Twelve Useless Classes at Top 5 Law Schools


Useless classes. I’m not talking about the classes that are supposed to be useful but ultimately fail, I’m talking about the ones that don’t even purport to be useful. Bitter Lawyer ran a bit a while back highlighting 11 worthless classes, and I thought I’d revisit the topic, but see just how much crap I could churn up by limiting myself to only the Spring 2010 classes at the Top 5 schools.

YALE

1.  Book of Job and Injustice

Not a class about injustice in the job market, but a class on how to use the Biblical Book of Job to understand injustice in the world.  The class is basically “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” This was one of the many topics we covered in my Philosophy of Religion class in undergrad, which is precisely where it belongs.

2.  Ethics in Literature

I understand the importance of having classes in legal ethics, and why some students are interested in Law and Literature (because they’re book nerds and it looks like an easy class), but Ethics in Literature?  This class would be a thousand times more effective if you just cut out the books and discussed some of the more complex or intriguing ethical dilemmas (legal or otherwise) thought have been thought up during centuries of philosophical circle jerks.

HARVARD

3.  Democracy Of, By, and For the People: Reading Group

This is a class on “(1) community life, (2) self governance, and (3) accountability to the common good,” which requires students to “prepare periodic ‘one-pagers’ on mutually agreed upon topics.” Flimsy topic?  Bullshit assignments?  Sign me up!

4.  Great Books: Reading Group

“This reading group is meant to be an antidote. Nowadays, law students arrive at law school having read less and less history and literature.” So what’s Harvard’s solution to this?  Reading and discussing one “great book,” Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, a book so great you’ve probably never heard of it.  At least the class is only worth one credit.  In my English Honors Seminar we read The Iliad, The Aeneid, Paradise Lost, Tom Jones, and Moby Dick.  That’s how you make up for a lack of exposure to literature and history.  Not with a class where “[s]oft drinks, wine, cheese and so forth will be provided.”

5.  Jewish Law’s Response to Gentile Law: Internal Views of External Influences: Advanced Reading Group

Holy Moses, what a freaking waste of time.  The class will “explore the language Jewish law uses to describe its own perception of its relation to Gentile law.” It’s not even a class on Jewish law, it’s a class on the linguistics of Jewish law.  And what makes this an “advanced” reading group?  You must be able to read Hebrew to attend.  In other words: Only God’s chosen people are allowed.

6.  The Past and Future of the Left

We all know universities tend to lean liberal, and law schools are no exception.  But this class is quite literally about how students can get the party of “greater equality and empowerment” to overcome its current internal conflicts.

STANFORD

7.  Law and Creativity: Fiction and Nonfiction

I almost didn’t read this one, thinking it would be a class on intellectual property.  But, I’m sure glad I did.  This class is broken down into two components; in the first, students “examine and discuss creative treatments of legal and professional issues in a variety of media (including film, fiction, and nonfiction),” and in the second, they “submit their own fiction and creative nonfiction pieces for group discussion.” Basically, it’s watching A Few Good Men followed by a creative writing workshop where you’re critiqued by people with little or no creative writing background.

8.  Tocqueville’s Democracy in America

Another wonderful reading group brought to you by America’s higher education system.  This is pure discussion group, no lecture.  And to make sure it is extra useless to lawyers, enrollment is capped at 16 students, and only half of those may be from the law school.

COLUMBIA

9.  Biblical Jurisprudence

Every school seems to have these worthless Bible classes.  This one is sure to prepare you for legal practice by exploring topics such as “the meaning of wars of extermination in the biblical narrative” and “the binding of Isaac as it relates to other practices of sacrifice.” In other words, it’s a class that explores the bad stuff Jews did in the Old Testament.  Or, as Profs. Fletcher and D-Kal call it, “the OT.”

10.  Leadership for Lawyers

“This course examines the responsibilities and challenges of lawyers who occupy leadership roles in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.” Hint: It’s exactly the same as the responsibilities and challenges of non-lawyers who occupy leadership roles in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

11.  Retribution in Criminal Law Theory & Practice

The class basically centers around one question: Should we use criminal sanctions for retribution, rehabilitation, or deterrence?  Doesn’t sound too terribly useless until the end of the course description.  “The seminar includes in its pedagogy experiments in freeing creative voice through weekly writing and theatre exercises and includes a close study of philosophy, history, psychoanalysis, novels, and plays.”

What.  The.  Fuck?

12.  The Passion of the Christ: The Trial of Jesus

“For serious learners. Tons to read and plenty of hard work. Do not enroll just for curiosity.” I think that’s code for, “This is a bullshit class, but I’m trying desperately to make people think I’m a serious academic.”

Read more from BL1Y.

10 Comments

  1. Guano Dubango

    January 20, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Too bad you missed Georgetown.  They had a course titled “Sexual Politics in the New Political Economy.” I I was expecting maybe to do extracurricular work with the a female described as “liberal” as well as hoping to sampling some easy sexual fun with my classmates, but I did not return for the second class when virtually all of the females in the room had more hair under their arms than on their heads.  They also smelled really bad.  I did not care to even think anything sexual with these beasts.

  2. KateLaw

    January 20, 2010 at 5:42 am

    We had a class entitled Jurisprudence, which discussed the conflicting interpretations of the Constitution.  I guess some people found it SO interesting and loved the fact that they got to lead one entire class discussion on the related topic of their choosing.  Maybe I should have taken my personal disgust regarding the class as a sign that law school wasn’t really my thing, but the idea of taking this 2 credit class seemed like torture to me.  Full of gunners and all-around Annoying humans. Lame.

  3. Anonymous

    January 20, 2010 at 5:53 am

    “discussed the conflicting interpretations of the Constitution” – um that sounds like a class that would be quite useful to lawyers/politicians/lobbyists who evaluate/argue the constitutionality of laws.  If interpreting the constitution is ‘Lame’ then obviously law school ‘isn’t your thing’. Maybe you should have taken Law and Film and watched The Pelican Brief instead.

  4. BL1Y

    January 20, 2010 at 6:55 am

    @5:53: I think Kate’s complaint wasn’t that there was a class on Con Law, but that the class was just gunners giving presentations.

  5. KateLaw

    January 20, 2010 at 8:45 am

    YES, exactly.

  6. Smurf

    January 20, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Another column about law school?  Come on … man!!!

  7. Evil Lawyer

    January 20, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Columbia and NYU are top law schools? According to who? A moldering corpse? A doddering old group of professors?  Columbia’s glory years are over. NYU never got there.  And conlaw classes devoted to serious analysis of the Constitution are what lawyers–guardians of the nation’s laws–ought to be studying in law school.  ConLaw is not really an “outline” course.

  8. BL1Y

    January 20, 2010 at 9:21 am

    An ordinary person would assume that when a law school’s rank is given, that rank refers to the (vastly) most popular law school rankings: USNews & World Report.  But a lawyer, having lost the mental faculties of a normal person, simply bangs his hands on his desk in frustration and hopes that someone will accept his plea that his profession contributes to society and gives his life meaning.

  9. Guano Dubango

    January 21, 2010 at 4:28 am

    I personally prefer blondes, so here is a joke I tell to attract them and get them to scowl at me.  They later capitulate.  :============Three blondes were all applying for the last available position on the Texas Highway Patrol.
    The detective conducting the interview looked at the three of them and said, “So y’all want to be cops, huh?”
    The blondes all nodded.
    The detective got up, opened a file drawer and pulled out a folder. Sitting back down, he opened it and pulled out a picture, and said, “To be a detective, you have to be able to detect. You must be able to notice things such as distinguishing features and oddities, such as scars and so forth.” So saying, he stuck the photo in the face of the first blonde and withdrew it after about two seconds.
    “Now,” he said, “did you notice any distinguishing features about this man ?”
    The blonde immediately said, “Yes, I did. He has only one eye!”
    The detective shook his head and said, “Of course he has only one eye in this picture! It’s a profile of his face! You’re dismissed!”
    The first blonde hung her head and walked out of the office.
    The detective then turned to the second blonde, stuck the photo in her face for two seconds, pulled it back and said, “What about you? Notice anything unusual or outstanding about this man?”
    “Yes! He only has one ear!”
    The detective put his head in his hands and exclaimed, “Didn’t you hear what I just told the other lady? This is a profile of the man’s face! Of course you can only see one ear!! You’re excused too!”
    The second blonde sheepishly walked out of the office.
    The detective turned his attention to the third and last blonde and said, “This is probably a waste of time, but…” He flashed the photo in her face for a couple of seconds and withdrew it, saying, “All right, did you notice anything distinguishing or unusual about this man?”
    The blonde said, “I sure did. This man wears contact lenses.”
    The detective frowned, took another look at the picture and began looking at some of the papers in the folder.
    He looked up at the blonde with a puzzled expression and said, “You’re absolutely right! His bio says he wears contacts! How in the world could you tell that by looking at his picture?”
    The blonde rolled her eyes and said, “Well, Helloooo! With only one eye and one ear, he certainly can’t wear glasses.

  10. Gunners = Glorified Law Dorks

    June 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

    ugh. contracts. what a joke.

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