Forget what you might have heard about the glut of lawyers and the over saturation of the legal job market. If virtue is its own reward, I could rightly say the same of law studies. Studying law is its own reward for the following reasons.
(1) We are seekers of truth
Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes; Her Aunt, who, from her earliest youth, had kept a strict regard for truth attempted to believe Matilda: the effort very nearly killed her. – Joseph Belloc
Facts were never pleasing to him. He acquired them with reluctance and got rid of them with relief. He was never on terms with them until he had stood them on their heads. – Sir James Barrie
Law students are familiar with the concept of proof beyond reasonable doubt. What this means is that as a law student, you learn to take everything you hear with a pinch of salt until you’ve verified their accuracy with sources. The fact that we possess excellent research skills makes us seekers of truth who are never satisfied with hearsay until we’ve got to the bottom of a matter. As a law student, you’ll know how to filter everything you hear into facts, hearsay, assumptions and opinion. You have to do this because the job of a real lawyer is to stick to facts. Everything you do or say as a law student must be backed up with facts and sources. Cite an authority in an exam or assignment without their sources and citations and your lecturers and professors would read you the riot act. Say facts please!
(2) Nothing is right or wrong for us
Why then, tis none to you, furthere is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me, it is a prison. Well, then it isn’t one to you, since nothing is really good or bad in itself – it’s all what a person thinks about it. – Shakespeare (Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 11)
Two men look out through the same bars, one sees the mud, and one sees the stars. – Frederick Langbridge
The unshakable popular perception among non-lawyers is that lawyers are liars. But nothing could be further from the truth. The law student is trained to think like a real lawyer. Isn’t that scintillating? In effect, they leave law school with maverick viewpoints independent of those of mainstream society. A layman would see things in black and white, right or wrong and it is for this same reason they aren’t lawyers. That isn’t how a lawyer is trained to look at things. They never focus on the fact of an act and its consequences, but rather its exceptions and circumstances. Killing a man intentionally man appear as murder to the non-lawyer but it’s not the same to a lawyer when done in self-defense or defense of property.
Even in law exams, there is no such thing as the wrong or right position of law. If you do take a wrong position of the law with respect to a given question but can however back up your argument with convincing authorities, your answer goes. In law the door is never closed to “dissenting views” and “conscientious objections”.
(3) Our law teachers and classmates are potential public figures and celebrities
Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime and departing, leave behind us foot prints on the sands of time. – Henry Wardsworth
The lawyer is trained to be a better public speaker and advocate. This gives them an irresistible hang-up for the public stage. Among professionals, lawyers are more than likely to come into limelight. It’s on record that more and more lawyers are becoming runaway celebrities either by vying for coveted political positions or by handling high profile cases that catch the attention of the media. The likes of Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton in the US, are just a few who have blazed the path to stardom. In Nigeria, we could speak of the Raji Fasiola’s, Festus Keyamo’s, Afe Babalola’s and the Gani Fawehinmi’s. I could go on. So it’s always possible your professor or the guy besides you in class could be the next President or Governor.
(4) We have autonomy
Lawyers these days don’t have job descriptions. Their careers are too mobile. You can simply become anything you want to be. Law university training are inter-disciplinary in nature with the result that you leave school knowing a little of everything. That means you could wake up tomorrow and decide you are really done with the business of law. Your wide inter-disciplinary exposure means you could just as well seek greener pastures in alternative non-legal careers. You’d be licking your lips already. Only take care you don’t become a drifter. A rolling stone they say gathers no moss!
(5) We are a philosophers
I know I am not a practical person; legal matters and so forth are Greek to me, except, of course that I understand Greek. – Christopher Fry
The existence of law is one thing, its merit or demerit is another thing. – John Austin
The genius of the ancient Greeks and stoics may have led to the birth of modern day philosophy, lawyers however have developed legal jurisprudence which in itself is the philosophy of law. As jurists, lawyers are philosophers in their own right. They can philosophize about the law and its reason detre but unlike their Greek predecessors whose philosophy bothered more on abstractions, ours is human-centric. To lawyers, law is a social phenomenon whose goal is the attainment of social justice for all. Legal jurisprudence therefore seeks to improve upon our conception of social justice. The highlights of legal philosophy has been epitomized by the drawn out fight between Natural law and Legal Positivism- the separation of “is” from “ought”. Others issues include whether there should be a separation of law and morality, whether immoral or unjust law should be obeyed or laws should be employed to enforce moral rules. Your take please! With exciting issues like these to talk about any talk of law school being drab and nondescript warrants no second glance.
(6) We are think thanks
I think, therefore I am (Je pense, donc je suis). – Rene Descartes.
The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. – William Shakespeare (Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2)
The law student is trained to question everything as part of thinking like a lawyer. You can’t accept anything to be sacred cow. Everything then becomes a moot point. You never take things at face value but rather you engage them at a much deeper level to unmask their actual meaning. Isn’t that why there are canons of interpretation in law like the Literal, Golden, and Ejus dem generis rule of interpretation of texts. All these may seem like being explanatory of things explained. But that is probably because lawyers understand that things do have hidden agenda. Any law student would tell you there is the world of difference between “may” and “shall”, “and” and “or” as used within any statute. In unlocking our reasoning powers as law students, in my first year logic class, the logic professor launched an assault on popular “manipulative” advertising jingles that had stealthily slipped into our unconscious minds unbeknownst to us. He went on to debunk the claim made by Maclean’s Toothpaste in their advert “Be successful, be important, use Maclean’s toothpaste”. He said that the advert didn’t mean anyone who guzzled truck loads of Maclean’s Toothpaste would become an immediate big shot by that very fact. Being a law student means you could never buy into popular propaganda.
(7) We are an inventors
Lawyers are inventors of some kind, but not in the sense of the popular usage of the word. They are not going to split the atom open or invent cutting edge technology. But they can conceive rules that put potential volatile societal issues to bed. In this wise they become unsung heroes. Among our landmark inventions are the rule in Ryland’s v. Fletcher, Donoghue v. Stevenson, Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke ball co, and the Egg shell rule amongst several others.
A youngish lawyer with penetrating insight, Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Lawstudenthub, a site dedicated to helping new wigs find their footing in a trickily slippery legal profession and stay current with emerging developments in the legal industry. He holds an LLB from the University of Benin and a BL from the Nigerian Law School, Abuja. In his spare time, Patrick doubles as a professional writer and copyeditor.
If you have any urgent enquiries, you can email him @[email protected]