Many entrants into the legal profession decided to become lawyers after they were inspired by improvements in social conditions achieved by lawyers like Abraham Lincoln and Thurgood Marshall or literary heroes like Atticus Finch. The historical record of achievement recursively invites new generations into this occupation. Once these entrants arrive at law school, however, the sense of inspiration with which they began often fades, and an inchoate pessimism, if not full-blown cynicism or depression, takes its place. Critics of contemporary legal education who lament this descent into malaise tend to see no cure for it. When they do offer a fix, it looks uncannily like an agenda they advocated in another context, repackaged as a tonic.
This Essay explores a better source of vigor and occupational skill within legal education. Learning about the perils and defeats that their profession experiences would, paradoxically, increase the strengths of new lawyers. In this context, forewarned really does mean forearmed. Informed judgment about this profession includes knowing how and why lawyers lose their licenses; why a lawyer pays out money for malpractice; what constitutes a breach of fiduciary duty; what level of work performance is incompetent or ineffective under the Sixth Amendment; when to struggle against judges; why a lawyer is disqualified from representing clients; and why lawyers forfeit some of their freedoms of speech and association. A command of pitfalls enables individual lawyers not only to defend themselves against the attacks they might someday face but also to advance what is good for their clients and the public. Only from a base of pitfalls-knowledge can lawyers master their own profession.
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