Friday, November 29, 2013

Law School and the Open Road

The open road narrative is central to the American dream narrative; indeed, it traverses right through it. [1]  Man-going-on-voyage [2] stories have deep roots in world literary history.  From Moses [3] and Odysseus [4] to Dorothy [5] and Frodo [6], the journey narrative is ingrained in human consciousness, where a single step can start an individual on a life- or world-changing voyage.

In the United States, a special offshoot of this broader journey narrative group took shape in the 20th century [7]:  the "open road" narrative, where America's miles of highway [8], roadside distractions [9], and classic car marques [10] became metaphors for freedom, optimism, fortune, and the American Dream. [11]

Consider Raphael John, our multiethnic superstar from Queens. [12] He's always been good at reading and writing, and loves being vocal, particularly about injustice.  For example, he once wrote the following poem for junior English:
I sling rock to the suits on the StreetI sling rock in the Central Park heatI sling rock to the sluts and the hoswith the nine inch nails on they feet and they toesBut the po-lice be hasslin' me.I sling rock in Brooklyn and SohoI sling rock to straight and homoI sling rock to the blacks and the whitesChinese, Cubans, and many mo', allrights?But the po-lice be hasslin' me. [13]
Raphael had an entrepreneurial spirit and outgoing personality.  Similarly, his extensive business activities created a substantial network from which to develop opportunities.  [14]  Unfortunately, Rapheal's road narrative to the American Dream narrative had become bombarded with roadblocks and barricades.  His narrative was being derailed by angry police, cynics, and other opponents of progress and opportunity. [15]  When he graduated from CUNY with a 3.3 in Urban Studies, he considered taking the LSAT and applying to fine law schools such as Albany and Widener.  But all around him, he saw pessimism about the legal profession, such as this insolent screed:
I'll do doc review until I'm blue in the face; I will sit there doing doc review until my prostate explodes. Why? BECAUSE I NEED A GODDAMN JOB. Don't get me wrong: I've given up hope of ever being successful. Law school destroyed me and destroyed my life. I'm fucked forever, I know that. But my girlfriend will leave me if I don't get a job fast and she's the only thing I've got going in the world. Seriously, I'll be out on the fucking street and I won't even care. I might go live in a box or get a canoe and go out into the ocean to die of exposure. [16]
Clearly, the narratives of other people were disrupting his American dream narrative with a counter-narrative that was narratively vitriolic, even more so than his biracialness.  [17]  As-if Bonnie and Clyde decided to just live in the sexless suburbs for a year, Raphael put off his American dream legal education and left his Porsche of a mind in the garage of inertness. [18]

So he slung rock for another year.  [19]  The whole time, the anguish of wanting to do something more with his life hung over his head.  He didn't want comfort.  He wanted freedom and danger. [20].

Thankfully, he sound found salvation for his stunted narrative. [21] One day, while a-slinging his rock, he found a trio of street preachers called Public Interest.  There was Valvolive Valv, who wore a giant money-sign necklace; Leduck D, a slightly heavier man with a seriousness about him; and Professor Grift, who was wearing a Villanova shirt.

And, oh, how Public Interest rapped:
As the law designed to bounce
What counts is that the law
Designed to fill your mind
Now that you've realized the time's arrived
We got to pump the stuff to make you legally tough
From the heart
It's a start, a work of art
To revolutionize make Socratic Method nothin's strange
People, people we are the same
No we're not the same
Go to law school, you'll win the game
What you need is law awareness, you can't get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved, lets get down to business
Mental self defensive fitness
(Yo) bum rush the show
You gotta go to law school, you know
Get your legal degree, in order to fight the powers that be
(faint voice in background) Lemme hear you say...
Fight the Power!
Fight the Power!...  [22]

RAPHAEL:  Wow.  You guys sure think a law degree is necessary to fight the power!  [23]

VALV:  Totally, yo.  With a law degree, you can do anything. [24]

RAPHAEL:  Anything anything?

LEDUCK:  Shit, bro', I know lawyers and they workin', not just in gob'mint and law firms, but they running art galleries and non-profits, restaurants and stores, workin' as consultants for cell phone companies, you name it, dogity dog. [25]

GRIFT:  You can change the world, motherfucka. [26]

VALV:  Most importantly, you can get a job working with public interest groups helping with all sorts of causes, like representing poor people or beached whales.  [27]

RAPHAEL:  But I've heard that law school is a bad investment.  Isn't the cost really high?

VALV:  Dude, there is a fuckin' money sign around my god-damned neck.  You think this is just decoration? [28]

LEDUCK:  The average lawyer makes, like, a $G a year.  That's not just me yappin, that's the motherfuckin' Bureau of Labor Motherfuckin' Statistics.  I think. [29]

RAPHAEL:  But will I get a job?  I've heard the legal market is big cities is extremely tough and technological advances have been narrowing the job market.

GRIFT:  Sore losers. [30]

VALV:  While we can't guarantee you'll have a job as an attorney, we're going to tell you that 98% of our students wind up with good jobs, and that I don't think you're in the bottom 2%, and that I'm virtually guaranteeing you a job. [31]

LEDUCK:  C'mon man, just take the motherfuckin' LSAT, man.

Raphael took the motherfuckin' LSAT.

LSAT administrations are down sharply over the last four years. [32]  Would-be moderate- to higher-scoring applicants are being deterred from the profitable narrative of law school riches to instead pursue other narratives.  As a result, law schools are placed in a precarious position in their pedagogical narrative, and many have elected to accept slightly-lower LSAT scorers, while other schools have opted to drastically slash enrollment to maintain LSAT standards and hopefully preserve their treasured rank in U.S. News & World Report.  [33]

But Raphael had the keys to his American dream in his hand in the form of a pencil that he used to fill in the LSAT bubbles.  He scored a 150.  Within days, he had 72 scholarship offers. [34]  His car was being built, and it was shaping up to be a sweet-ass ride.  [35]

"Yo Raphael, what's up, bro'?"
"Who is this?"
"This is Ice Rude.  I'm with a group called Lawdeans With Attitude.  We from the west coast school, bro'."
"Lawdeans With Attitude?"
"Yeah, me, Easy C, Dr. K, MC Debtr'en from the Summit, and DJ Whittiah'.  Listen to us tell you all about the west coast style."
Dr. K:  You are about to witness the strength of legal knowledge. 
Ice Rudy:
Straight outta Harvard, crazy motherfucker named Ice Rude
From the gang called Lawdeans Wit Attitude
When I'm called off, I take my tie off
With a few mouseclicks, to the Riviera, I'm off
You too boy if you follow me
Fraud?  Shit, that bitch Juris Prudence love me
Off yo ass, and network, balls out
It's the punk motherfuckers that's showing out
You look and feel inspired, they gonna make the hire
Don't sit on the couch like a lazy-ass dumbo... [36]
"Stop it," Raphael said.  "Stop this nonsense.  All I want is to do is make a prudent investment in a career choice and not wind up fucked for my ambition and work and give up my decent career.  Can't you assholes just cut the bullshit and understand that people are making serious decisions about their futures with dire consequences if you're just making shit up to pad your lifestyle choices?" [37]

Is our hero sure?  We still have a whole roster of deans-artists to explore, like Lil Jon Marshall from the Atlanta school, LL Cool M, and Socratic Method Man.

"Raphael," one of the admissions officers told him, "I'm going to be as honest with you as I possibly can.  With tools like IBR and PAYE, law school is a really good proposition."

Sun shining.  Engine started.  Garage door open.

Consider the film Easy Rider.  [38]  In this film, released just as 60s Hippie idealism turned fatefully towards the dreary 70s, our antiheroes go by the names Billy, referring to Billy the Kid, and Wyatt, referring to Wyatt Earp, the latter also decked out in flag garb and being referred to as Captain America.  [39]  They venture on their motorcycles across a dust-coated American landscape that almost has an aura of post-apocalypticism to it.  [40]  With the profits of their hard work, they travel to the bacchanalia of Mardi Gras, along the way staying on an agrarian hippie compound, parading down Main Street USA, and dropping acid with prostitutes.  [41]

But these are not confident, classical heroes like in the epic narratives of our mythology.  Far from having the steadfast leadership qualities of Earp or the patriotic vigor of Captain America, Peter Fonda's Wyatt is more brooding and bitter, while Hopper's Billy is decked out in Indian-inspired clothes and harbors more outspoken hostility. [42]  The answer comes from the drunken ACLU lawyer they meet, George Hanson, who notes "You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it." [43]  George and Billy then engage in a dialectic about fear and freedom, with George opining that conservative America fears people like Billy and Wyatt because they represent true freedom; the distinction is noteworthy as, George is self-aware that he, too, is limited by fear (e.g., that marijuana will lead to harder drugs, that he's set off for Mardi Gras, but never made it).  [44]

George, in his embodiment of the law, serves as a mediator in the narrative between the oppressive, anti-progressive forces of the society and the anarchic, free forces of 60s counter-culture.  [45]  He is, indeed, the perfect metaphor for law itself; while frustrated with the injustices and hostilities of the post-capitalist world, he guides the naive, idealistic proletariat in their interactions with the system, resulting in positive interactions and outcomes. [46] And indeed, in Easy Rider, while the open road narrative is fully at work with the open road symbolizing freedom and opportunity, ultimately George serves as the impetus to Wyatt and Billy finding salvation, as George sacrifices to get the bikers to Sonoma Valley so they can open their winery that succeeds within a capitalist paradigm without sacrificing hippie ideals. [47]

Likewise, our hero Raphael has chosen a similar path.  Assured that he can definitely prosper if he enrolls in law school, he has a veritable feast of options, a garage full of vehicles to lead him to the promised land.  After extensive research [48], he took a half ride to Southwestern Law School.  He felt like he needed a change of pace, and he figured, if necessary, he would have no problem coming back to New York to find work.  He knew his future was bright no matter what coast he did his narrative thing on.

Shortly after he started on the new turn in his narrative, he saw a young African-American pulled over, with the flashing lights of three police cruisers lighting the macabre drama of the racial profiling that stopped so many open road narratives.  "Some day," Raphael said, "I'll be able to help you.  Or at least well off enough to donate to someone who can."

And so he zips through the flat Midwest as he does on the highway of life, the supple lips of mother nature smiling wryly as she breast-feeds him; the rescuing ship has saved him from ocean isolation; he drove on, tires against the pavement, thrusting ceaselessly towards his future.  He smiled broadly.  He knew he had made the right choice.

On the road of life, there are passengers and there are drivers.  In law school, you, like Raphael, can become a driver.  While all vehicles have their cost, it is the destination that makes the voyage worthwhile, and with law school in your sights, your open road narrative is sure - like Easy Rider - to have a satisfactory, life-affirming ending. [50]

(Happy Thanksgiving Weekend, y'all)
[1] a positive easment
[2] sexist
[3] tortfeasor
[4] tortfeasor
[5] tortfeasor
[6] tortfeasor
[7] obviously, this is just for white people
[8]  see, e.g., an atlas
[9] "look, kids, it's the world's biggest law school debtor!"
[10]  good luck living out the narrative when you can't afford the payment on your 1949 Studebaker.
[11] ...and a whole bunch of other things that directly contradict such ideals, but we're going to ignore those stories or just pretend they have alternative meanings.
[12] home of St. John's law school!
[13] this poem is likely good enough to be published in certain law reviews.
[14] the trust in the drug dealer-customer relationship leads to excellent opportunities for the exploitative networker.
[15] scambloggers resist opportunities to expand diversity, want to restrict federal spending, and are critical of the excesses of academia, obviously supporting arch-conservative ideals.
[16]:  shit's real: or
[17] narrative
[18] the rental fees in the garage of inertia are inSANE.
[19] "rock" is an urban vernacular term for a basketball, and "sling" is the thing David used to kill Goliath, so a fair interpretation of this would be that Raphael was playing pick-up basketball against much better opponents.
[20] i'm alluding to Aldous Huxley; God damn, I'm smart.
[21] yes, he found salvation for a narrative as part of the narrative.  try not to overthink it, kids.
[22] by alluding to this song, I am now qualified to sit at the andre douglas pond cummings table at various conventions, you know, with the real brothas.
[23] duh.
[24] duh.
[25] duh.
[26] duh.
[27] duh.
[28] have a law dean on your holiday shopping list?
[29] duh.
[30] duh.
[31] duh.
[32] read a newspaper.
[33] law deans are, it appears, the last people in the universe to take US News seriously.
[34] this might be an under-exaggeration
[35] you know, law school-as-a-car is a good metaphor.  you're really excited when you first get it, you almost always paid too much, and the odds of it lasting 30 years are fairly low.
[36] will someone please just give me a professorship in this shit?
[37] this is an example of a rhetorical question.
[38] 1969 (dir. Dennis Hopper).
[39] Id.
[40] Id.
[41] speaking of good metaphors for the modern law school experience.
[42] i guess we just cite id again?
[43] how do people write like this?
[44] i'm writing yet another footnote because i thought it seemed like a good place to put a footnote.
[45] smoking dope with crack-dealing bikers is a great form of ADR.
[46] and oh how the system works!
[47] admittedly, I haven't seen the film in a while, and it's possible the winery was in the Columbia Valley instead.
[48] a weekend on google, plus a broad skimming of various brochures
[49] just making another footnote so I can end with 50.
[50] in writing this genre-bending law review article, I was assisted by 104 student assistants and 84 law professors, all of whom i am deeply indebted to.


  1. Sometimes the journey of a thousand miles ends badly.

  2. "Very, very poor writing. You didn't use the word "narrative" in every sentence. You're taking an obvious hegemonist stance, which never gets anyone top grades at Northwestern or Stanford. You can give up your dream of becoming a professor right now."

    1. My "narrative" count is over 1% of words used. I'm eligible for tenure.

  3. Brilliant and hilarious. Why has nobody proposed an ABA rule mandating that law school deans adopt gangster rap nicknames and attire?

    1. I think it's because there's a serious shortage of gangsta deans out there. The nearest thing to a serious gangsta is andre pondscum, and he's just an assistant dean at Indiana Tech.

    2. Which would be the best law school to attend:

      a) Cooley
      b) InfiLaw affiliate
      c) any law school, anywhere, run by Suge Knight

      I think we all know the answer to that one.

    3. The Death Row Dean...bouncers at the door, knockouts in the corridors...I think they'd buy it.