Law in Contemporary Society

1L “Selfnessless” and Its Implications on the Law Student

-- By MaxKingsley - 15 Feb 2023


Selfness is commonly understood as a person’s essential individuality; it is a framework through which we evaluate our individual characteristics to distinguish ourselves from others. In almost every way, selfness is tethered to our own humanity- it enables us to find value in our uniqueness and to establish a sense of personhood. This perhaps explains why integration into law school can feel particularly jarring to first year law students. The 1L curriculum largely requires that we suppress our individual passions to morph into the ideal law student. This idea, of course, is rooted in logical considerations. As Judge Celia Day pointed out in Lawyerland’s “All Great Problems Come from the Streets”, it is not a judge’s job to make the law but rather to discern it: “Our commission is to keep our personal predispositions under control”. This is because to reinforce the law’s legitimacy, our society has perpetuated the notion that the law is objective. However, as we have seen through history and experience, it is almost virtually impossible to separate our own sense of individuality from the law that is created and enforced. This essay, therefore, will be an examination of law school’s tendency to promote “selfnessless” and its implications on law students.

This use of the word, which is hardly standard. turns this, so far as this paragraph is concerned, into an exploration of the absence of legal objectivity. That was, as I showed, the big news of 1897. I invited you to consider our inquiry into the roots and branches of legal realism, but all I got was this not really relevant T-shirt from Lawyerland.

Lack of Agency

By choosing the majority of our 1L classes for us, the law school administration strips us of our own agency and requires us to take courses that are litigation focused. For many, like myself, who have no desire to pursue a career in litigation, this presents several challenges to selfness. The curriculum forces students to adopt a unilateral conception of the law. In turn, this may lead to increased alienation among students. Two studies at the University of Michigan Law School found that student alienation emerged as a result of disengagement from the social and professional aspects of the law school. Students who were highly alienated did not feel they were a part of an active or caring association, they felt uncertain about their own reasons for attending law school, and they derived little enjoyment from their classes. Thus, students may find themselves questioning their decision to come to law school, wondering whether they would have been better served pursuing a career that makes them feel included, not alienated.

As I have tried to show, dealing with these as valid questions is the appropriate response. Why are we treating the presence of the questions as a sign of malfunction, exactly?


In law school, students' worth is determined primarily through arbitrary grading mechanisms, which further promotes selfnessless. Each year, students are pitted against each other by the grading curve. These grades provide employers with an apparatus through which to rank us by dividing us into numerical averages that are wrongly fastened to our propensity for success. Thus, we are judged and valued not primarily through a lifetime of personal achievements, interests, and experiences, but through our ability to regurgitate, in three hours, exactly what each professor wants to see on an exam. Our value as law students is therefore not rooted in personal passion, improvement, or intellectual cultivation, but in test-taking. Law school’s fixation on numerical ranking encourages students to abandon their own interests. It makes students feel like the unique facets that comprise their personalities are not valuable. It causes students to desert their hobbies, to cease to do the things which make them happy, to quit cultivating their passions. Instead, it encourages many students to spend their free time studying for an exam, which they think will define their future success.

Grades are stupid. I invited you to acknowledge the possibility, established in this course, that we can co-exist with the hostility and stupidity of the grading system, collectively as well as individually. It's fine with me if you disagree, but why is ignoring what we are doing together the way to go?

Cold Calling

The socratic method also decays students’ sense of selfness. Proponents of the socratic method claim that it fosters deeply analytical classroom discussion by teaching students to think critically. However, in my experience, the socratic method achieves the opposite effect. It does not foster valuable classroom discussion- It requires students to meet professors where they are. It discourages students from contributing to discussion when they have something meaningful to say and instead forces students to discuss issues which they may not feel comfortable discussing. This may lead to intense feelings of stress and anxiety, and students thus tend to feel like their own perspectives are not warranted.. In 2015, the ABA virtually screened approximately 4,000 students at 84 law schools across the country to examine their mental health. The findings revealed that 76% of the screened students demonstrated symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. While cold calling cannot be traced as the sole impetus of student anxiety, it definitely plays a major role.

Not necessarily, as again I tried to show. It depends on how the student approaches the process of ensemble performance that is, or is intended to be, the conduct of a class in this style. You may indeed again disagree with me, but how is ignoring what we did in this course the way to write in it?

On the procedural side, how is a study that does not address the causes of anxiety evidence of the causes of anxiety? And how does the blog post "definitely" establish what the study does not? The reader will justifiably be concerned that you are fudging.

What do we do?

The 1L curriculum ultimately leads students to feel like the law has no place for them, like their value should be determined through grades, and like their voices are not warranted.

As the man making the place, may I ask once more that if you are going to write about the subject of the course you at least consider what I taught in it?

This makes students feel alienated, anxious, and self-less. In order to help restore selfness in students on an institutional level, law schools can give 1Ls more agency over their own schedules, eradicate the socratic method, and de-emphasize grading mechanisms. However, this seems like an unrealistic (albeit helpful) solution. So, what are students to do? Well, one potential start for 1Ls is to stop caring as much. Rather than adhering strictly to the alienating framework that underlies the law school experience, students should stop working for the law school and instead make the law school work for them. Don't feel like answering an out-of-pocket cold call? Talk about something else. Too tired to spend the extra few hours studying for that final? Go to sleep. Getting frustrated that your real interests aren't being explored through your curriculum? Make the time to explore your interests elsewhere. If students stopped caring about becoming the "ideal" law student and worrying about the repercussions of their academic performance, and if students instead marched to the beat of their own drum (and not the administration's), I believe that selfness could be restored.

What Googling could do has been done, and it was somewhat helpful.

On the other front, the draft remains impervious to the irony of criticizing law school for not being the course in which you are writing the essay while ignoring the teaching. I do appreciate that some practical suggestions I have made have been incorporated without reference (they are free software, as far as I am concerned, though attribution is always desirable), but the ideological adjustment beneath them (that the point is to "care less") seems to me worthy of more critical examination than you give to it.

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r6 - 25 Apr 2023 - 12:46:36 - EbenMoglen
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