If you set out to generate the most boring possible concept for a book, from scratch, you probably couldn’t do much better than What the Best Law Teachers Do. Co-written by law professors Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gerald F. Hess, and Sophie M. Sparrow, it is essentially a book about law professors, by law professors, describing the role law teachers play in the most boring experience you could ever possibly encounter: going to law school.
In their defense, I’m sure they don’t know they are boring. If there is one universal to the law school experience, it is this: no one graduates with their sense of humor intact. And by the time you become a full-fledged attorney, the ability to be anything but eye-gougingly dull has been completely beaten out of you. And it is the function of law professors, just like Schwartz, Hess, and Sparrow, to get you there. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the drudgery that was this 368-page behemoth (which, truth be told, I only skimmed; as I wish I would have done with the literal hundreds of pages, per night, I was assigned to read while in law school by professors just like these three).
In preparation for drafting this book, Schwartz, Hess, and Sparrow spent several years sending out questionnaires and conducting interviews, and poring over feedback from deans, law professors, and law students. Probably close to 80% of the book’s content is just block quotes from these materials. The book is organized by categories: “How do these professors engage students?”; “How do these professors prepare for class?”; “What do these professors expect from their students?” There are then quotes on those topics, first from the professors themselves, then from students. After a while, the quotes all start to take on the same whimsical, gushy “have passion/follow your heart” tone, no matter what the supposed chapter topic.
None of my law professors were included in the book; maybe I have never encountered a “best law teacher.”
A much more interesting book (and I am working on drafting my own book, which would include these concepts) would have been: “What EVEN the Best Law Teachers CAN’T DO, DON’T DO, AND SURE AS HELL WON’T TELL YOU.” The subsections in this book could be something like the following:
- No matter how good your law professor is, there’s not a damn thing they can do about the fact that, by enrolling in law school, you have just gone into six figures worth of debt which, even if you can get a decent job out of law school (which is an increasingly big “if”), you will be paying off until you are 75.
- There are far more law students than there are good law jobs seeking to hire brand new law graduates.
- No matter how hard you work, or how good your professor is, they still have to grade on a curve, and not landing somewhere in the top 10% of your class will have a devastating impact on at least the beginning of, and perhaps your entire, career.
- Law school is a business. If you’re in law school, they already have your tuition. It’s not their job to get you a job. It’s their job to keep the next wave of suckers paying more tuition.
- The law schools themselves are far more concerned with their professors’ ability to research, write, publish, and get money for the school. Teaching is usually the lowest priority.
- 90% of your nightly reading will not be discussed in class. 95% of what you discuss in class will not be on the final exam. 99% of what is on the final exam will not be on the bar exam. There is a good chance that less than 1% of any of the above will ever actually help you in your practice (I made up 100% of these statistics, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong).
- Even the best law professors end up teaching you almost nothing about how to actually be a lawyer.
- Most real law jobs are soul-sucking hell. That’s why your law professor is a law professor, and not a practicing lawyer.