A Student of History

June 27, 2008

Too many lawyers…

Filed under: Quotes,The Academy,The world today — John Maass @ 5:17 am

“If you look at the figures, where does the top of the class in college go to? It goes into law. They don’t go into teaching. Now I love the law, there is nothing I would rather do but it doesn’t produce anything.”

—Justice Antonin Scalia, 2008


  1. John,

    While I appreciate Justice Scalia’s comments, have you ever noticed how many lawyers use their earnings to finance other endeavors? For instance, a great many lawyers have become well-respected amateur historians. I’ll use Eric Wittenberg as an example, since he is well-known in the blogging world; but there are many others, and I believe it is a phenomenon that is not limited to the field of history. I suspect that many of those folks would not be as productive as they are were it not for the income that has allowed them to absorb the costs in time, travel, etc. involved in conducting the research necessary to follow their chosen pursuits.

    So while I agree that the world could get by with less litigation, I think we go too far by suggesting that folks with law degrees “don’t produce anything.”

    Just a thought.


    Comment by Sean Dail — July 2, 2008 @ 9:31 am | Reply

  2. Good point Sean. However, what about the resources these attorneys take from others that THEY could use to be more productive if they did not have to pay the additional costs associated with frivolous lawsuits, higher insurance premiums, time in court, etc, etc?

    That’s not directed at Eric, I have no idea where his practice concentrates, and this is not a blanket indictment of attorneys, but their gain is often someone else’s loss.

    Comment by Richard Williams — July 2, 2008 @ 9:41 am | Reply

  3. No question about it, Richard. Of course, these problems have always been with us (though they may seem more pronounced now because things like the infamous Mcdonald’s verdict have been highly publicized – and mischaracterized – by the press) and IMHO they are part of the price we pay for living in a free society. And believe me, should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing a lawyer to defend you and/or make you whole in a negligence suit, your entire perspective on the issue might change… 🙂

    By the way, in case you haven’t guessed I have a law degree myself, though I have never practiced law in the traditional sense.

    Comment by Sean Dail — July 2, 2008 @ 10:32 am | Reply

  4. With all of the “practicing” lawyers do, you’d think they’d get it right!!

    Comment by John Maass — July 2, 2008 @ 1:36 pm | Reply

  5. Sean:

    I served as a magistrate for the Commonwealth of Virginia for 12 years, so I’ve actually been in the belly of the beast. I’ve also been sued and have had the experience of being defended by an attorney. Frankly, were I as familiar with the t crossing and i dotting (the technical procedures), I could have done as good a job as he did regarding strategy. My case never made it to court. We settled in arbitration. It was one statement I made during my “opening remarks” that forced the plaintiff to settle for a much lower amount. Even that procedure was corrupt.

    Being an insider, I know the system is broken. If you ever do enter private practice, you will soon discover the same. But it is all we have and is probably as good as it will ever be.

    Comment by Richard Williams — July 7, 2008 @ 10:38 am | Reply

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