25 Years Ago Today

Scott Gets A Law Degree

“Academic Auschwitz”

That’s how I used to refer to the USC Law Center. My three years there neatly coincided with Reagan’s first term in office. They were relentlessly miserable. With each passing day I became more class-conscious and more appalled at the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the American professional demographic. Each day was filled with political and interpersonal torment.

I remember going to a social gathering for new law students a week or two before classes started. Somebody mentioned that I drove an old Mustang. One of the more attractive young women present looked at me with a smile and said, “Is it a convertible?”

Never, not for one minute, did I buy into the Reagan-Thatcher ideology. Fortunately, I also did not buy into their investment strategy. When Reagan was riding high and his chief economic adviser was from the USC business school next door, I argued that borrowing billions from the Japanese to build nuclear weapons was not conservative – or wise.

Why did I go there? If I was so miserable, why didn’t I transfer? I figured one top-tier law school probably was as good as the next. Looking back, I’m glad I stayed. A few days before graduation, one of my classmates, a quiet young woman whom I didn’t really know, spoke to me. “I’m glad you were in our class. You’re more like some kind of artist. More people like you should study law.” She was a nice person but I’m not sure what she meant.

On our graduation day, 25 years ago today, one of my plaid-shorts-wearing, right-wing classmates tossed an object in my direction while we were in the student lounge. It was a vial of cocaine. The guy showed me another perfect Republican smile. “Get a good job and you’ll be able to afford it, too.”

If I could travel back in time and sit with young Scott, I’d tell him this: Don’t take it seriously. Don’t come to class often, and when you do, don’t come sober. Don’t argue politics or the law in law school unless it improves your buzz. Get a nice left-handed acoustic guitar and hang out on Venice Beach. Learn the law from the bar review people, not your professors. Practice for exams as much as possible and study as little as possible. You’ll be a big scholar and you’ll be an even better mediocre musician.

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