Think Like a Lawyer, Work Like a Machine: The Dissonance Between Law School and Law Practice
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
As the recruiting season descends upon us each fall, we in legal education watch as our best (and even our more average) students are lured to big firms by promises of starting salaries that top $70,000. This is my eighth year of teaching,' and in the past two or three years, my former students have returned to recruit my current students. I am struck by the returning graduates' frustration and disillusionment with their careers. When they drop by my office to say hello or elicit information about current students, they complain about the practice of law and especially about their lack of preparation for what the practice of law truly entails. Increasingly, former students would rather discuss the prospect of leaving their large firms for academia or smaller firms than discuss the current students they are trying to recruit. Moreover, the size of the firm in which these former students practice seems to correspond to the degree of dissatisfaction they express.
At first I believed that their complaints simply reflected these new lawyers' adjustments to the long hours and tedious work required of young associates. However, I realized that my own and my peers' transition from law school to law practice did not create the same deep dissatisfaction. The nature and the number of my students' complaints seemed unusual and revealed to me the seriousness of the problem that currently plagues American law school graduates.