Talking Politics at Law School – Dangerous, or Delightful?-First Presidential Debates Monday Night

September22, 2016
by Bar Winners

Will you be watching the first Presidential debates Monday night in what is being called “The Super Bowl of Politics”?

Politics are quite the hot button issue these days – the election is swiftly approaching, and the first Presidential debates are this Monday night! Will you be watching with your law school peeps?

What’s the protocol for discussing politics at school and among your law school peers, study buddies and in the classroom?

Our Facebook feeds are filled with passionate discourses from (former?) friends, ex’s, in laws, classmates, spouting their political hyperbole, views, opinions, and yes, sometimes even facts – I have seen unfollowings and unfriendings because of the dialog around who that person was voting for– it hasn’t been pretty but it has been, at times pretty intense!

So if social media is such a terrifying place to express your political leanings, then where is it safe?  We might avoid politics at family dinners, and we might make or break relationships depending on where a date falls on the political spectrum (my ex once said they would date any profession, age, race, gender but would never sleep with someone of the opposite party!), but shouldn’t there be a forum for those of us that are obsessed with this election, who we are going to vote for and why? Where CNN  (or you pick the 24 hour news outlet) has become our dirty little secret, our addiction, our Hagan Daaz, our thin crusted pizza margarita with fresh mozzarella, our Starbucks Double Chocolaty Chip Crème Frappuccino? Rehab for News addicts during this election year and recovery after? Maybe Promises in Malibu will open a treatment program for those of us who can’t turn this election off in our heads or hearts. And especially those of us who can’t, under any circumstances, keep our mouth shut and our opinions to ourselves because, after all, what good is having an opinion if you can’t stand on your soap box and torment others with it! Right?

One might think that law school is a safe place to let the politics rip. Think about it – law schools are centers for higher education. We are supposed to advance by learning how to analyze complex principles and thoughts, and then apply those principles to different factual scenarios. How do you do this without having some uncomfortable discussions every now and then? Yet law school is probably a terrible forum for arguing politics. A place of left brain, argumentative types who believe that winning is more important that justice, and being right is more important than having a relationship. We’ve learned how to slay with words. These kinds of discussions are probably better in med school, pharmacy school or among computer engineers rather than law students.

How do you learn then to voice your opinion, speak your interpretation of the law argue for your client, if you are afraid to voice who you are going to vote for because you are worried about standing out, standing up, having a voice, being wrong, being unpopular, or ridiculed? The wise part of me says, these types of political opinions and arguments best left to coffee house conversations and salons, over a glass of wine or a keg of beer. The wild, radical, bold part of me, says, let the conversations begin—the hallways of higher education can handle it.

What do you think?

Is there a way of presenting an opinion that will not immediately escalate the tension in the lecture hall or on the quad? Of course. It is not prudent to launch into a tirade, or have the attitude that anyone who thinks differently than you is an idiot. But let’s face it. We may not vocalize it but secretly if someone disagrees with you on something as contentious as this election don’t you furtively think they can’t be voting for him! For her! And just when you start to feel limp and worn out about the whole political process, stop and think about how glorious it is that we can even say “for him or for her”. Did you ever imagine a time, despite what your mother told you growing up that you could be anything you wanted to be, that we’d be arguing over the policies of a “her” running for President of the United States?

And beyond it all, I’m proud of us. Proud to live in a country where we can voice our opinion, in the classroom, on the streets, and with each other.

It is along these same lines that we leave you with this quote:

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” – Malcom Forbes.

Professor Shari Karney, Esq. has been a prominent force in the world of legal education and California Bar Review for the past 30 years. Whether you’re just starting law school, about to take the bar, or an out-of-state attorney taking the California Bar Exam, BarWinners California Bar Review is here to help. She is the Owner and Creator of BarWinners and the author of The Approach Book, “Bar Bible”. She writes a weekly column-blog Legal Ease with Leah M. Kaufman, Esq., the Founder at LMK Strategy & Research. Visit BarWinners at Visit the Barwinners page on Facebook, and the BarWinners page on Google+ or email Shari via