"Drink the Kool-Aid; Join the Cult":
Paul Horwitz offers the following advice to entering first-year law students: "Drink the Kool-Aid."
Joining a profession is a little like learning a new language, and a lot like joining a cult. (Or "new religious movement," for the scholars.) Don't resist it. There's a wonderfully awful book called Anarchy and Elegance, about a year spent by a journalist as a Yale 1L. He writes quite accurately about how law school changes your mindset, but by standing outside the process and resisting it almost entirely, he fails to learn half of what he could and to understand most of the other half. I am not advising you to abandon any critical perspective on the law and the legal profession, on professionalism and acculturation in general, and on law school. But if you are only critical, without willingly absorbing any of what you are learning, you will become a half-educated cynic. To a certain degree, to get the most out of law school -- the most education, but also the most joy -- you must give yourself over to the process and allow law school to remake your mind a little. There will be time enough to cast a critical eye back over what you've learned and to ask whether all of the law and the legal profession's assumptions are correct -- indeed, you'll get plenty of that in law school itself, given my suspicion that a decreasing number of law professors actually "think like lawyers," for better and worse. But you've got to immerse yourself first. So, drink the Kool-Aid; join the cult.
That was actually advice item #6 out of a list of 7 items, but I thought it was the most provocative. Check out the post for more.
SupremacyClaus (mail) (www):
The literal aspects of law school are devastating to our nation. Intelligent, modern people come to believe, minds can be read, the future forecast, in the word, reasonable, the central word of the law. It has a lawless meaning, in accordance with the New Testament, and comes from Scholasticism, in violation of the Establishment Clause. Otherwise intelligent people come to believe the gut feelings of 12 people off the street serve as a reliable truth detector, when physiological measures are excluded as unreliable. They do that without the slightest shred of evidence, just by intimidation. When it comes to the public, the hierarchy imposes its sick ideology at the point of a gun, the sole validation of the law today.

They glorify a legal system where every self-stated goal of every subject is in utter failure. The sole success of the legal profession is in its massive rent seeking, at the point of gun, from its control of the three branches of government.

After the indoctrination, and the belief in unlawful supernatural doctrines, the grads will face a vicious, draconian, pitiless system of lawyer discipline. Meant to protect the public, it only enforces cult orthodoxy.

At every utterance of the cult indoctrinators in 1L, one should assert, minds cannot be read. Future, rare accidents cannot be forecast. This is anti-scientific, lawless Medieval, Scholasticist garbage causing the utter failure of every goal of the law. Tell the indoctrinator to be silent if that is all he has to offer. Silence is better than the lawbreaking proposed in 1L.
8.18.2008 4:11pm
EH (mail):
Rule 6 conflicts with Rule 2 (and maybe rule 7).
8.18.2008 4:11pm
dave h:
Speaking as a non-lawyer, I don't think I could disagree more. Perhaps it is good advice for the career of a law student, but I think it's bad for us as a whole. There are a lot of aspects of the law that should be accessible to everyone, and a wall between people who "think like lawyers" and those who do not makes that difficult. For instance, if I had to choose between approaching a commerce clause case based on logic, or based on past jurisprudence (and these two things are mutually exclusive) then I'd much rather the former. Since I've never been to law school, maybe logic is stressed, but it seems at most to be stressed only to the extent that it doesn't conflict with the wacky past results.

Looking closely, his post isn't over the top (remake your mind "a little"). I'm glad to hear fewer law professors think like lawyers.
8.18.2008 4:19pm
Paul Horwitz (mail):
EH, thanks for the interesting comment. I'll give it more thought, but my instant reaction is that I disagree. I can see the argument that rule 7 conflicts with rule 6: how can you "drink the Kool-Aid" while retaining a dollop of common sense? But I think a certain amount of perspective is available and allowable here. It should be possible to give yourself over to the "process" with a fair degree of enthusiasm while still applying some common sense and trying to stay a little grounded as you start absorbing the lessons of your legal education. In the long run, certainly, I think common sense is essential to sound lawyering. Even in the short run, while you're letting the map of your mind get remade, I don't think that means you cast common sense overboard; you just have to appreciate the value of learning to think differently while understanding that "thinking differently" doesn't mean thinking foolishly. I find it harder to see the conflict with rule 2, so you'll have to enlighten me further. In any event, thanks for reading and commenting -- and, of course, thanks for linking, Orin.
8.18.2008 4:22pm
Anderson (mail):
He writes quite accurately about how law school changes your mindset

Amen to that. Hasn't made me more of an argumentative little bitch -- I was that from the cradle, apparently -- but it does darken one's outlook on life, in a way. Everything is filtered through tort-colored glasses.

My dad liked to quote some half-remembered proverb: "To the soldier, nothing is safe; to the doctor, nothing is wholesome; to the priest, nothing is pure."

To the attorney, nothing is innocent.
8.18.2008 4:22pm
FWIW, I took Paul to be making a point about roles. A lawyer plays a role, and it is possible to jump into the internal mindset of the lawyer and the legal profession to understand how lawyers often see the world. I take Paul to be arguing that a law student should try it: He should understand that mindset. But, Dave H, he's not arguing that the law student should stay there, or that this is the only worldview he should have.
8.18.2008 4:27pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I had the mindset before I got to college let alone law school so LS didn't change me much. I got it from reading cases and statues over the years as well as the writings of lawyers. Since a real reader can absorb the mindset of a writer automatically by the process of reading (a phenomenon missed by all the literate non-readers out there), I couldn't help myself.

In fact it was a constitutional interp argument that made me an anarchist.

I wonder how it is that people can arrive at law school not knowing how to read a case or indulge in the legal mindset? It's all pretty obviously presented by loads of fiction and non-fiction that a real reader will encounter.
8.18.2008 4:40pm
bikeguy (mail):
The same type of mindset altering immersion takes place in Med School. I vividly remember the comments of one of my friends who went on to Med School following our graduation with advanced degrees in Biomedical Engineering. Going into medical school he wanted to better understand human physiology and the practice of medicine to be a better biomedical engineer. He came out a vanilla family practitioner. He told me that following medical school he could no longer "think like an engineer."
8.18.2008 4:47pm
Anderson (mail):
In fact it was a constitutional interp argument that made me an anarchist.

An-archist law-yer ... I'm sensing a contradiction in terms here?
8.18.2008 4:48pm
I hate to slam a law professor (although none of them minded slamming me back in the worst three years of anyone's life), but only his Advice #3 about legal writing is worth taking.

Law isn't a cult because cults occasionally provide spiritual insights to people. Lawyering is just a dysfunctional profession that rewards nerdy bullying. But you can get really good at nerdy bullying from taking Horwitz's advice on legal writing.
8.18.2008 4:49pm
Bay area 3L:
"Drink the Kool-Aid" -- my advice: don't. It's one thing to learn how to read and think like a lawyer. It's another to let the legal culture bleed into the rest of your personality.

Instead: do learn how to put on your legal hat. But please take it off when you leave the classroom, workroom, or courtroom.
8.18.2008 4:53pm
Anderson (mail):
Mr. Frissell's comment sent me wandering to the Wiki article on anarchism, which includes this lovely tidbit:

Proudhon proposed spontaneous order, whereby organization emerges without central authority, a "positive anarchy" where order arises when everybody does "what he wishes and only what he wishes" and where "business transactions alone produce the social order."

From Proudhon to Hayek?

If, dear Reader, you agree
That all we need is a market free,
And government would not be missed --
Then you may be an Anarchist.
8.18.2008 4:54pm
if Spooner's arguments make sense to you, and are indicative of the way in which lawyers think, I am even more glad of my aversion to such a profession.
8.18.2008 4:56pm
Paul Horwitz (mail):
A quick comment to the Bay Area student: I'm not sure we disagree that much. I didn't walk around as a law student seeing a tort everywhere or engaging random strangers in Socratic dialogue, although Lord knows some law students do; happily, most outgrow the habit. I agree that you can take the "hat" on and off and, ultimately, should -- although I doubt one's personality can be completely compartmentalized, and surely some aspects of the analytical skills you learn in law school will affect your broader worldview. In saying, "drink the Kool-Aid," I'm saying you've got to put the hat on in the first place, which I think does involve at least some willing immersion in the materials and the process. In short, as you put it, "learning to think like a lawyer" is a necessary part of the process, even if you also remember to think like a spouse, neighbor, citizen, etc.
8.18.2008 5:00pm
Justin (mail):
I always likened it to brainwashing. And I'll confirm that those who accepted the brainwashing the easiest did the best their first year of law school.
8.18.2008 5:10pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Wayull, some lawyers hereabouts and elsewhere keep their hats on a good percentage of the time.

You can tell by the way they argue. If they like a conclusion or assertion which has a moral tone, morality is all important. If it's scummy, there must be a case someplace making it mandatory, and haha to morality. And if they get beat on the law, there must be a moral component to the argument. And vice versa. Oh yeah. Facts are optional.

That's how they earn their living, and it affects how they interact with the rest of the world.
8.18.2008 5:12pm
I agree with the comment, though Llewellyn said it best: "There is no cure for the law but more law." 1L year is only that - a year - and you owe it to yourself and your grades to just hand yourself over to it. Reevaluate it all thereafter.
8.18.2008 5:15pm
Following Paul's comment, I think it's also good to be able to take the hat off when you're away from work. If you talk to your friends like you're deposing them, you'll soon have fewer friends.
8.18.2008 5:16pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
The professor who taught me the most about "the law", as in the conceptual framework, was Ray Forrester who taught constitutional law. This sweet 90 year old guy would lead us into a black-letter understanding the intricacies of, say, the Lemons test. Then, in the final 15 minutes of each class he would RAGE against the idea that the cases before us descended from and belonged to a coherent body of jurisprudence, or that such a coherent approach even existed. He raged against the idea that the Supreme court and congress viewed the constitution as other than an obstacle to, or a tool to acquire, their particular objective. Our jurisprudence is a chaotic damaged mess that the Supremes and law professors strain mightily to construct an intelligible consistency from, but they are always defeated by bad choices made in furtherance of narrow objectives. And he did this with incisiveness, with the language of the opinions and statutes and he was convincing.

My attendance was perfect.
8.18.2008 5:19pm
I actually tried to drink the Kool-Aid, but the bullying and bad behavior that went along with it made me throw it right back up again. Most traumatic experience of my life.

I did have to learn how to be a lawyer anyway, so I made a second attempt. For that one, I kept my guard up and assumed that the people around me did NOT have my interests at heart. That's the one that took.

Perhaps some people need to be told to lower their guard so that a new educational process can have an effect. But only some. Others need to be told to put their guard up so they don't get thrashed. Too much openness is as bad as too little.
8.18.2008 5:21pm
Houston Lawyer:
There is not likely a more obnoxious group around than earnest 1Ls in their study groups. They are annoying even to the other law students. It is a phase that the vast majority get over.

Those tort-colored glasses even go away after some time. They can be damned annoying when you first put them on.
8.18.2008 5:59pm
Mark Jones:

In fact it was a constitutional interp argument that made me an anarchist.

An-archist law-yer ... I'm sensing a contradiction in terms here?

Why? You can be an anarchist at heart while still recognizing that there is, in fact, a government at present. And having acknowledged that it exists (even if you'd rather it didn't) why should you not use its own laws and legal system as tools? At the very least, knowing how it works makes it easier to defend yourself from it.
8.18.2008 6:15pm
jpe (mail):

And I'll confirm that those who accepted the brainwashing the easiest did the best their first year of law school.

I think that's right. And I know I did worse than I should've in law school because of some stupid resistance I felt I had to put up.
8.18.2008 6:20pm
jpe (mail):
Our jurisprudence is a chaotic damaged mess that the Supremes and law professors strain mightily to construct an intelligible consistency from

We can say that about the entire common law project, no? (Conlaw is much like common law in that it seeks to work the law pure)
8.18.2008 6:22pm
As someone who did quite well at a good law school, I saw a hearty "meh" to this advice. If "drinking the Kool Aid" means doing the reading and being engaged in class and classwork, well and good. If it means engaging in the whole bullshit obnoxiousness in which a bunch of reasonably smart people descend to the maturity and emotional level of high schoolers, think twice. Maybe it improves your performance (in law school) - I wouldn't know - but it also ensures you'll graduate an obnoxious, half-educated twit. Most people do grow out of that, though - eventually.
8.18.2008 7:32pm
TM boy:
Guy in the veal calf office wrote:

Then, in the final 15 minutes of each class he would RAGE against the idea that the cases before us descended from and belonged to a coherent body of jurisprudence, or that such a coherent approach even existed. He raged against the idea that the Supreme court and congress viewed the constitution as other than an obstacle to, or a tool to acquire, their particular objective.

It's cynical, but I agree completely. My constitutional law professor asked us, "What's the most important thing to remember?" Answer: Five, because all it takes is a majority of justices.

Constitutional law is a joke.
8.18.2008 7:45pm
Prof. Horwitz offers excellent advice to incoming law students.

The goal of law school is to teach students to "think like a lawyer." To me, that means being able to look at an issue dispationately, to see the strengths in the arguments of an opponent, no matter how loathsome the postion of the opponent may be, and to identify ways to combat or cirmumvent those strong points within the confining framework of the law - or to identify the unfortunate fact that your side does not have a case. Often, this process will mean that justice cannot triumph, because the law is a limited tool, created and amendended by Members of Congress and judges who often disagree with... me.

The ability to look at situations dispassionately can be highly annoying outside the discrete legal function. Most people would much rather hear "Yes" than "No", and the habit of dispassion leads too often to "No" and to dismissiveness of feelings and moral fervor.
8.18.2008 7:48pm
Having just graduated, I agree with #6 (if confined to year 1) but think #7 is most important. By "Drink the Kool-aid", I think Paul means to not resist the ideal view of law taught in the first year legal curriculum. Sure, we older cynics know that most law isn't a coherent, logical body of ways of dictating the best outcome, but there is some beauty to the way the ideal law fits together.

And then you get to a practical class or the bar, and see how governments and judges were perfectly happy to break these cool frameworks for their own personal biases or to please constituents, or even just because the ideal framework just isn't as efficient as a potentially less fair rule.

It's kind of like taking calculus for mathematicians in freshman year of undergrad, then getting into higher level engineering courses and realizing that all that beautiful math comes crashing down when you start actually building engines or robots or airplanes (I was a MechE.)

But the key is that while you immerse yourself in that beautiful ideal law in 1L year, you can't lose your common sense. The law isn't automatically right, and where it dictates a particularly silly result, either your interpretation is wrong or the court will likely disagree. And as Scott Adams would add, BOCTAOE.
8.18.2008 7:57pm
For those as confused as I was, BOCTAOE
8.18.2008 8:36pm
LTEC (mail) (www):
For heaven's sake, why has "drink the kool-aid" come to mean joining a cult or becoming brainwashed. The people at Jonestown who drank the kool-aid were not joining anything; they had already joined compleltely, and drinking the kool-aid was their final proof of that.
8.18.2008 8:42pm
Actually the people at Jonestown drank Flavor Aid, not Kool Aid which is a similar product by a different manufacturer. That was a huge story when I was in college and I remember it well. I have always wondered how the kool-aid thing got into common useage. My guess is lazy journalists. God knows there are plenty of them. The only cite that I can find to back up my assertion is on Wikipedia. It would be nice to correct the record.
8.18.2008 11:01pm
Luis (mail) (www):
All of those points (as I understood them) are pretty good advice for graduate school in general:

1. Grad school is not Undergrad II(: Electric Boogaloo). It's its own animal. Has its own rules, does its own thing.

2. People don't usually tell you how to "strategize" in grad school, but you shouldn't, anyway. The whole point is to get you to be able to engage, digest, understand, evaluate, and intelligently discuss the material. There are no shortcuts to that.

3. Academic writing typically isn't taught explicitly in a course at all. But each discipline has its own. Research reports in particular can be described in language much like that in Horwitz' post. To a lesser degree, so can grant writing.

4. Yeah, learn, don't transcribe.

5. Screwing up is how you learn. I swear the unofficial motto of second year in my program is "You're doing it wrong." There's no other way to get to doing it right!

6. "Drinking the Kool-Aid" could be more elegantly conceptualized as "Get acculturated into your profession". Its language, its customs and its antient usages are all peculiar to itself. Learning them is the best route to knowing when, and how, to break the rules.

7. And, yeah, common sense.

Fun post -- thanks for pointing it out.
8.19.2008 12:07am
David Warner:
To take the metaphor to the nth degree, Jones himself couldn't bear to drink the Kool Flavor Aid, instead shooting himself in the head. I still remember the video of him splayed there with his huge bare gut mooning the world.

If the folks running the joint aren't drinking it, I'm not sure its good advice for the peons to do so. Lawyer Hat good, Kool Aid bad.
8.19.2008 2:59am
Public_Defender (mail):
As to number 6, it's a lot more than just knowing how to write and make arguments. Despite the jokes, it's about an ethical way to do that. It's about arguing honestly and trusting the system to get it right. It's also about demanding honesty and integrity from the system.

One under-reported example is Pakistan. The lawyers in Pakistan went to the streets to fight the politically-motivated and illegal sacking of the many of the country's judges, including the chief justice. They were courageous in the face of real threats not seen in this country since some violently fought the enforcement of civil rights.

And this week, they won. Musharraf is out of power, and they have a chance to restore the country's judiciary to at least some semblance of integrity. Pakistan's lawyers were not the only force for integrity, but they were a major force.
8.19.2008 8:19am
Paul Horwitz (mail):
Of course I've appreciated all the comments -- even, perhaps especially, the ones that disagree. You're always welcome to take the fight to Prawfs too. I just wanted to add that I think the last comment, by "public defender," is an important one and links up my #6 to my earlier points about this being a profession, and perhaps adds a little depth to the discussion about putting on your "lawyer hat." I don't assume the job of lawyering is done once you've taken care of your clients. I assume that you have larger duties to the profession, and that one of the broader goals of your professional career should be to leave the profession in as good or better shape than it was when you entered it. That can mean all kinds of things -- preserving honor and integrity, looking for good-sense reforms, improving access to legal services or, for that matter, trying to ensure less frivolous or costly litigation, and even questioning the underlying precepts of the profession itself. It does mean that your "lawyer hat" involves more than client service -- it involves broader duties to be an active member of your profession. I don't know what "hat" that involves wearing -- lawyer? citizen? both? -- but it does mean that it's not just a 9-5 (or 7-9) job.
8.19.2008 11:11am
Andrew M:
I can't comment on law school (although I take an interest in the subject), but after 4 years of engineering school, if you really get into it, your entire perspective on the world changes. What was once thought "Wow, that's amazing!" is "Huh......Oh! so THAT'S how it works"
8.19.2008 11:20am
David Warner:
Very well said, Paul and Public_Defender.

My concern is with the guildification of our professions, especially those who have warped the political process for their own ends. What the two of you describe, on the other hand, is, I believe, the result of the exact opposite of "drinking the Kool Aid". I.e. looking at things from the perspective of a citizen empowered by an extensive understanding of the law, its purposes, and its workings, not as a lawyer seeking the advantage of the cult/guild by any means necessary and proper.
8.19.2008 2:10pm
The General:
saw the headline, thought it was about Obama. Go figure.
8.19.2008 2:15pm
Andrew M-

Having done both, I completely agree. And when you combine the two, and think like a lawyer and like an engineer at the same time...then you find work as a patent lawyer, don't have to deal with death and tragedy for the most part, and are among the most desired law graduates in the country! Or become like Prof. Kerr, which isn't too bad either :)

Joking aside, thinking like an engineer often does give you a leg up in law school, even outside narrow tech law fields. I think engineers are better than average at connecting the ideal legal framework to the real world. At least, that was my spin during on-campus interviews...
8.19.2008 9:46pm
SupremacyClaus (mail) (www):
I am interested in hearing from law grads with hard science backgrounds. You demand a high level of empirical testing and proof of some concept in design before using it.

You are sitting in law school, and a flood of supernatural, vague, indefinable doctrines comes at you daily, yes, to be covered on an exam.

You sit quietly, taking notes, and do not object to the parade of Scholasticist, Medieval garbage. Intent. Foreseeability. Jury fact finding. Reasonable. All supernatural garbage, like a bunco operation of fortune tellers. And none of you says a word.

That is good cult indoctrination. Even better. None of you even realizes cult indoctrination is going on.

The American lawyer profession has be the most effective, most powerful, slickest criminal cult enterprise in history.

With his IQ of 300, Prof. Horwitz is among the first to get a clue to this process. He has no objection, and invites people to suspend all science, logic and common sense. But he has an inkling. And, that is a step forward.
8.20.2008 2:26pm
Yankev (mail):

The American lawyer profession has be the most effective, most powerful, slickest criminal cult enterprise in history.

I remember one of our Profs. (probably either Barry Feld in Crim Law or Bob Oliphaunt in Crim Proc.) had us read a cautionary pamphlet called "The Practice of Law as a Confidence Game." Is it still in print?
8.21.2008 11:01am
SupremacyClaus (mail) (www):
Yes. They are the best. For example, he top First Amendment expert of the nation, with an IQ of 300, has no knowledge of the Scholasticist origins of the core doctrines, and of their violation of the Establishment Clause. This is 10th Grade World History knowledge or Western Civ 101 knowledge. Erased.

Try to point it out, get shunned with less than friendly remarks (see below this comment).

Shunning is a cult response. Let a lawyer oppose the hierarchy, and the brightest, wealthiest, most powerful get crushed, with no recourse. Vicious mass murderers have more recourse than the lawyer that opposes the hierarchy.

As with the Medieval church, only a strong executive, using brutality, can end the power of the hierarchy. If it were competent, people could accept it. However, every self-stated goal of every law subject is in utter failure, save for one. Rent seeking. That one is a resounding success, with $trillion in revenue and 99% control of the three branches of government, that has grown to control half the economy.
8.21.2008 7:44pm