Travels with Advise-In: Law and Philosophy Roundtable at Auburn University

Auburn University’s Department of Philosophy graciously asked me to participate in its Law and Philosophy Conference roundtable discussion this coming weekend.  Not only does the conference promise to be exciting but I’ll also get to visit the hometown of the #1-ranked team in college football (I’ll have to be satisfied with vicarious excellence, since the Yankees fizzled and my Denver Broncos are a disaster—though there’s still hope for the football Giants and Jets).

The roundtable is exceptionally well-conceived, and I see firsthand why Auburn’s Philosophy Department received the acclaim it did in The New York Times Magazine a couple of years ago.

Academic conferences often focus too much on theoretical issues without bringing perspectives down (or up, in my view) to a practical level.  Not so here.  This conference will have plenty of theoretical discussion but it’s geared toward undergraduates considering law school and a career in the law.  Accordingly, Auburn has invited law school professors, undergraduate professors, practicing government lawyers and me.  Students and panelists will be able to gain new and deeper perspectives, from various viewpoints, on everything from preparing for law school as an undergraduate, the LSAT, law school admissions, law school and—most important—the relationship between all of these and careers in the law, whether as an academic or a lawyer.  For the latter, the roundtable will include representatives from public law and me, a longtime former large firm lawyer.

This kind of gathering is all too rare.  Everyone’s view of law school and the law is limited (some more limited than others) and I think it’s vitally important for those considering law school to have a beginning-to-end perspective.  That doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should, the evidence of which includes a lot of unhappy lawyers and a lot of law students who spend a great deal of time and money to enter a career they don’t have nearly enough information about (to say nothing of the pressures on the law market that make the law a harder field to enter than it traditionally has been).

I blog regularly about the importance of understanding the day-to-day practice of law before you go to law school (many of those posts are archived in “Beyond Law School” and “Becoming a Lawyer”).  Realistic expectations are critical to making your investment a wise one—and giving you long-term career satisfaction.  Wisdom and happiness coincide here (it would be nice if that happened more often).  More responsible law schools echo that view (I’ll comment on the Yale Law Director of Admissions’ plea later this week).

There are a lot of pressures on talented students to go to law school.  Some come from family members and colleagues.  Others come from commercial interests.  It’s of course true that Advise-In depends on people going to law school for its income.  But it’s not worth a little short-term cash to lead prospective law students down a garden path that isn’t likely to lead to a nice garden.  There are a lot of great things about law school and the practice of law but they’re not the best choice for everyone.  And they’re not choices anyone should make without having first done their homework (or due diligence, if you prefer).  You should know, as best you can, what the garden will be like before you have to start pulling its weeds and growing its herbs.

If you’re an Auburn student, you have a unique opportunity to get a large-spectrum perspective on law school and the law (and I’m sure all of the presenters will learn a lot, too).  Your Department of Philosophy is performing a terrific service.  Other colleges and universities that haven’t hosted a similar conference might look to follow suit.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on October 27, 2010.

One Response to “Travels with Advise-In: Law and Philosophy Roundtable at Auburn University”

  1. […] I had the pleasure of participating in a roundtable discussion at the Auburn University Philosophy and Law Conference.  The panelists included two lawyers […]

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