My post for today is about who the JD course should really be intended for - 30-something folks who have a wealth of experience who want some legal training either to supplement their professional careers or wish to bring their professional expertise into the legal industry.
This is a very wide demographic so my comments are going to be fairly general. The good candidates are highly sought after in team projects and the bad ones are avoided like the plague because it's such a large population the variance in quality of 30-somethings is rather high.
a) They are super-vested in their studies
If you are in your 30s, there is no business or portfolio to back up your standard of living, so this category is moderately enthusiastic about the course. Getting a good grade may still net them a decent increment if they can get a training contract with a top law firm. Even if they return to their old jobs, their companies will welcome them back as their last drawn salary is not particularly high.
These guys have a reason to excel in school.
b) Good ones are "chill"
The biggest lesson I learnt in law school is the concept of "chill". It is somewhat like "ease", either you have it or you don't. A chill classmate, unlike academic out-performers, are a lot more well-loved by the rest of the class and a lot of effort is made to maintain friendships with them.
When you are chill, you exude confidence and have less of a need to prove yourself. In a team you excel because you do enough to get the job done without stressing our your fellow team workers.
The problem is that we are in Singapore and Singaporeans are not very chill when it comes to their studies.
c) Bad ones are bad in their own way
Like a Tolstoy epic, bad 30-somethings are often bad in a unique way. Some do really shoddy work and forces you to question the selection process of the course. Others focus on individual work and leave the project group to do the heavy listing for them. Some have really bad communications skills. Some think they own your notes, resources and time and even expect you to double up as their tutor.
After two semesters of study, a class will generate a personal "black-list" of sorts. Everyone has a list of condemned classmates they'd rather die than work with. Some, like me, will speak to other cohorts to trade information on the black-list to avoid working with such folks.
On hindsight, perhaps a black-list would not be truly necessary. Every group project team can survive with one social loafer, but often a group can often be destroyed if it contains two. If a class can agree to share these hopeless team workers, everyone will do fine. Problem is coordination and classmates are forced into some sort of a prisoner's dilemma situation to monopolise the good workers every year.
d) Things don't look good for 30-somethings in the JD Programme
It is unfortunate for my batch that things do not look so good for the 30-something year olds.
They are on the wrong side of a bet, sacrificing three of the highest earnings period of their lives to get a degree to qualify for an industry that is facing an unprecedented downturn. If it takes 3-4 years for fresh curbs to clear the over-supply of lawyers, my classmates would have written off 7 years of the best earnings years of their lives.
If they can't get a training contract, the joke is that SMU would have been merely a "Kidzania for Adults" moment for them. They would have spent 3 years pretending to be lawyers without an opportunity to carry on with their career aspirations.
Nevertheless, it has been a great honour to study beside them.