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Law and empathy


I have a piece in Time about Sonia Sotomayor’s recent comments regarding what a privilege it is to practice law, and how lawyers who are unhappy “need to go back to square one.”

A couple of additional thoughts:

(1) Sotomayor’s comments illustrate how thoroughly people get de-classed when they rise in the American social system. After all, it’s not as if Sotomayor’s remarks illustrate her lack of up to date knowledge regarding political corruption in Bhutan or something. She’s talking about her very own profession, and yet it seems clear she (like John Roberts) has managed to avoid finding out what’s actually going on in that profession.

This in turn suggests that the new federal law requiring all SCOTUS justices to attend both Princeton and Yale may not be encouraging the most important kinds of diversity.

(2) Few things are more annoying than high-status quasi-lawyers (as I point out in the piece judges and law professors don’t practice law) burbling on about how being a lawyer is a particularly public-regarding occupation. Sure, part of a lawyer’s job involves helping people. But:

(a) You can say this about any service profession, including the guy who brings you a cheeseburger with a side of fries.

(b) Another part of the job involves hurting people, which is a lot easier to forget if you don’t actually do the job, hence the blovations of judges and law profs.

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