Monday, May 13, 2019

An Open Letter To Kim Kardashian on Legal Education

Last week, Kim Kardashian and Van Jones talked about Kim's aspirations to be a lawyer on Keeping Up with the Kardashians.  During that discussion, the following exchange took place:

Real talk,' Kim confided in him before the event. 'This law school s***? There is so much reading to do. I am like, dying here.'
'Law school is more of a socialization process than an educational process anyway,' Jones said. 'It's more learning to think like a lawyer than all the actual stuff.'
He praised her doggedness and rigorousness in pursuit of the truth.
'All that stuff, you can't teach,' he told her.  (here)

First, I would like to praise Kim for her pursuit of a legal education.  Her meeting with President Trump helped get a woman who had repaid her debt to society out of jail.  She can do even more as a lawyer.

I am writing you so both you and others who are aspiring lawyers understand what it takes to become a lawyer.

Becoming a lawyer is a lot of work, as you stated in your comments.  No one should become a lawyer without being dedicated to that pursuit.  Being a lawyer is a public trust.

Becoming a lawyer not only requires hard work, it requires doing it in the right manner.   First, you need to read cases in the right way.  Reading in law school is not just getting through cases as quickly as you can.  It requires critical reading: making sure you fully understand the text, relating the text to prior knowledge, challenging the text, reflecting on the text, etc.  I discuss critical case reading in my book Think Like a Lawyer: Legal Reasoning for Law Students and Business Professionals (ABA Pub. 2013).  Note: learning how to read cases effectively helps you be more efficient with your study time, and you will not struggle as much with reading.

Van Jones is wrong that "Law school is more of a socialization process than an educational process anyway,'  'It's more learning to think like a lawyer than all the actual stuff."

"Thinking like a lawyer" is not socialization; it is a cognitive process.  It involves legal reasoning and legal argument.  It concerns developing the ability to solve clients' legal problems in an efficient and effective manner.

Law school does involve socialization, but a different type than Van Jones is talking about.  Law school helps students create their professional identities: who they will be as lawyers, how they will interact with the legal world, and how they will serve society.   Luckily, you can do this in an internship equally as well as in law school.  Maybe even better because you are working with real lawyers.  I have also discussed developing professional identity in Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer.

The one additional piece of advice I give to you is to read about the law outside of the dry text books.  Read accounts of lawyers and trials.  Read fiction about the law, such as To Kill A Mocking Bird or Anatomy of A Murder.

In sum, law school is hard, but it is an adventure.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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