It always amazes me that the field of Antitrust has any practicing lawyers in it at all. Not because it’s a particularly complicated field, nor because it’s particularly unexciting since, in practice, the field is substantially less complicated than Administrative Law, and, as Microsoft in the ’90s and Apple more recently have shown, there’s plenty of exciting cases dealing with newly created markets. No, the reason that I remain surprised that the Antitrust field still attracts lawyers is that understanding the rationales behind the laws limiting monopolistic behaviors is nearly impossible to reconcile with the existence of state bar associations in their present form.
Like most 3Ls, I’m currently mired in the process of applying for the privilege of being allowed to sit for my state’s bar exam. An exam for which, everyone tacitly admits, law school has not prepared us (which is, of course, why we’re all shelling out a couple thousand dollars extra for BAR/BRI or Kaplan) and which, according to nearly all practicing attorneys I’ve spoken with, is at best tenuously related to the ability to practice law. But the great and powerful state bar association has decreed that none shall call himself “lawyer” without first answering their three days of riddles. So, in the grand tradition of all people who understand that one never wins an argument with the weather, I capitulate and begin my journey through the process.
I’ve already somehow managed to clear the first hurdle by getting this far in law school while still maintaining the appearance that I’ll successfully make it to graduation, which is good. For me at least. As long as I don’t look too closely at my student loan balances. My conscience might rest a little easier if I could somehow argue that my time at law school were somehow necessary for passing the bar exam, but hey, I’m sure that somehow I’ll find a use for that required class in International Law. Even if it did boil down to, “a country is basically free to do whatever it wants as long as it doesn’t make enough other countries angry enough to attempt military action.” (No, I’m not bitter at all about having been forced to spend an entire semester “learning” that no matter how many fancy words the school tries to throw around it, “international law” is nothing more than mob rule.)
As if the utter irrelevance of much of law school weren’t enough, there’s the actual application process itself. Wherein the almighty state bar association shows that they buy into the old saying that a man with a briefcase can steal more money than any man with a gun by digging more deeply into my history and record than my Blue State government did when I received my concealed carry permit. Costs more too. For a mere $585 I am able to buy the right to provide information so thorough that it includes speeding tickets I got when I was 17. (In an act seemingly designed to trigger Stockholm Syndrome the state bar recently decided that they’d stop requiring a complete history of parking tickets.) In addition to that wholly irrelevant “failure to properly signal” ticket I got 13 years ago, I’m also required to obtain two “Certificates of Good Moral Character” from current members of the state bar. Because, of course, people whom I’ve only known professionally or academically are far better suited to judge my moral character than people who’ve known me for years. Attorneys admitted to other state bars are suspect too, it seems. I try not to think too hard about what it means that my state bar doesn’t believe that attorneys admitted in any other state are adequately able to judge a person’s moral character. I especially try not to think about the fact that this suspicion is likely mutual among state bars.
From start to finish, the process is arbitrary and capricious and designed to affirm the state bar’s monopoly on legal practice. Anyone who wants to become an attorney is forced into a ridiculous rite of passage process that leaves them heavily in debt and at least partially invested in the protection offered by the modern incarnation of the medieval guild he’s been forced into. By the time we’re through it all and licensed, we’ve been inured to the absurdity.
Of course, given the fact that we’ll be spending most of our time with other lawyers, maybe being inured to absurdity is the best thing for our sanity. Lord knows I’d be worried about my own if I weren’t sure that I can’t lose what I never had to begin with.