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The legal education at DCSL is heavily weighted toward clinics: every student is required to complete over 600 hours of community serving legal work. This approach might not prepare students for a position as a professor, but, if what you want is to litigate or practice real law, it is a tremendous way to learn. I worked in the Housing Clinic where one of my cases involved protecting a client from egregious overcharges from the manager of her public housing complex. I also represented a client evicted in the middle of a snow storm on Christmas Eve. Yes, it was very Dickensian. I fulfilled my separate community service obligation by representing a non-profit neighborhood group in a First Amendment case that went all the way to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Arguing before an appellate court as a 2L was an incredible experience made even sweeter when we prevailed.
I thoroughly enjoyed my academic studies at Georgetown. The other students, for the most part, are very serious about what they are doing to the point of being a little earnest. Don't expect this program to be a continuation of the party atmosphere of undergraduate studies. Do expect to read – almost as much as in law school.
Many of the professors are top notch and came in two flavors. One group of professors was made up of academics who had spent most of their careers in the ivory tower. They provided a good grounding in the theoretical basis for much of our country's foreign policy. Frankly, this group has become too powerful in recent administrations and is part of the reason that our foreign policy has been so problematic. They all sort of reminded me of the "best and the brightest" described by Halberstam. One of the best academic professors was Seth Jones, who had not lost touch with reality. We should have listened to him about Afghanistan.
The second group of professors had the academic certificates (e.g. PhDs) but had spent most of their careers in the real world dealing with reality rather than theory. One of my favorites was Jim Bruce, who was a former high ranking official in the CIA and taught classes on intelligence. One of the books he assigned is still one of the best books on analytical psychology: The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis by Richards Heuer. It is available free online. Its title is misleading: it is a great explanation of cognitive bias that is applicable outside the field of intelligence.
Another good book we had to read was Friendly Fire by Scott Snook. Snook examines the shooting down of a U.S. Army helicopter by USAF fighters to illustrate how complex organizations go wrong. Snook calls it "Practical Drift" and others in the field call it organizational catastrophe. Basically, organizations institute rules and procedures designed to prevent the last catastrophe, but the new rules ensure the next catastrophe.
I did a semester abroad in Argentina where, aside from eating lots of parilla, I worked at the Argentine Foreign Ministry where I helped plan an upcoming South American Summit.
My only complaint about the School of Foreign Service is that the staff (not the professors) is very partisan. It is weird, here are all of these students – many serving officers in the military or intelligence agencies – and you would think that the school would, at least, be neutral. Nope, the school's administrative staff treats any student who doesn't want to work for a "progressive" think tank like they are devil spawn.
Attending USF was a fantastic experience. The campus is in the center of the city on a couple of hills with fantastic views. Many of the professors are Jesuits and they know their subjects: if you want to push and strive they will match you every step of the way. One of my favorite classes was called Historical Methods and focused on research techniques. I still use what I learned in that class. All students are required to take a lot of philosophy; so much that almost everyone walks out of the school with the equivalent of a minor in the subject. One of the best and most popular professors on the entire campus was Prof. Makus who taught existentialism and ethics. Makus always had a crowd of students packed in his office. Makus was not a Jesuit and had been a professor at a university in Pennsylvania. I remember a student asking him if the Jesuits ever constrained his teaching. Makus said no, actually he was freer at USF than he had been at the Pennsylvania school because the Jesuits were confident enough to allow anyone to challenge them. Makus did and his classes were a ferment. One of the other great philosophy professors was Prof. Jackson. I remember her giving me a 10 minute explanation of feminist philosophy that really made sense and cut through all the silly political correctness that has bogged down that field of study. I think that she is now at Cal State Fullerton.