Law in Contemporary Society

Mutually Economic Dependent Relationships

Our legal world consists of mutually dependent economic relationships. For example, consider the relationship between Tharaud and Cerriere in "Cerriere's Answer." Or Skadden and Wachtell: Skadden represented buyers in hostile takeovers, while Wachtell represented incumbent managements seeking to prevent takeovers by preventive measures or to defend themselves against immediate hostile acquisition.

Buyers and sellers of anything, including educational services, are mutually dependent. The relationship between law students and their law school is mutually economically dependent. Law students depend on the law school to grant a degree (and the signaling, legitimizing factor the degree, in turn, provides) and to establish the network of intelligent, creative, law-minded students which will help support a future practice. The law school's influence is also dependent on law students' continued participation; our success boosts our school's rankings.

But there is a crucial difference between the type of dependence the law school has on students and the dependence students have on the law school: students need not continue their dependence. Try, as a perceptual exercise, to imagine that the end of your work here isn't a job, but a law practice. Your practice is signified by your license, which entitles you to have and solicit clients. You drive your practice, so that it produces the mix of social benefit and material reward that you define as necessary, changing and evolving throughout your life so that your investment in your license returns to you the life you want to have and control.

Choosing the first path is still possible. Choosing the second is better, under twenty-first century conditions. This point is not yet well-appreciated, and for this reason more timid students, who probably should not undertake entrepreneurial practice under any circumstances anyway, will overwhelmingly take the first road. But thoughtful, adventurous people, who can see that there are many things amiss about the system that is dying—which made a few people wealthy, lots of people miserable, and society very little better off—will not only entertain but will actively seek out the road to a more humane, thoughtful, independent, socially fulfilling way of using a law license. They will discover that Columbia is doing them enormous good, because it enables them to build, while here and after leaving, a network of lawyers who are potentially collaborators, sources of referred clients, instructing counsel, international correspondents, etc. In twenty-first century practice, it's the global strength of your network that counts, and from the time you arrive here, our network is yours to build from.

If students apply the perceptual exercise above to the law school experience, it might inspire some to drive their law school experience in a similar vein to the way they one day hope to drive their own law practice. The name "Columbia Law School" on one's degree is not necessary for a creative law student to find ways to meaningfully impact the lives of others with his/her legal knowledge or make money for that matter. Skills and drive are necessary; pedigree is not.


The prospect of grades coerces students into participating in the norms of law school learning (reading beyond the optimal point of fatigue, reading for volume as opposed to for memory). If, as a class, we collectively refused to participate in the grading system by refusing to take finals until the school re-opens the debate about switching to a credit/fail system then the system might lose its potency as a form of control.

If we create a twiki for other classes in which students can collaboratively continue a line of analysis/discussion if/when it is cut off by professors in the classroom, we will learn the ideas and perspectives of more than those in our immediate social circles, as opposed to what the professor wants to direct us towards learning. The system might lose its potency as a form of control.

If we propose the prospect of group tests/papers in upper-level courses, then we might replace the persistent competition with a collaborative atmosphere - a complaint discussed by Lizzie. The system might lose its potency as a form of control.

(PrashantRai, EbenMoglen, DanielChung, SkylarPolansky, HarryKhanna 4 Apr 2012)


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r9 - 22 Jan 2013 - 19:57:59 - IanSullivan
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