“Hey! Long time no see! I didn’t know you were thinking about going to law school!”
“Wow, I didn’t know you were taking the LSAT too!”
Waiting anxiously outside Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall on a chilly early Saturday morning to get my fingerprint collected for classified purposes, I was pleasantly surprised to see a whole army of familiar faces, there in defiance of a six-hour-long test of one’s ability to restrain the urges to eat, drink, fall asleep or use the bathroom. I could not have anticipated that the decision to take the September LSAT came with the bonus of reconnecting with old pals I hadn’t seen since freshman year.
The intensity of that surprise far exceeds what any novel logic game could inspire. I was utterly overwhelmed to be surrounded by old friends, people who interned at Newsweek or a giant hedge fund or a top advertising agency, and realize that wherever we’re coming from, all roads lead to the Rome that is currently called the LSAT Test Center.
The admissions offices of law schools around the country must be exhilarated. Who says a depressing job market must be a bad thing? “Didn’t you see our admission rate just broke a historic low?” law school officials will say. Indeed, with the glamour of the magic word — “finance,” the modern variation of plastic — gone, the recession only exacerbated law school’s appeal to the young and confused seeking psychological shelter. Certainly, as “The Graduate” of the 21st century, we are not seriously thinking about spending another six years digging through old manuscripts in Sterling stacks, or about running away with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, are we?
Even more amazing is that law school admission requires only one thing: logic. Blessed are those of us who didn’t stuff our heads with dry facts about the route of the Gulf Stream or the characteristics of the Dorian Order.
But please help me, if you will, understand the logic behind the reasons we are taking the LSAT and applying to law schools. Some people argue that they are headed to law school for an advanced-level “general education” — they say that’s what a legal education has become in our modern age, despite the fact that law school is still technically a professional school.
I have no doubt that one can learn how to read, write and think critically much more effectively in law school than by spending hours in the dark auditorium of Dunham Lab slaving over the logical reasoning and analytical reasoning sections of the LSAT. I have trouble comprehending, however, how much marginal benefit extra law school “general education” has for a graduate of a four-year liberal arts education. Take a look at all those law-majoring undergrads at Cambridge or Oxford who are able to complete both their general and legal educations in only three years — they seem to turn out well-educated, interesting and capable in their profession.
The other type of popular logic — maybe a more honest one — states that law school is really about taking time off to “figure out what to do in life.” Even setting aside the question of whether the losses of $200,000 and three years justify the opportunity to do some soul-searching, I think people would agree that many other activities — say attending divinity school — might have the same desired effect, with much lower costs.
Or is it that, behind the disguise of “figuring out what to do,” we’re subconsciously indicating, first, our anxiety to stay inside our comfort zones — the familiar, intellectual, everyone-is-smart-and-awesome-and-like-me type of dreamy bubble — and, second, our fear of the hand-to-hand battle out there in the greedy, hungry and dirty world?
Yale may have spoiled us too much by letting us go free-hunting for fun stuff during our college years without really pushing us to think long and hard about our passion in life. Alas, fun, pure fun: That was indeed my reason for taking the LSAT.
All right, I lied. I took the LSAT so I would have a legitimate excuse to attend all those post-LSAT parties Saturday night. Boy, were they great.
OK, still bad logic. But logic, after all, can’t solve all our problems in life, can it?
Robert Li is a senior in Ezra Stiles College.