Thursday, March 1, 2012

That's so funny I forgot to laugh

Some Canadian law students put together Dear 16-Year-Old Me: Don't Go to Law School, which is among other things a parody of a popular PSA about early cancer detection.

It's clever and well-done, but as is often the case with parody and satire, it can be interpreted on multiple levels. For instance, if we interpret it in terms of the authors' original intent it seems probable that it's not really intended as a warning not to go to law school (it's sponsored by Westlaw after all).  Rather, it's supposed to be understood in the tradition of law school comedy revue shows and the like, which make fun of how awful law school and the practice of law are, but in a spirit which makes it perfectly clear to all well-socialized participants and observers that this does not of course mean that going to law school is acutally a bad idea. Indeed well-socialized law students participate in these sorts of rituals precisely because they're supposed to be light-hearted satires rather than serious critiques.  A law professor who took offense at this video would be considered a humorless, poorly socialized buffoon (Don't you get it? They're just kidding!)   

(Further evidence for this interpretation of the authors' conscious intent is provided by the fact that, according to a Youtube commenter, "the old version of this video included the tear soaked, empassioned plea of friends, family and children of law students. The hardest parts to watch were the small child saying that he hadn't seen his daddy in 3 years and the weeping wife. I guess the creator changed the video because it hit too close to home for someone.").

Now if one imagines that the authors of this video were unemployed lawyers who normally post on JD Underground and the like, it becomes a very different text.  Such a re-authoring would produce an interpretation that assumed the video's message was intended to be taken quite literally -- and of course that reading of it would make it highly offensive to well-socialized members of our little world.

In addition, such an alternative version of the video would be twice as long -- or rather the existing version would be edited to half its current length, and the final two minutes would be very different.  In the JD Underground version, the final half of the video would make clear that the first half -- the part about how becoming a lawyer will ruin your life -- constitutes the optimistic scenario: the one in which people who go to law school actually become lawyers, with big enough salaries to pay off their debts and buy houses with impressive walk-in closets etc., although at the cost of their souls, their psychological well-being, and their family happiness.

As many people have noted, the best humor is almost invariably subversive of the social order.  Interpreted literally, rather than as I suspect the authors of the video consciously intended it to be interpreted, the video becomes much darker, much funnier, and much more subversive, even without the missing portion about how, by the way, you're not actually going to get a job at the end of all this.


  1. Yeah, the version I saw contained a little kid and tears.

    It's still out there but has music playing over the words.

    starting at 3:09


    Notice that the rats at Youtube no longer give users the option to skip the ads. If you can suffer through an idiotic, 15 second sales pitch, it will be worth it.

    Head to the 0:40 mark:

    "Who cares if our law school is ranked 173rd in the country? My parents haven't been this proud of me since middle school."

  3. This is like watching a Greek tragedy unfold where the protagonist either inadvertently foretells their own doom or receives a prophetic warning from a seer, both of which they dismiss.

  4. @8:03. I think that's a bit much.

  5. For all the graduates from UNH law or any other derivate law school, here's a video that shows what biglaw hiring partners think of you:

    TTT Grad's First Day at Biglaw

    I graduated from a TTToilet and if this video hurts, it's because it speaks the truth.

  6. Given that we are attempting to subvert the existing social order within the legal profession, I have a quandary. The people harmed by the system either drop out of it, and are in no position to reform it, or they succeed despite all odds and then become invested in reaping the harvest of their own triumph--not in helping the next generation. So who is going to subvert the order? Unemployed recent law graduates can complain about the system, but only people within the system and highly placed therein can change things. There has been a lot of talk on this site about how high SES people have many advantages in the legal profession. This is obviously true and so people from that background have no incentive to reform it. But, consider this, even people from low SES backgrounds who somehow succeed are, in the process of succeeding, transformed into the very people that benefit from the system. I'll use myself as an example. I was raised in a household that came in just under the median on the SE scale. Through a lot of luck and freakish talent for test taking I wound up at a huge law firm, which after several years has launched me into about the 98th percent. Now that I'm in, now that I'm a "made man," do I really want to change the system that now defends my privilege? Do I want to change a system that will confer privilege on my children? No. I want them to enjoy every unfair advantage I never enjoyed. I'm being somewhat facetious, but only somewhat. Any good aristocracy has a means to incorporate people who might otherwise challenge it by giving them the keys to kingdom. How can you beat that?

  7. City of Stockton, CA on brink of bankruptcy. I suggest any un or under-employed attorneys begin researching Ch. 9 bankruptcies for public entities. This is just the tip of the ice berg. All the major markets are in similar financial positions but have the resources to delay their impending bankruptcy in the near future, but it is inevitable.

  8. @11:58

    By that same token, the guys who DO get the job but are NOT by any means breaking into the 1%,and who are, in fact, just struggling to keep their heads above water, are in no position to do anything but "pay their dues" and bill time. Agitate for reform? Forget it. Why risk upsetting the applecart when someday I'll be the partner exploiting someone else.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I have always been fond of Henry Mancini's: "Pink Panther"

    And as a kid, there used to be a special Saturday morning "Laugh and a half hour and a half show" featuring Pink Panther Cartoons.

    Subsequently, many years elapsed, and the child that once was enthralled with Pink Panther Cartoons moved onto more adult animation, such as Spongebob Squarepants.

    Did anyone ever see the one with Kevin the Sea Cucumber?

    Boy oh boy! Old Kevin sure did get zapped by that King Jellyfish. Didn't he?

    (I redid this comment because of typos in the first)

  11. This so-called parody is clearly an advertisement for law school, and not particularly well-done or funny either.

    It features a cast of mostly attractive multicultural young adults, offering the following tongue-in-cheek arguments "against" law school: classes are tough, law students can be competetive, you will work long hours, divorce law is a drag, or, alternatively, your legal career might end up making "rich companies richer."

    It reminded me of something. Some years ago, tobacco companies were required to put up TV advertisements, aimed at young adults, advising them not to take up smoking.

    The ads the tobacco companies put up did not allude to the minor little health risks associated with smoking, or even the expense and stink. Rather, they featured priggish looking kids saying things like: "I am mature enough to know what I am not ready for-- and smoking is one of those things." When I saw the ads, I realized immediately: Any kid who sees these ads "against" smoking would want to smoke.


  12. USPTO Detroit office looking to hire
    Posted on March 1, 2012 by Douglas J. Levy Back in January, The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced a location for its first-ever satellite office, to be named in honor Elijah J. McCoy.

    Now it’s looking for people to run it.

    According to a news release, the USPTO plans to hire more than 100, including patent examiners and Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences judges. It hopes to fill more than 50 percent of those positions by summer’s end.

    “The fact that they are hiring telecom and computer administrative law judges in addition to mechanical and electrical is good news — means Detroit really is getting a full-fledge ‘mini-patent office’ and something that recognizes we are more than cars,” Software patent attorney Charles A. Bieneman of Rader, Fishman & Grauer PLLC said in an email.

    The patent examiner and judge positions are:

    • Patent examiner — mechanical engineer

    • Patent examiner — electrical engineer

    • Administrative Patent Judge — Communication, Computer, and/or Electrical

    • Administrative Patent Judge — Mechanical

  13. CanadianLawStudentMarch 1, 2012 at 6:41 PM

    Don't let those obsequious straight-lacers in the video give you the wrong idea. Things are bad here in Canada, and they're getting worse.

    I'll be graduating in a couple of months, and I have no articling position lined up, which means I won't even be able to get called to the bar. Yippee. How appropriate that scumbag lawyers have recently convinced a couple of our provincial governments to open another two law schools. Meanwhile foreign degree-holders continue to flood into the country at unprecedented levels and tuition rates have gone up about 500% over the last 15 years. Hells yeah, all aboard the gravy train -- nevermind those corpses next to the tracks!

  14. 6:41,
    I thought law school tuition in Canada was fairly cheap?


  15. The Canadian market is still much better than the American one (both in terms of jobs vs. graduates and in terms of cost of attendance).

  16. CanadianLawStudentMarch 1, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    You just selected two of the cheapest schools in the country, and even they've gone up heavily in price, considering they'd have been about $2,000/year 15 years ago. Meanwhile Osgoode is $20,000 and U of T is $25,000. Not US prices, but enough to leave you $50,000-$100,000 in the hole after three years.

  17. CanadianLawStudentMarch 1, 2012 at 7:25 PM

    It's really not much better. When all the internationally-educated lawyers are factored in, we have almost as many graduates as the US does per capita. The employment rate for new calls in Ontario was 55.5% last year.

  18. Well the market for grads out of Canadian-based schools is still quite good--a large chunk of the unemployable grads are foolish kids heading to Bond or wherever to get a degree. And there is a world of difference between 46k tuition and 18k or whatever, particularly when you get 0% interest for federal loans while in school etc. U of T is by far the most expensive school at 25k but it also is has excellent employment rates.

    It is a different market and the U.S. could learn something from Canada's regulation of the legal market, even if Canada has problems of its own.

  19. CanadianLawStudentMarch 1, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    Well, things aren't good on my end. But at least there's bankruptcy.

  20. Didn't Brian Leiter, that pompous and pissy little academic con artist, suck-up extraordinaire, and scourge of the scambloggers, once mock Law Prof for typing "their" when he meant "there," in a blog posting (or some such trivial crap)? seems as if the philosopher-king himself is capable of similar errors, such as misspelling the word "exaggerated" on his own blog. Brian is a little heavy on the "r" and a little light on the "g". (below).

    It is forgivable. Brian's big brain was probably pondering questions of vital import to the legal profession, such as: how Nietzche's metaethics applies to contemporary problems in postmodernity, or how to get a law professorship for his unqualified heartthrob Michael Sevel.

    February 29, 2012
    Law School Tuition and University Revenues, Redux

    We touched on this last year, but now the facts are out: 31% of the law school's revenue at the University of Baltimore went to the university. Former Dean Closius exagerrated, but the University wildly understated the amount.

    Posted by Brian Leiter on February 29, 2012 at 10:46 AM in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

  21. "unqualified heartthrob...why do you care?

  22. dyybuk, showing your sorry face again, even though we know who you are? Wait till your employer finds out what you do with government computers.

  23. I find this back and forth between dyybuk and Brian Leiter absolutely fascinating. Dyybuk is demonstrating why even a pseudonym can be dangerous. Brian Leiter is actually searching the JD Underground archives, reading everything Dyybuk has written under that name (and he's written a lot, including attacks on Leiter and Leiter's friend Michael Sevel. Now Leiter is after revenge and threatening to out Dybukk to his employer. This is great drama!

  24. Canadian student above:

    Sorry you're in the current bind--I don't doubt it is a tough one. And I didn't mean the above to insensitive to your particular situation. I do know people with 200k dischargeable loans in a country without the advantages of the Canadian system, so I hope your situation isn't too dire. Good luck with everything.

  25. Maybe this thread is stale but this link is most appropriate:

    The Atlantic Home
    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Follow the Atlantic »
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    Derek Thompson

    Derek Thompson - Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees business coverage for the website.

    All Posts
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    Share Share « Previous Thompson | Next Thompson » Email Email Print Print
    The End of Ownership: Why Aren't Young People Buying More Houses?
    By Derek Thompson

    Feb 29 2012, 10:47 AM ET

    Richer couples! Cheaper mortgages! Millions of unwanted houses! Despite all this, young home owners declined for 30 years, even before the Great Recession. Here's how the American Dream shrank.

    [Update: Read our round-up of your amazing comments here: "We Wish Like Hell We Had Never Bought"]

    615 young housing .jpg


    When older generations wonder what's the matter with Millennials, they often judge their younger cohorts against such financial and social benchmarks as finding a job, getting married, and buying a home. These observations often come wrapped in weak science -- "blame Facebook for their indolence" -- or dripping with judgment -- "blame their parents for making them weak." The science is weak, but the observations are true. Fewer young people are finding jobs. Fewer young people are getting married. Fewer young people are buying homes.


    One headwind is student debt. "Close to $1 trillion, America's mounting pile of outstanding student debt is a growing drag on the housing recovery, keeping first-time home buyers on the sidelines and limiting the effectiveness of record-low interest rates," Bob Willis reported in Bloomberg Businessweek.


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