system, but rather critiques of its economic structure that suggest people who go to law school aren't going to get what they came to acquire -- which again is not intellectual enlightenment or a renewed faith in Law's Empire, but something much more practical, i.e., professional employment that justifies the price of admission and egress.
It's easy to see how such critiques can undermine what legal academics think of as "professionalism," which I suppose some people will see as a valid reason for excluding them as much as possible from law school classrooms.