Legal 101: Five Misconceptions About Law School
Being a lawyer is a much-desired occupation in foreign, or should I say, developed, countries. But that’s not the case here in Indonesia.
If you ask a 5-year-old what he or she would like to do in the future, you’re more likely to hear architect, engineer, and the oh-so-popular medical doctor. Lawyer? Forget about it.
Maybe that’s because there are a number of misconceptions that haunt law school. What are they? Let me name the five major ones.
1. If you go to law school, you have to be good at memorizing
Let’s face it, what are you afraid of? Cramming your brain with thousands of articles and laws? You can read those while you work. Other professions and students are more prone to cramming than law students. Ask a friend of yours who’s in medical school to name the bones of the human body and you’ll find studying law is like a walk in the park.
Jurists don’t necessarily have to memorize every law there is. There’s a saying that “a good lawyer isn’t one who knows every law, but one who knows where to find those laws.” But then, one might say that being a jurist is only a matter of looking up laws. This will bring us to the second misperception.
2. It’s easy studying in law school; you’re basically just reading
Imagine you have to read thousands of words, tens or hundreds of pages and a number of books every day. Tell me again which part of that is easy. Oh, and it’s not reading, it’s analyzing.
Reading is just another criterion of what a good jurist must be able to do. Drafting, arguing and having strong logic are among the others. Of course, it’s not mathematical logic. You can’t possibly expect a lawyer to say “two” when given the question “What is one plus one?”
In order for you to be a distinguished jurist, you have to mash all those abilities into one and, voila, you’re a jurist. But don’t get all too excited when you already meet the aforementioned criteria. You, layman, don’t have what I call a “legal mind.”
When you meet these criteria, you will have the ability to construct a legal argument. A jurist must not only have the ability to read or draft the legal argument in writing, but also convey it verbally. This may lead to the next misconception.
3. You must be a Batak to be a lawyer.
Bataks are known to have big mouths. But just because Hotman Paris Hutapea and the Sitompul Brothers are notorious in the legal business, it doesn’t automatically make Bataks the best lawyers.
Historically, there have been many Javanese and lawyers of other ethnicities who helped make this republic. Look it up in your history books and you will find them helping build this nation.
As a matter of fact, the University of Indonesia’s first dean was Djokosoetono and I am certain he was not Batak. Prof. Mochtar Kusumaatmadja created the Archipelagic State Regime and he’s not Batak. And if you Google the best law firms in Indonesia, a majority of them don’t have Batak names among their the founding partners.
Don’t think I have a Batak-phobia; I’m merely explaining a major misconception about Indonesia’s law schools. If you’re not Batak and you want to enroll to law school, feel free.
4. The choice of occupation is limited
Don’t be too shallow. If you go to law school, you’re not limited to being a lawyer, prosecutor or judge. Unlike med school students who can only become doctors, there are many other occupations left for jurists to do, such as diplomats, management trainees at banks, corporate dogs, researchers or even singers like Once (former vocalist for the band Dewa) or batik designers like Iwan Tirta — both are bachelors of law.
5. Law students are taught to be liars
Ever heard the term “presumption of innocence?” If you haven’t, you should read more often. Every person has the right to be defended and every person has the right to an attorney.
In law school, we are taught to deal with facts. We aren’t supposed to assume if it’s not necessary. We are trained to find legal problems in any aspect of life, of course based on facts and not on assumptions.
Most of you laymen might regard lawyers as sharks, but it’s merely a different point of view. Again, I must address that we have a “legal mind” and you don’t.
Have fun proving it wrong!