Why I Left Law School

“We must have the courage to reject the idea of settling for work that is destructive to human happiness, or even indifferent to it.” [1]7 October 1998

Dear Friends and Family:

I am writing to you today to communicate the happening of and the reasons for a great decision in my life. I have withdrawn myself from the University of Colorado School of Law for a year, or perhaps longer, to give myself a proper perspective to judge the merits of the possibility of continuing the pursuit of “the law” as a lawyer. The quote above has been most instructive to me and my heart when I consider the matter. With every day that passed I was loosing the sense of purpose with which I began my law school career, and with every passing day I gained insight into a profession that became increasingly distasteful to me. Whatever redeemable value the law had for me when I began is all but gone at this moment. Without a valid higher purpose I cannot justify my further involvement with “work that is destructive to human happiness.” These reasons, perhaps, may not be understood fully by anyone who has not been in law school, but I do not wish such a punishment on any one of you. I ask for your faithful understanding, but not your pity. I am a happier man now that a great burden of conscience is lifted from me and I am able to set about finding my life’s true work — be it the law or something else entirely.

“The critical points are that those working in a structure have some part in creating it — that it be useful and meaningful in their lives — and that structure never become ‘just the way it is,’ but only limited vehicles for the expression of use and meaning. When they outlive either their use or their meaning, structures ought to be dissolved. The sad truth is that today, far too many have little, if any, input on the structures they work with; they experience their work as neither useful nor meaningful, but ‘just the way it is.'” [2]

“The half truths of one generation tend at times to perpetuate themselves in the law as the whole truth of another, when constant repetition brings it about that qualifications, taken once for granted, are disregarded or forgotten.” [3]

or put into layman’s terms:

“In all other professions anything in the nature of a discovery is greeted with applause or at least accorded the compliment of jealousy. Not so in the law! No lawyer ever yet arose before a bench of judges to say: ‘Your Honors, it is my privilege to lay before you an entirely new idea!’ No lawyer, even if he has an idea, ever has the temerity to disclose the fact. Should he do so he would instantly be hailed as a lunatic. Instead, he arises, coughs deprecatingly, and murmurs: ‘As your Honors are well aware, this point was definitely settled in Snooks vs. Mooks, 1 King Alfred, 639, which has been followed ever since by as long line of authorities with which you are all perfectly familiar.’

“Whereupon his opponent gets up and says: ‘My learned brother has entirely misconstrued Snooks vs. Mooks, which was overruled several hundred years ago by the dictum of Lord Chief Justice Squabble in Bellow vs. Bawl and has not the slightest application. The controlling authority here is Shadrach vs. Abednego, 91 Babylonian Reports, 273.’

“Of course it is much easier to make Snooks, Mooks, Shadrach, and Abednego work for us than to use our own brains, but we as lawyers pay the penalty by being forced to suppress, at much personal discomfort, whatever originality we may have been born with. Bernard Shaw would make a great lawyer — but no judge would listen to him. We have all labored under the curse of vicarious solemnity for a thousand years. Is it surprising that we often appear inhuman when we have lost by attrition at least half our human qualities?” [4]

And so I leave the law, for the time being, to find myself, and in myself I will find happiness, and happiness is the best thing that I can wish for all of you, and that I do.

I remain,
in your service,


“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.” [5]———————————————————————————

[1] Laurence G. Boldt
[2] Laurence G. Boldt
[3] Justice Benjamin Cardozo
[4] Arthur Train
[5] George Bernard Shaw.

“…to be nobody-but-myself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make me everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.” e.e.c.

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