Book Review- The Stanford Law Chronicles

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Title- The Stanford Law Chronicles, Doin’ time on the Farm
Author- Alfredo Mirande
Published-  2006
Genre- Non-fiction
Length- 352 pages
Rating- 2/5
Synopsis (Goodreads)- In the midst of a long and distinguished academic career, Alfredo Mirandé left his position as professor of sociology and chair of ethnic studies at the University of California, Riverside, to attend law school at Stanford University. This book is both an extraordinary chronicle of the events in his life that led him to make this dramatic change and a comprehensive, first-person account of the law school experience, written by a person of color. Mirandé delivers a powerful and moving critique of the obstacles he encountered and of systematic attempts to strip him of his identity and culture. He also reflects on the implications of an increasing number of women and minority law school students for law and legal education.

Covering all three years at Stanford, Mirandé describes the elitism and rigid hierarchies he encountered in the classroom and his resulting alienation and frustration. He also discusses law review, the Immigration Clinic where he successfully represented his first client, and the alternative Lawyering for Social Change curriculum that became a haven in an otherwise hostile environment. Interspersed with his account of law school are autobiographical snapshots and experiences, including that of the death of his brother, Héctor, which was the catalyst for his decision to pursue his childhood dream of attending law school and becoming a lawyer. This controversial book is certain to spark lively debate.

Review- I actually gave up on this book about 40 pages from the end because I just couldn’t take the whining anymore. The first few chapters were ok, hence the 2/5 rating rather than something lower, but as the book went on it just got worse and worse until it became unbearable. 

Most people that read this book I imagine will have read something like One L before and if that is what you are after this is not the book for you. Personally, I prefer Ivy Briefs to One L but both are pretty good and provide something useful.

I’m not really sure how much research this guy really did before going to law school as he seems to think Harvard is number one in the US. It’s always top 3, but anyone with any interest in American Law schools knows Yale is first and has been for a long time. He also seems very naive about the importance of things like grades, it’s odd. It is a lot of money to spend on something you haven’t thoroughly researched.

This entire book is basically just the author complaining about racism/perceived racism that he encounters. He turns absolutely everything into a race issue. It might be that there really were some racism issues but his descriptions of some of the things he perceives as being racist do not sound racist at all. If you were constantly battling racism somewhere I could understand you having a lower threshold and thinking things were race issues when they really weren’t, but right from the start, anytime anyone disagrees with him, or doesn’t act like they are his best friend, he claims racism. To me, this reads as though the author is incredibly uncomfortable with his own race rather than everyone else having a problem with it. It may be that because I am white I am unaware of the extent of the racism that really goes on in this type of environment as it can be difficult to really understand an issue that doesn’t impact you personally, but I’m not sure. I will say though that I used to hate all the “women in medicine/surgery” groups etc, until I started specialist training where I began to see huge differences in the way I was treated compared to my male counterparts. So, having never been a non-white male at Stanford law school I am not going to claim anything definitely isn’t racism, but some of it really doesn’t read that way.

The author actually comes across as racist himself pretty frequently.  Almost everything he complains about white people doing to non-white people, he himself does to white people. For example, he judges someone based purely on looks, and when discussing people will introduce everyone by race but will then name the non-whites in the same sentence, but not the whites, they are just white people. They may get named a little later but it is a noticeable difference.

A lot of this book also comes across as being quite immature. The author will ask someone for feedback, so you think, “great, he’s doing something constructive” but then he does nothing but moan about the feedback. He was clearly expecting to be told only great things and couldn’t handle it when he wasn’t. In someone younger, I would think that is understandable but in someone his age, who has been a professor themselves and must have had to tell students similar things, it is really odd. I imagine it is very hard going from professor to student but I don’t want to read just constant whining and that’s what this book turned into.

The author has apparently published widely in his previous profession and comments more than once on his self-proclaimed excellent writing skills, I would disagree with his assessment. Things like sentence structure are fine, it’s the poor explanations that are the issue. He goes on and on about worshops/clinics but at no point explains what really happens in them. He talks about helping labourers etc and there being meetings and things about it but I have literally no idea what the purpose of any of these meetings was or what he and the others were trying to achieve. This sort of thing took up at least half the book so it was incredibly frustrating. It was as though the author assumed you are a classmate and knew all the details of the courses so he just jumped straight into the complaining without setting the scene. It doesn’t work. Perhaps this waffling style of writing without actually saying anything concrete is what it takes to make it in sociology, but it is not what you are supposed to do in legal writing.

Overall the author comes across as having no real interest in actually being a law student, but rather wanting to be a sociologist that studies and complains about law students/law school because he is insecure.

I absolutely would not recommend this book.

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