Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Military Recruiters & Law Schools

The Washington Post has shared two opinions on military recruiters at law school. First, E. J. Dionne Jr. declared "Let The Military On Campus", asserting,
The best way to change the military and to create greater fairness in sharing the burdens of defending our country is to embrace the call to service, not reject it. By opening their doors to recruiters, our universities can strengthen our democracy.
My memory of military recruitment at my law school was seeing an occasional uniformed officer of the armed services in the hall during interview week, and a fellow student's pleasure at getting a summer job that, although not his first choice, he seemed to enjoy.

The true representatives of the military in my law school class were a friend who was going into active duty service after graduation - and paying his own freight for law school - and a Marine reservist who, having recently concluded his active duty, missed a semester after he was called back into the service for the first Gulf War. And let's not forget the retired Lt. Colonel who was one of the most formidable and exacting law professors in the school. The arguable institutional anti-military sentiment (although it came in the form of "anti-war" sentiment) came from a different law professor, mentioned in the comments a few days ago, who announced to the class that her mandatory attendance policy did not apply to students who skipped class to protest the war. And the students who carried anti-military attitudes seemed unaffacted by all of this.

Today, in an unsigned editorial, the Post adds that while universities should feel free to treat the military in the same manner as private employers who discriminate,
But banning military recruiters from campuses or limiting cooperation with them contributes to a cultural gulf that already divides elite universities from the armed services. Particularly now, as military lawyers -- both civilian and uniformed -- are taking on so many of the cutting-edge issues in the war on terrorism, we would want to see more law school graduates enlisting. A fruitful engagement between the military and these law schools seems essential, and an open recruiting environment should be part of that.[1]
This is an interesting idea - the notion that more law students should enlist in the military - but it is strangely divorced from the question of need. That is, I was not aware that, even with the dubious exclusions from various law schools over their policies toward gays, any branch of the Armed Forces was having difficulty meeting its recruiting goals for lawyers. And last I checked, it was the law professors and law students with military backgrounds who provided the true engagement, not the almost invisible recruiters, holed up in cubicles in the recruiting office for at most a few days per year. Whatever the merits of permitting or excluding military recruitment, if you want to build relationships and reduce a "cultural gulf" the best place to start is with the students and faculty.

[1] I'll resist wordplay over the Post's choice of adjective in that last sentence. But I do wonder if the author assigned to the piece was having some fun slipping something past his bosses.


  1. It would be hard to argue that the military is short on lawyers. Although the pool they select from is smaller than it was a decade ago (in the early 90s they were accepting about one in ten applicants, now it is about one in five) they aren’t having any problems meeting their goals.

    I assume what the author is trying to say is that the military needs more lawyers who come from “elite” law schools.

    I find the author’s underlying (and unstated) assumptions to be interesting: 1) Only elite law schools bar military recruiters. 2) The students of elite law schools are incapable of entering the military without the assistance of their law school. 3) All students at elite law schools have view points dramatically different from those found in the lawyers currently in the military (many of whom came from the very schools in question). 4) Students at elite law schools who are interested in the joining the military (remember, we aren’t talking about a draft) have different cultural values than other individuals (including, evidently other law students at “normal” law schools) who choose to join the military.

    I’m inclined to believe that, with very few exceptions, it is the underlying cultural values/belief systems that drive the career path, not the reverse. It seems to work the same way in other careers so why not in the military? (Most priests are big on religion because people with that mindset tend to become priests, not because being a priest made them that way.)


  2. Bur CW - if priests were allowed to recruit at elite law schools, perhaps... um...

    Okay, I'll concede your points. ;-) Good post.


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