The Horror Of Chemical Weapons

There is something particularly horrific about chemical weapons — which is why the reports of Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own citizens are especially appalling.

It seems odd to argue that one way of inflicting death is “better” or more civilized than another, and a massacre of unarmed people is a massacre whether it is accomplished by gunfire or some other means.  And yet . . . the use of chemical weapons seems to be uniquely wanton, indefensible and barbaric.  The indiscriminate way in which poison gas reaches its victims, and the ugly and painful circumstances of the resulting death, with victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth, all reflect a murderous mindset of a government that no longer feels bound by the conventions of modern society and will lash out and kill without cause or purpose.

Any government that would use chemical weapons on its own citizens, killing innocent women and children in the process, has lost any pretense of legitimacy.  I’ve written before of how the United Nations has become a hollow force in the modern world, incapable of preventing mass killings or effectively shielding those unfortunates who trust in its promises of protection.  The Syrian situation may be the acid test, however.  If the UN cannot lead effective international action against a criminal government that has used chemical weapons against its own people, why should it exist at all?

Fewer Law Students, Fewer Lawyers

The number of people applying to American law schools is dropping sharply.  A recent report of the Law School Admission Council states that applications to law schools fell almost 18 percent from 2012 to 2013.  That drop-off continues a trend; the report says approximately 20,000 fewer people applied to law schools in 2013 than submitted applications only two years earlier, in 2011.

Why the drop-off?  The economy has changed, and there is less need for lawyers.  Would-be law school applicants recognize that many recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed.  The employment statistics compiled by the American Bar Association show a significant number of graduates struggle to find any kind of law-related job.  In the meantime — because law school is incredibly expensive — many recent graduates are saddled with tremendous student loan burdens.  Working at a waitressing or bartending job in a desperate effort to pay your debts while looking fruitlessly for work in the field for which you’ve received costly but narrow training is not an attractive future.

I think this change is permanent — which means we’re going to see some of the less well-regarded law schools close their doors and we’re going to see a change in the power equation between the shrinking pool of applicants and law schools that want to fill out their classes with well-qualified students.  The latter result apparently is already occurring, as students are negotiating more lucrative financial aid packages with law schools competing for their acceptance.

Optimists might foresee other, positive long-term effects from this trend.  Lawyer jokes aside, lawyers tend to be intelligent, well-educated, highly motivated people who could contribute to the American economy in many different ways.  I’m hoping that people who might have gone to law school in the past now apply those traits and abilities in opening and managing their own businesses, devising new approaches to products and services, and letting their creativity and passions guide them to other productive roles.  The fact that the door to a career as a lawyer may be closing just means that other doors should be opened.