html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: Depends on how thinly you slice them.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Depends on how thinly you slice them.

When I told my Dad I was going to law school, the first words out of his mouth were:

How many lawyers does it take to tile a roof?

I liked the people I went to law school with, and they are more socially adept than many of my friends, but going to law school did not improve my view of lawyers. I thought law was insular and self-reinforcing, and the lack of an external reference means that lawyers aren't grounded by something that could prove them wrong. I never trusted that there was a solid core to law, so I don't know what the fundamental limits are to someone for whom law is a practice and discipline.

Some generalizations that make me doubt I'll date a lawyer:
Lawyers are often innumerate and proud of it, which makes me embarassed for them.

They went to law school because they weren't sure who they were, stayed because it is all-engrossing, and became lawyers because it is fucking hard not to after law school. But I don't think many of them like it, and I don't think most ever made an affirmative choice to find what they love and do it.

Many of them were whiny in law school, especially about how hard they were working. My impression was that whatever lightweight degree they did before law school had never shown them what it meant to work hard. Law school was the easiest of my graduate degrees (but then, I am very verbal and didn't care about my grades).

Lawyers themselves are often contempuous of their career and peers. It is hard to respect them more than they respect themselves.


I would date a lawyer who convinced me it was what he wanted to be doing, had an awareness that it is both a ridiculous process and has important potential for doing good, and was grounded in the physical world. I don't think those lawyers are common, though.

29 Comments:

Anonymous eric said...

fantasy blog dating:

so would you date fresh pepper?!

7:51 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

He would never date a vegetarian. But I probably would. He would crack me up, and I would abandon all my standards for someone that funny.

8:07 AM  
Blogger capella said...

I think a significant percentage of people who pursue any type of graduate degree immediately after college do so because they don't really know what else to do with themselves.

For me, the important question was not "do I love science," (I do, but not uniquely or even supremely) but "do I like being a scientist," which is a different thing altogether. I don't think it is always possible, practical, or even desirable to pursue a career doing what you love most.

8:10 AM  
Anonymous jens said...

Eugene Volokh.

I'm pretty sure he is married already, but there must have been a time when he was not.

I am married, and straight, but I think I would STILL consider dating him if I had the chance!

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I would date a lawyer who convinced me it was what he wanted to be doing, had an awareness that it is both a ridiculous process and has important potential for doing good, and was grounded in the physical world."

You worry entirely too much about utterly irrelevant criteria. I could not care less what my wife does for a living. She goes off to do her job that I wouldn't do for the world and I go off and do mine, and then we come home.

Nor do I care whether I can beat her up.

I only care about whether I love her and she loves me, and whether she makes me happy. In order to make me happy, it matters what happens when we are together, not what she does at work.

All this jibber jabber about whether he can do math problems is for the birds.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous scottb said...

Jens beat me to it. Volokh Conspiracy is a great read - it's one of the few blogs I read regularly - MR, VC, and, of course, yours, ma'am :^)

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm, most of the lawyers I've met have been pretty bright guys, and far from innumerate. My dad is a patent attorney, who was an engineer before he went to law school. Most of the lawyers I've met are similar to him, engineers/scientists turned lawyers.

Anyway, I agree with the other anonymous person. You shouldn't spend so much time focusing on this criteria list. I do the same thing, and it doesn't really work out so well. I've dated engineers and math majors, and hard science majors, it's all the same. Ultimately you just want someone you get along with, and have fun with, and generally like being around.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Nice, funny, smart. I have preferences for the rest, but only nice, funny, smart are non-negotiable.

Besides, I'm not turning down dates. I've had to postpone a couple recently, but men who want to show me they are nice, funny and smart will get a bid.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you should share some things you find funny, so we know what kind of sense of humor everyone should be targetting.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Ananda said...

I know a lot of lawyers, and my wife IS a lawyer, and both of us would agree with everything in this post.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and what constitutes smart? Like a particular minimum IQ? Or, is it just a command of some specific subject(s)?

Maybe if you give specifics some people will self filter themselves for you.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Good post, having dated a few girls in law school recently I've noticed that (in my highly unscientific sample) many of the "traditional lawyer types" seem to lack an intellectual curiosity that is one of my main requirements in looking for someone to date. As an engineer looking for a cute polymath that usually sinks them before the second date.

Then again, I'm a bit younger than you (only 25), so perhaps my peers are just too busy in law school and first year associate work to be interested in other areas. I do agree that too many of them seem to be unhappy about their chosen vocation, which is always weird when you are used to working with hardcore engineers who often live and breathe (by choice) their work.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Macneil said...

Woah, you have a law degree too? I guess you've earned the title "overeducated feminist". At least the overeducated part.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Hey Megan,
It's only recently that we started hearing about the education that made you so overeducated. I'd like to hear more about your journey from college to now for my own sake. I'm 27, had to take a leave in the middle of college, just graduated a year ago (econ), and am now trying to: a) make a well-considered decision about which field to start my career-path in, b) start working before my late 30's (after grad school), and c) maybe even find a wife and have kids somewhere in there. So I'm curious to hear about your grad school choices and experiences.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Oh man, Daveeb. My path through grad school was pretty disasterous. I would only tell you about it as a model of poor planning and the consequences of a lack of forethought.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Exactly what I need. I'm beginning to suspect that all the planning and thinking I've been trying to do is dumb, and that I just have to try things and, at each decision point I come to, do what seems best at the time; but I also don't want to dive into a PhD that I hate or can't do; but I also don't want to delay forever. So it'd be helpful to see what sort of things happen when one exercises poor planning and a lack of foresight, as is my current intention. But please don't feel obligated to write about it if you'd prefer not to.

7:52 PM  
Blogger Sweet Coalminer said...

All black and white.

There are lawyers (in Sacramento!) who started out not knowing what they were supposed to do and found niches that please them doing things that matter.

Tsk, tsk, really Meg, first for standing me up on Saturday and secondly discounting the pleasure people can take in the legal profession.

I surely hate it, though, and would totally never (again) date a lawyer.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous kashford@triad.rr.com said...

Sorry to be so harsh, but I think anyone who dates (or doesn't date) anyone based on their job title needs to take a harsh look at themselves.

My experience with lawyers (and I am one) is that they are just as diverse as people than the rest of the population. In fact, it is usually other people who make a big deal about lawyers being lawyers, more so than lawyers themselves.

7:25 AM  
Anonymous John Armstrong said...

Do you really think lawyers are so much more innumerate than most? I tend to find (as a mathematician) that they're about average. The catch is that they're far more likely than most people in nontechnical fields (except politics) to wreak havoc as a result.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Kashford: not so, not so. Lawyers often express contempt for the practice of law. (And I am too a lawyer, although I'm fleeing the law and going back to grad school.) It's not nearly as interesting, intellectual, or important as it's made out to be.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Bruce Hayden said...

Try patent law and patent attorneys. Most of them (actually, us) are probably as nummerate as you, are doing something they enjoy, and are less likely to be the type of lawyers everyone hates. Geeky, yes. Very.

For a lot of patent attorneys, going to law school is just getting your ticket punched. They never picked up the lawyer thing. And, indeed, a lot of the nicest people I know have been patent attorneys. I should note though that this may be generational. A lot of patent attorneys coming out now never worked as engineers or scientists first, and just look at it as another type of law where you don't have to work quite as hard to make good money.

I actually thought that I would like to be an attorney when I went to law school after a number of years as a software engineer. After all, my father was an attorney, so I grew up with it. But I soon found that I missed the technology too much, and most of law is pretty boring. I should note that my next brother, maybe looking at me, never made this mistake - he knew he would never really practice law, and hasn't. While I enjoy going into court occasionally (my crowning achievement there was a directed verdict in a week long jury trial), he never has.

Also note that in-house patent attorneys are, on average, notably nicer and more average, than those working for law firms. My experience was that only about 20% of them were obnoxious enough that you wouldn't voluntarily hang around with them. Then there was the 20% that were so geeky that they couldn't deal with anyone close to normal, leaving about 60% really nice, normal, people.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

See, but I would say that their cool engineeringness or physical science background is the good part about patent lawyers - still grounded and aware that the world is bigger than them.

11:31 AM  
Blogger jamie said...

i don't know what innumerate means, but i think i am going to look it up now.

personally, as one who is about a year away from becoming a lawyer, i love what i do. i work for environmental stewardship and find the whole activity of doing law related work very mentally stimulating. i have never been so happy at a job as i am now.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Patrick Martin said...

Such a pity you live way out in California land (said the single male lawyer in Louisiana who considers himself to be nice, funny, and smart)...

I know exactly what you mean. Most of the people I went to law school with just were not all that curious about the world around them and the deeper issues of justice, morality, and life. This perplexed me, because the role of the law in justice, morality, and life is precisely what drove me to it in the first place (that and my dad being a law professor).

You really pegged it when you said: "it is both a ridiculous process and has important potential for doing good." In theory, and sometimes in practice, it is a noble calling and a noble tool for righting wrongs and protecting the weak and innocent from the strong and pernicious. But as it is mostly practiced, day in and day out in courtrooms and depositions throughout the land, it has little to do with anything noble at all.

Me, I love my work. I have been a prosecutor, an adviser to the governor, and now work for a major university. I've been blessed with wonderful bosses who have always allowed me to do what I thought was right. Except for a brief period in private practice, I haven't had to put up with much of the pettiness and viciousness that characterizes too many legal controversies. I have had the time and the justification to think about the bigger picture, and how to apply more abstract concepts to actual, real-world situations... and then I have a wonderful family and set of friends who bring me back down to earth fast when my head gets too big!

Keep searching (or just move to Louisiana...), there are a few of us out here.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous jens said...

Innumeracy is much like illiteracy, but you might not find it in the dictionary. Darn it, numeracy gets no respect!

But there was a book written CALLED "Innumeracy" that I highly recommend, along with sequels.

There is also a http://www.innumeracy.com/

By the way, congratulations, you got the Volokh Conspiracy's attention (Cowen rather than Volokh, so that gets you Marginal as well!).

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's truly a pity you make such gross generalizations. I myself am in law school, and will be the fourth generation of lawyers in my family (on both sides, no less!). My entire life, I've known many lawyers, and now many law students. The vast majority are very bright and love the law. Goodness, there is so much I would like to say to you. I could go line by line! But I doubt that would be productive. I think you actually just need to get to know some real lawyers. Unfortunately, the law tends to consume those who love it. They often barely have enough time for family and some charitable work. So you don't see them at the bars or other social scenes. What can I say, we can be a pretty dorky lot.
I would like to address one point you made, if you'll forgive me the presumption. In regard to the "insular and self-reinforcing" nature of law, I would recommend "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn was a brilliant physicist who came to believe about science much of what you seem to think about the law - particularly as to the insularity & self-reinforcing nature of science (what he essentially termed "incommensurability"). This is obviously a great simplification of Kuhn's extraordinarily influential work on the philosophy of science, but useful I believe.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

We read Kuhn for my research methods class, the first five weeks of which we spent on the philosophy of science. I completely agree that science can also be insular and self-reinforcing.

If you really want to see me froth at the mouth, ask me what I think of people who believe their complex computer models. I'm sure that rant will come up one day, and it won't be nearly as polite and qualified as the one about lawyers.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Lawyers are often innumerate and proud of it, which makes me embarassed for them. "

Couldn't agree more. Its not just lawyers though, large numbers of "intelligent" people who ar very educated in the humanities not only are ignorant about basic math but, like you say, are proud of it.

It is socially acceptable to be innumerate while it is NOT to be illiterate.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dead on Megan. Dead on. It's hard out there for the smart ladies.

Lawyers at my school all had some failed careers. Worse, they had 20 yr old co-eds fauning over them which inflated them to nothing. By the end of law school, most of them had lost their hairlines, almost all had put on 10 lbs.

I'll take a nice doctor any day. Especially over another freaking first date with an associate trying to morally justify a job he hates.

4:05 PM  

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