University of Michigan Law School Professor: Mental Value of a Legal Education
November 19, 2013
A University of Michigan School of Law Professor has released a paper explaining what he sees as another argument for law school value, and it has nothing to do with job statistics, earning potential, or how many years the actual education should take. It’s not that Sherman J. Clark doesn’t think those things are important, but he also argues that law school brings something even more crucial to the table, by helping students develop the ability to seek and bring meaning to their lives. The Wall Street Journal highlighted Clark’s view that law school teaches how to “think and to argue about how what we have said and done illuminates what we want or need and who we are, and, thus, to guide what we should do or decide.”
Clark does not think that this argument should be made in lieu of more typical discussions of value like those we listed above, but he thinks that it is one that is worthwhile in its own right: “wherever lies a rich and meaningful way of living, and whether it be manifold or one, we all should agree that it is worth seeking. And we should all agree that what increases our ability and willingness to look for it is of great value indeed.” This is definitely something to think about, in my opinion. As someone who did not pursue a career as a lawyer, I do feel that the training in how to think analytically that is the hallmark of legal education (which started for me, like most people, with the LSAT, as our admissions survey pointed out this week) has been invaluable in other academic, career-related, and everyday areas of life, not to mention providing a mental rigor to the pursuit of goals in a way that most people I know who don’t have a similar background can’t relate to. The tools of inquiry Clark brings up should be familiar to anyone who has attended law school– and they were actually the major reason my mother (an attorney) originally recommended law school to me; she would absolutely agree that there is inherent value in legal education.
Is law school for everyone? No, but there is a place for Clark’s argument in the more general conversation about law school value. It’s hard to assign exact worth to the kind of skill set that he is discussing, but non-monetary factors are relevant, even if they might not be the predominant factors in your choice about whether or not law school is for you. Definitely something to keep in mind– especially since we know that studying for the LSAT alone can actually make you smarter:)