Tucker Max Duke Application Essay

You know what scares me? There’s a version of my career where I end up as the bizzaro version of Tucker Max. The “fat, black, and married” version of Tucker Max. The “other guy” who used douchebag behavior to get through elite institutions, just like Tucker Max.

It’s like, if I everything goes wrong for me but I end up with a book and a movie deal, I’ll be a Tucker Max clone. It’s not likely, but the mere possibility of it keeps me up at night. I’m a nice guy, really, I am. I’m not nice to, like, people or anything, but I have a good soul. I don’t want to be the black Tucker Max! And I’m not.

But then I read things like Max’s latest tweet, and I think “Dear God, is that what I could become?”…

I don’t follow @TuckerMax, but some of our tipsters do. Earlier this week, I received this nice email:

Apparently Tucker Max (douche) was sued by Duke. He hasn’t posted the details but it’s worth following and probably worth a story. I would normally never suggest you write a story about this dbag but it will probably make Duke look even worse.

And this horrible email:

Elie, we all know you just want to be Tucker Max, but he’s better than you at every turn. While you’re getting boycotted, Bro Max is getting sued!

F-you, mean emailer.

The nice emailer updated me today:

[Turns out his lawsuit] is lame, just like his movie.

Cool? Not for me, check out what’s he’s getting sued for. From his Twitter feed:

Duke lawsuit isn’t something cool like defamation, it’s about 4k they say I owe for unpaid tuition. BS. If it gets funny, I’ll update.

Noooo…. NOOOOOO. That was going to be my move. I’m the one that’s been spending years laying the groundwork for this (and my counterclaim). He’s just some d-bag who screwed up and probably confused Cameron, the escort, with his law school and cut a $4,000 check to the wrong person. This is so unfair.

Anyway, Tucker Max got sued by Duke. I’m writing about it because I’m the guy who does his job, Tucker must be the other guy.

Earlier: ATL Douche Madness: Duke is the Douchiest Law School

A Must Read for Wannabe Lawyers — Tucker Max on Why You Should Not Go to Law School — and Comments regarding My Own Statistically Unlikely Experience in Law

© 2013 Peter Free


19 February 2013



Citation — to Tucker Max’s essay


Tucker Max, Why You Should Not Go to Law School, Huffington Post (18 February 2013)



Who is Tucker Max?


Tucker Max is a 2001 graduate of Duke Law School.


The titles of his three best-selling books may motivate wannabe lawyers to glance at the above essay — I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (2009), Assholes Finish First (2011), and Hilarity Ensues (2012).



Why might we care what he says?


I’ve been both a corporate lawyer and a state assistant attorney general.  I think Mr. Max’s argument against going to law school is insightful.



Why shouldn’t one go to law school?


Mr. Max (accurately) deflates each of six often cited reasons why people go to law school:


1. I like arguing and everyone says I'm good at it.


2. I want to be like Jack McCoy from Law & Order [or insert your favorite legal TV show character].


3. It's the only way I can use my humanities degree.


4. I want to change the world/help homeless people/rescue stray kittens/do something noble.


5. I don't know what else to do.


6. I want to make a lot of money.


© 2013 Tucker Max, Why You Should Not Go to Law School, Huffington Post (18 February 2013)


His unifying contention is that each of these motivations either:


(a) implicitly misstates the reality of law practice and its alternatives




(b) school debt eliminates the chance to follow through on the envisioned accomplishment.


Mr. Max points out that surveys show that most lawyers would rather be doing something else for a living.



A sample snippet of his writing


In regard to the wannabe lawyer’s wish to be like fictionalized lawyers on television:



I have little sympathy for this perspective.


It is 2012, if you still allow yourself to be misled by the bullshit on TV, it means you are either very naive or an unrecoverable moron, and you should immediately drown yourself in the nearest toilet to save the world the frustration of having to deal with you and your stupidity.


Let me be VERY clear about this for you:


The actual job of being a lawyer is NOTHING AT ALL like what you see on TV.


© 2013 Tucker Max, Why You Should Not Go to Law School, Huffington Post (18 February 2013) (paragraph split)



Should we pay Tucker’s dissuading negativity any attention? — Yes, in most instances


I agree with Max’s reasoning.  Despite the fact that my brief law career proved to be a statistically improbable exception to the picture that he paints.



First, a rare exception to Max’s reasoning


I entered law in my fifties (as a third generation California lawyer) and more or less stumbled into two serial opportunities that no one would have predicted, based on my unexceptional background.


Drawn to multi-state, complex litigation in law school, I landed in that field after graduation.  It suited my analytical propensity, attention to detail, and gift for reasoned and emotion-supported argument.  I was also unusually fortunate in having tolerant and ethical bosses.


The firm humored me (in utilizing my skill in anticipating legal problems) by having me work with one of the firm’s brilliantly capable contract-writing partners.


For me, transactional work was the best of both worlds.  I got to bypass the contentiousness of squabbling about poorly written contracts after the fact (in court).  Instead, I had the creative satisfaction of assisting in writing appropriately defined and constrained health sector contracts, which avoided litigation problems down the road.


As Mr. Max points out, I worked long hours (80 to 100 per week) at what worked out to be low pay.  I had no life outside the firm.


It wasn’t ambition that closed my eyes to what I was giving up.  I enjoyed the people I worked with and felt fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a place with marble floors and offices that looked out over California’s capitol city.  Coming from a personal blue collar background, as I do, this was a manifestation of one of Life’s unusual twists in a seemingly favorable direction.  I was sad when a family illness forced me to leave.


Somewhat later, I wound up as a state assistant attorney general working in the same complex litigation field — solely because the Attorney General was one of those rare and valuable people who thinks outside the box.  There, too, I worked long hours at low pay.  The long hours were my choice, simply because there was so much that I thought needed doing.  I had only myself to blame for my diminished life style.


I eventually left law practice, due to my wife’s military career and its frequent geographic moves.  Lawyering, in the smaller American states, remains a “good ole boy” network.  It is difficult to break in, especially as an older person.  Taking the bar exam is the least of the entry hurdles.



I should add another element to Mr. Max’s list of reasons for not going to law school —


Far too many lawyers (and some judges) do not follow clearly established case law — which makes everything an anti-intellectual crap shoot.


Arguments go off on (often ridiculous) tangents that the Court, often not knowing any better, takes seriously.  This leads to immense amounts of wasted time and money.  Litigators take advantage of these irrelevant avenues (and too tolerant judges) to drain their opponent’s wallet.


My father’s fundamental criticism of 1930s corporate law remains accurate today.  Paraphrased:



Corporate law isn’t about truth or law, it’s just about the back and forth wresting of money between large corporations that already have too much.


Cynical, but true.  There is almost never anything humanity-helping in the practice of corporate law.


In government practice, too, as a lowly assistant attorney general, I eventually became irritated with how litigating peers across the nation ignored the constraints of established case law.


One especially eye-opening example occurred in 2006, in regard to multiple states’ wish to enforce specified (grandiosely self-serving) aspects of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.  Clarity in forecasting the error of their ways didn’t head them off — until after one state court after another came back with the decisions that I had forecast.  It was a discouraging experience.


In law, stupidity avoided often passes for intelligence.  Even that proved to be too long a reach.




Summing my corporate and government attorney experiences


I would say this:



If you have scientific mind (as I do) Law will disappoint your assumption that facts, reason, and well-established analytical frameworks matter.


Law is usually not about Truth or clear thinking.  Lawyers (on average) spent more time trying to circumvent or undercut Truth than they do anything else.  And they often do the obverse of clear thinking.


My objection to law practice is not that law is often uncertain or as yet undetermined.  That’s a given.


Instead, my caveat is that lawyers regularly and subtly scuttle the rules of reasoned legal argument and procedure that they (in spirit and over generations) have agreed to abide by.


Legal practice, more often than not, is about seeing what one can get away with, ostensibly on behalf on one’s client — and, just as often, to benefit the firm’s billable hours wallet.



But it is not all bad — lawyers often exhibit some admirable traits


In private, quality lawyers are (generally):


(i) reasonable,


(ii) clear,




(iii) less arrogant than some other occupations.


Lawyers are intimately familiar with the realization that issues have multiple sides and reasonable people can disagree on the appropriate solution to problems.


Quality attorneys also know how to frame arguments in comprehensible ways (when they want to).  That makes for communicative clarity that other occupations often lack.


Litigating attorneys are accustomed to being regularly pounded by their opponents.  It is difficult be maintain one’s grip on arrogance.



The moral? — Read Tucker Max’s essay and then shadow lawyers doing their jobs — before deciding on law school


Like Max, I would not recommend a legal career to most people.  It “ain’t” what it appears to be:



Don't be me. Don't go to law school. Go do something with your life that you'll enjoy, is rewarding and productive and makes the world a better place.


© 2013 Tucker Max, Why You Should Not Go to Law School, Huffington Post (18 February 2013)


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once said something along the same lines:



Well, you know, two chiefs ago, Chief Justice Burger, used to complain about the low quality of counsel. I used to have just the opposite reaction. I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise.


I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know.


Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?


I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom.


That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.


[M]aybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.


© 2009 Ashby Jones, Scalia: ‘We Are Devoting Too Many of Our Best Minds to’ Lawyering, Wall Street Journal Law Blog (01 October 2009) (paragraphs split)


From the late end of life, I agree.






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