“Did you just double-dip that chip?"
"You double-dipped the chip."
"Double-dipped? What are you talking about?"
"You dipped the chip, you took a bite, and you dipped again."
"That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip. Look, from now on when you take a chip, just take one dip and end it."
"Well, I'm sorry Timmy, but I don't dip that way."
"Oh, you don't, huh?"
"No. You dip the way you want to dip, I'll dip the way I want to dip."
- Timmy and George, in "The Implant" Seinfeld
Recently, a student division of the American Bar Association argued to allow paid internships count for class credit. Currently there is a ban, which only permits academic credit for unpaid externships. Joe Zeidner, representative of the 35,000 members, fought to change the ban citing the major financial stress students are under while graduating with unprecedented debt and low job prospects.
The ABA eventually turned down the proposal, arguing that a conflict of interest arises when students are taking orders by an employer and simultaneously managing requirements from the school. However, the ABA did make some changes that could help students with some of their financial and educational issues such as removing the work hour cap during the school year and offering more online classes.
Although the ABA is said to still be considering revising the ban, I’m not so sure the ban should be lifted. While I would usually be all in favor of double-dipping time in law school to both minimize your debt and maximize your opportunities – which having a paid internship that simultaneously counts as course credit would be the epitome of that – I think it would set a dangerous learning precedent. Teaching students that it’s ok to get paid essentially twice for the same hour contradicts what is allowed in the Code of Ethics. It’s not like you can bill a client for your time in a Continuous Legal Education (CLE) class or multi-task your time and bill multiple clients for that same hour. You’d lose your license.
Further, claiming that it is “unfair” that students have to choose between unpaid externships for class credit and paid internships for money is ridiculous. You have to prioritize. If you’re worried about money, take the paid internship or budget your finances better. If you need more class credit, maybe you should be taking more hours during the semester. With the twenty hour working cap removed, there should be no reason to have to choose one over the other. No one said law school would be easy – and if someone said those words to you, they were lying. Learn to hustle now, and you’ll thank yourself later when you’re faced with a poor job market or competing for partnership and won’t be looking for some arguably unethical loophole to give yourself a step up. Just take one dip and end it.
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