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Friday, October 02, 2009

Scalia Worries Gifted Litigators Should Be Doing Something More Productive

The title of an article in yesterday's ABA Journal.  I wonder how widely shared this sentiment is.  I was also amused by the amount of "you knows" in Justice Scalia's remarks -- he talks like an ordinary guy:

“I mean there’d be a . . . 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.”

Just noticed there's actually a fuller quote here.

Posted by Chris Lund on October 2, 2009 at 08:32 AM | Permalink


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Is this backed by any evidence at all or is it as Jim M. said, just a sentiment? Is there a disproportionate number of intelligent people in the legal profession or is this nothing more than ideological conjecture promoting a certain outlook?

Self loathing lawyers (and judges)...gotta love em.

Posted by: jim green | Oct 3, 2009 8:26:02 PM

"it doesn’t put food on the table"

Some lawyers help the poor and others do just that.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 3, 2009 5:34:09 AM

Should we extend H. L. Mencken's adage to lawyers who become judges?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Oct 2, 2009 11:14:33 AM

The sad thing about lawyers is not that so many of them stupid, but that so many of them are intelligent. The craft is a great devourer of good men; it sucks in and wastes almost as many as the monastic life consumed in the Middle Ages.
- H. L. Mencken

Posted by: Elan | Oct 2, 2009 11:00:43 AM

Personally, I share this sentiment. While I am a law student now and I am looking forward to practicing law once I graduate, I have often wondered if I might be able to contribute if I had stayed in engineering.

In Japan, a country that has far more engineers than lawyers, someone once said: "Engineers make the pie bigger, lawyers only decide how to slice up the pie." I like to believe lawyers do more than that, but I do agree that there are far too many lawyers in this country.

I don't think we need to discourage the best minds from pursuing careers in law. Instead, we do need to find ways to encourage more of out best minds to pursue careers in the hard sciences.

Posted by: Jim M. | Oct 2, 2009 10:46:24 AM

Perhaps Justice Scalia should self-reflect as to what he doesn't produce as he does with the litigator. Or is warning about the slippery slope productive?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Oct 2, 2009 9:37:43 AM

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