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Susan Cartier Liebel

Excellent post, as always, Stephanie. Most people would applaud the efforts of these students. But I ask you, does one have to be exploited as a child worker in unsafe conditions to know that there is something fundamentally wrong with forcing children into labor in order to speak out with conviction? Does someone have to be a victim of crime in order to be a passionate proponent of victim's rights? Does a lawyer have to have been married and have children and then divorced in order to represent someone in a divorce with compassion and understanding? Just another perspective. I agree with what you say in many ways. However, if everyone who tries to effectuate change has to have experienced the injustice first where would that leave this world?


Hi, Susan, and thanks for commenting. I am a bit confused. I don't understand the parallel between child labor, crime victims, and the choice to work in a large law firm? If the students don't like what they think will happen if they go to large firms, they can choose another path. They are very fortunate to have so many, many options. To tell the firms, "I have not practiced law and I have not worked for your firm but I am asking that you make these changes before I consider working for you" strikes me as a bit callow. Are you saying that working at a large firm is an injustice?

I love the book Your Greatest Power by J. Martin Kohe. The little book explains the power of choice. These students have many more choices than most people in our society. Maybe they should balance their demands with a little gratitude?

Susan Cartier Liebel

My response is to your definition of "POO" Pontificating Outside Observer...(and your story about South Africa)the idea that until one is deeply embedded in the trenches, really feels what it is like to experience something, they are not qualified to speak with conviction or passion or advocate for change. That only one who has had those specific experiences can speak with an opinion or authority on that experience. This is the message I walked away with from your post. Yes, we all have choices. The fact I chose analogies that speak of injustice was accidental. But it makes the point of one doesn't always have to have the experience to speak with passion and advocate for change. I don't believe these students are ungrateful. But maybe the choices are not as vast as you think. In law school (at least today) the drill is you have to "work at the large law firm...pay your dues...give up your life, etc.) Doesn't really feel like a choice when you are carrying $160,000 in debt and 25 years old.


I am not saying that a person cannot see a situation and feel that it is inconsistent with his or her personal value system. I am saying that until one understands the culture or the business, the methods of change he or she sees may be incomplete, naive, or counter-productive.

This is an issue with many factors: the student's choice to take on the debt, the reason the cost is that high to attend law school, the student's belief that he or she has no options, and many more, all of which need to be considered. To say, "I have this debt therefore the law firms must change and in a way I have determined with no experience" seems a bit simplistic.

To me a 25-year-old is an adult with his or her whole life ahead. To paraphrase a song: What does age have to do with it?

Thanks for the fine discussion, Susan!


Good job, Stephanie, and astute comments. I had tried many criminal jury trials, including capital murder cases, when I first worked as a small-firm plaintiff's lawyer in a little bitty car wreck case against insurance company defense guys.

These were not even BIG FIRM guys, but just in-house counsel. I worked my butt off trying to work that case. Managed to score a tiny little verdict. Heartbreaking.

Yes, I say, you absolutely have to be in the trenches for a while, in order to be able understand the culture, and then to be able to make ANY kind of recommendations.

I can add any number of other "I was there" examples, but realize I am probably preaching to the choir.

Being there makes all the difference.

Michelle Golden

Hi Stephanie, I love the irony. I found this post when I Googled (I know that is not supposed to be a verb...) LSBABLP today. I was surprised at the end of your post to see a link to my post from two days ago!

Okay, I concede that you're right about walking a mile in someone's shoes before deciding the shoes are ill formed. Maybe the students have it all wrong. Or do they?

I worked in a 400 person law firm (6 offices, 3 states) and I saw, first-hand, the sacrifices new lawyers made to wiggle their way into a spot in the firm. And I watched crazy high turnover. But it wasn't all bad or sad. I saw happy lawyers, thriving lawyers and driven lawyers as well as bitter lawyers, exhausted lawyers and disenchanted lawyers.

I guess what I'm getting at is that broad generalizations are always dangerous. But they are neither always wrong nor always right. Where the students are getting their information is not as important to me as the fact that a lot of what they are saying is spot on.

It is not without risk to discard the view of those less salty and experienced because they "haven't lived enough yet."

On the contrary, I believe the most brilliant innovations for the professions will come from intelligent people who care to investigate their options and have the courage to shake their heads and espouse when something doesn't make sense to them. If the "way things are" were grand enough, then lawyer attrition wouldn't be at 85% in the first five years of practice.

Personally, I'm very happy to see people who aren't mired in the day-to-day grind take the time to explore and pontificate (yes, as POOs...I love that) because those who are in the firms have little time and too much political disincentive to challenge status quo.

I think it's an important part of the evolution of professional service culture.

Thanks for a great post that inspired such good discussion.

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