Yale law school essay

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5 0 1 0 6. In this, the summer of our discontent, many college presidents are breathing a sigh of relief that they made it through a politically fraught spring without their campuses erupting. Law deans, in sharp contrast, have reason to be cheery. Their campuses have been largely exempt from ugly free-speech incidents like these. Students and faculty engaged with him, and students held a separate event to protest and discuss the implications of his work. But he spoke without interruption.

That’s exactly how a university is supposed to work. There may be a reason why law students haven’t resorted to the extreme tactics we’ve seen on college campuses: their training. Law school conditions you to know the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. That’s why lawyers know how to go to war without turning the other side into an enemy.

People love to tell lawyer jokes, but maybe it’s time for the rest of the country to take a lesson from the profession they love to hate. In law schools we don’t just teach our students to know the weaknesses in their own arguments. We demand that they imaginatively and sympathetically reconstruct the best argument on the other side. From the first day in class, students must defend an argument they don’t believe or pretend to be a judge whose values they dislike.

Lawyers learn to see the world as their opponents do, and nothing is more humbling than that. We teach students that even the grandest principles have limits. The litigation system is premised on the hope that truth will emerge if we ensure that everyone has a chance to have her say. The rituals of respect shown inside and outside the courtroom come from this training. Those rituals are so powerful that they can trump even the deepest divides. As Kenneth Mack recounts in his book Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer, Thurgood Marshall was able to do things in court that a black man could never do in any other forum, like subjecting a white woman to cross-examination.

Marshall was able to practice even in small, segregated towns in rural Maryland during the early days of the civil rights movement. The reason was simple: despite their bigotry, members of the Maryland bar had decided to treat Marshall as a lawyer, first and foremost. The values in which my profession is steeped were once values in politics as well. Buses delivered the staff to Grant Park to watch Barack Obama accept the win. The election was hard fought, and there was no love lost between the two campaigns. But even as the crowd around us jeered, the Obama staff practically stood at attention. I remember from that extraordinary campaign.

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