Law school is a notorious scam.
In the course of three years, young victims pay for courses in property law but don’t learn how to buy a house. They take courses in contract law but are never taught how to write one. They take courses in litigation procedures but in a courtroom they literally don’t know when to stand up and when to sit down. In fact, it’s common for students to graduate without having seen the inside of a courtroom.
Never entrust a recent law school graduate with any legal matters.
If we trained doctors the way we train lawyers, surgeons would graduate medical school without knowing how to wash their hands or which end of a scalpel is for holding and which end is for cutting.
The proliferation of law schools in America is not driven by student demand, but by money. Law schools are cash cows for the universities with which they’re associated. They don’t require expensive laboratories. Class sizes are large, and so they don’t need many professors. Increasingly, the professors they do have are adjunct professors who receive mere stipends rather than actual salaries.
It’s a disgrace, about which I’ll write more someday. Today’s column is about one facet of this disgrace: Constitutional Law.
All law students take a basic course in Constitutional Law – or “Con Law” as the insiders call it with inadvertent exactitude. It’s there that they study the Constitution, supposedly.
They learn that the Constitution guarantees free speech unless you shout “FIRE” in a crowded theater. They learn that the Constitution prohibits the taking of private property without compensation. They learn that there’s a “penumbra” of the Constitution, perceptible only to enlightened scholars, that prohibits states from regulating abortion.
But in law schools across the country, law students paying upwards of a quarter million dollars for a law degree that may or may not produce a remunerative career are never asked to read the Constitution itself.
It reminds me of certain Christian sects where practitioners are never asked to read the Bible. Their bejeweled and berobed bosses say in effect, “Don’t read the Bible. We’ll tell you what you need to know about it.” The bosses say this because much of the Bible conflicts with what the bosses want the practitioners to believe.
It’s for this same reason that law students are not asked to read the Constitution. Much of the Constitution conflicts with the Constitutional Law they get taught.
Unlike the Bible, the Constitution is not a long document. It’s 4,543 words plus the amendments. Most adults read about 200-250 words per minute, and so it would take them about 20 minutes to read the Constitution.
To put this in context, law students are assigned upwards of 20 hours per week of reading, which amounts to roughly 2,000 hours over the course of the three years. But they are never asked or even invited to spend 20 minutes of that time to read the foundational document of American jurisprudence.
And unlike the Bible, the Constitution is not expressed in confusing and disjointed stories and parables by dozens of writers who wrote at different times about different things. The Constitution was written by people who worked together and knew how to write. And they specifically designed it to be understood.
Law students ultimately go on to careers in law, the skills for which they are taught by generous and sometimes exploitative seasoned lawyers after they graduate since the students learn no such skills in law school. From watching other lawyers, they learn to handle lawsuits, to prosecute and defend the criminally accused, to write and negotiate contracts and, notably, to serve as judges who decide the Constitutional rights of Americans.
The Founders who risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor in writing, debating and fighting for the sacred document that embodies those rights would be disappointed.
(Glenn Beaton was a successful law student who received a perfect score in Property Law. To this day, he can recite from memory the Rule against Perpetuities — “No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than twenty-one years after some life in being at the creation of the interest” — but he doesn’t know how to do a house closing.)