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What the world needs now is another good lawyer


Excellent post from Dybbuk at OTLSS on a new “initiative” from the Law School Admissions Council –the agency that administers the LSAT — designed to entice high school students and first and second year undergraduates “particularly but not exclusively those from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds” into eventually enrolling in law school, via images suggesting that they’ll be able to save dolphins, fight environmental racism etc.

I have thoughtlessly compared the law school scammers to Bernie Madoff, but these images make me realize how unfair that is to nebbishy old Uncle Ponzi, rotting away in federal prison. Madoff scammed the wealthy, and he scammed institutional investors who should have known better. The law school racketeers operate from a lower circle of depravity, luring social justice-oriented kids into life-destroying debt by promising to provide the foundation for a career that will allow those kids to fulfill their highest ideals.

I know that this blog mostly involves preaching to the converted. However, I hope readers will explain to youth of their acquaintance, who may be vulnerable to this kind of law school marketing approach, that public sector and public interest jobs are few in number, especially now that public sector austerity has taken on cast of permanence. Moreover, the structure of student debt forgiveness programs has made these jobs, which were once practically consolation prizes, highly desirable and competitive on purely economic grounds. And that means, in all likelihood, that a law grad will not have the opportunity to use the law to effect social change, represent indigents, or save the dolphins, unless he or she is willing to do so pro bono. . .

The images below all bear the slogan: “Actually, the world DOES need another lawyer.” Maybe so, but the world DOES NOT need another scammer.

Naturally legal academics are outraged by comparisons to Madoff et. al., despite the striking practical similarities between Madoff’s activities and initiatives such as LSAC’s newest propaganda campaign. That outrage is a consequence of their genuinely sincere belief in their own probity. And that belief is a prime example of the power of ideology:

Very frequently such views systematically distort social reality in much the same way that an individual may neurotically deny, deform or reinterpret aspects of his life that are inconvenient to him . . . In such analyses the ideas by which men explain their actions are unmasked as self-deception, sales talk, the kind of “sincerity” that David Riesman has aptly described as the state of mind of a man who habitually believes his own propaganda. In this way, we can speak of “ideology” when we analyze the belief of many American physicians that standards of health will decline if the fee-for-service method of payment is abolished, or the conviction of many undertakers that inexpensive funerals show lack of affection for the departed, or the definition of their activity by quizmasters on television as “education.” The self-image of the insurance salesman as a fatherly adviser to young families, of the burlesque stripper as an artist, of the propagandist as a communications expert, of the hangman as a public servant — all these notion are not only individual assuagements of guilt or status anxiety, but constitute the official self-interpretations of entire social groups, obligatory for their members on pain of excommunication.

Peter Berger (1963)

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