Some days the humour fades, the eyes get heavy, and the spirit seems weary and unwilling. No matter how one tries to put a brave face on it, the smallest things start to bring one down, even when you are caught up in your work and feeling like you understand the law--or at least your lessons. Today my nemesis was the pressure to pay $100 to Barbri for bar examination test prep, not because that's on my horizon at the moment, but because it's the last day to do so before they threaten to raise prices. LSATs, tuition, commercial outlines, Barbri, Bar exam fees--there are times when it feels like your whole point in existence is to pay for exams.
In this mood I wandered into Contracts, where I sit in the front row. Prof. Contracts, a cheerful curmudgeon who is constantly telling us to look at our cases with a healthy dose of cynicism, bore the full brunt of my own. "You know, I started this education with the thought that 'LAW IS A RACKET.' It makes so much more sense when you look at it that way." Then I obstinately chomped on a jellybean provided to me by Barbri as yet another of the peripheral bribes one finds here.
To his credit, he asked what I meant and listened when I said that sometimes it seems there's an obscene amount of money floating around this school and the legal system in general. He commented on the parts of the debate that are old: whether the bar exam is guild-like, and whether the third year of law school is actually necessary. Then he started class, and briefly commented on what he'd just been talking about.
His response was just to quote Edmund Burke, in his statement to Parliament regarding their soon-to-be-rebellious colonies. Along with English descent, a tradition of democracy, religious fervor in the north, manner and mores in the south, and the trials of distance, Burke specifically cited the strength and prevalence of a legal education as one of the foundations of Americans' love of liberty.
In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study. The profession itself is numerous and powerful; and in most provinces it takes the lead.... I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone's Commentaries in America as in England.... This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defence, full of resources. In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.
And then we went on to discuss the parol evidence rule and the meaning of the word 'chicken.' But whatever, it put things into a bit of context for me, into a bit of purpose. There's a time and a place for cynicism, but you don't live there.