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Proving Once Again the Dangers of a Law Degree

typewriter.jpgHere’s a great story about a lawyer who apparently learned a little too much in class at the University of Michigan law school. He is bringing claims against two parties, starting with the law firm, Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell, which fired him during the his second-summer associateship. Adrian Zachariasewycz claims that the firm manipulated his employment record to offer a pretext for firing him and then had him escorted from the building. He claims that his firing was defamatory and prevented him from securing another firm job (I’m sure this lawsuit will help).

But, the more interesting piece is the claim against the University of Michigan Law School, which Zachariasewycz alleges stacked the deck against poor typists. He claims that the exams, which were typed, relied — in part — on the student’s typing skills to do well. The complaint reads that “certain exams … required students to be skilled touch-typists in order to produce a competitive response resulted in borderline failing grades by virtue of the low volume of prose [the plaintiff] could type in the time allotted as compared with other students.” He continues:

The cumulative disadvantage was so stark, and the resultant effect on the overall law school grade point average so significant, that such cumulative disadvantage effectively may have destroyed some, most or all of the economic value, as measured by expected future earnings potential as well as by other metrics, of any such law student’s degree, if eventually obtained.

Dude, seriously: You should’ve just taken a typing class.

(Hat Tip: The WSJ Law Blog)

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Comments

I knew Adrian pretty well prior to '94 and was disappointed to see this action on his part and the resulting slurs and innuendos. Adrian, as I knew him, was actually extraordinarily bright but somewhat naive socially. When I say extraordinarily bright--I knew him post Yale when he took the GMATs. My own score was the highest in my MBA program, with the verbal the highest ever for my venerable university--his scores soared past mine. Before attending Michigan, he had a degree in architecture from Yale and an MBA from UT Austin. We talked prior to his attending law school, and his interest in law had to do with investment areas for which a law degree was a necessity. I was actually surprised that he was attending UM, despite its excellent standing, as he was well able to meet the requirements at more prestigous schools.

I haven't contacted him regarding this, but a reasonable review of the info available on Google indicated he had a wrist injury which hindered his typing ability. Adrian used to be a gym rat. He had crewed at Yale and had the usual assortment of athletic injuries for jocky kids and would probably not have thought of the wrist injury as a disability. When we met he was doing the entire rack on leg raises, post an ACL repair. If he knew he needed remedial action he made a maximal effort. I have no doubt that there was a particular sequence in the exams that left him unaware of the damage poor typing ability would incur until it was too late to be pro-active. Typing courses wouldn't be likely to compensate for the injury, and I doubt he would been able to qualify as 'disabled' without a lengthy medical evaluation process, or that he would have considered that until the impact of his GPA hit home.

Adrian excelled at Yale, with his MBA, and was, I believe, an editor, of the Law Review, so I would believe there was substance in his evaluation of the impact of typing skills on his final QPA. Since his abilities as an attorney would seem to be a separate skill set, I can see where he would be frustrated, and I remember that he would get really upset about inequities that he saw other persons subjected to at work due to petty jealousies, etc., rather than work performance, although at that time he was not having problems himself. I'm not surprised that he reacted to things at both school and work if he felt they were unfair, despite it being politically unwise. (I'm sure most persons have had a situation where they felt they were being screwed, people agreed with them, but they were told it was better for them if they just let it slide. Adrian is not the kind of person that would listen to that advice.)

It's interesting to see how persons who are supposedly involved in the legal process are so willing to make conjectures without all of the facts. The same thing happened with the infamous McDonald's coffee case. I saw photos of the woman's injuries, and I doubt anyone making jokes would have been willing to endure them to receive the settlement--she needed repeated skin grafts due to the extensive damage, but somehow the media et al. thought this wasn't relevant enough to include.

I checked out the comments from the WSJ blog and found innuendos regarding a possible 'back story' including possible weird behavior and a mention of his not being allowed to use the UM gym. Adrian was pretty compulsive about using the gym when I knew him (they made me take one day off a week and they said we made a good pair), so I can see a reasonable explanation for this, if true. As a female, I can well say that he was completely appropriate and respectful, and, if anything, was so cerebral that his approach to women was more intellectual than the norm. I was really disgusted to see that someone could insinuate things that anyone who met or knew him would find absolutely ridiculous. Without seeing him, you can picture a wimpy social misfit, based on some of the comments, when he's actually a very attractive (I haven't seen him for years, but he'd have had to change dramatically) guy who looks like he should be playing touch football on the Cape.

Adrian did have some social traits that were alienating, but these were actually traits that would serve him well in law--one was a type of detachment that I've seen in some very successful litigators. (I had recommended he not pursue medicine, a track he considered prior to the MBA/law one, as he lacked the empathy which the field needs--there are enough MDs today who should have been MBAs.) Another was the curse of being brighter than most of the persons you interact with, which can hinder effective communication, and a self-assuredness that comes from knowing you're usually right. I can't see anything that would have prohibited him from practicing law effectively, but I can see traits that could have stepped on toes.

It's really sad to see how readily people judge without full command of the facts, and most likely the same posters--referring to this and the WSJ site--think of themselves as superior to the mobs who are willing to tear persons apart based on blind prejudices, when they're willing to do the same to reputations, all the time feeling very self-righteous. I didn't see one post that went to the effort of asking for the full content of the claim, but several salivating over the 'back story.' Several posters at one site did concur that typing skill was a factor in success but stressed that they had made despite their own disability. (Back slap, thank you)

I'm curious to see how this plays out, and I wish I could have been there to advise Adrian to let this slide. Then again, he doesn't know how lucky he is not to work in the legal field.
There's good reason for the high suicide rate :)