Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

One way to consider our glamor profession is as consisting of three silos. There are the academics, the judges and the practitioners. As a person who teaches aspiring lawyers I think of myself as a law professor, even though "Professor" is an academic rank which I have not attained, and even though I have not produced the sort of writing that the legal academy regards as legal scholarship. I have actually produced a fair amount of legal writing, but it has mostly appeared in the sorts of publications that practicing lawyers read, as distinguished from law reviews which mostly nobody reads. My approach to legal pedagogy is likewise oriented towards the skills that lawyers employ rather than towards the theories that legal academics teach- and that I was taught. The theory is important, I think, in constructing persuasive arguments, although for the most part the people who do the deciding - that is to say, judges- have nearly as little interest in the theoretical underpinnings of, e.g. contract law, than even practicing lawyers. Practicing lawyers are, for the most part, wanting to obtain the best outcome for their clients, and shed theoretical considerations the way a duck sheds water.

Although legal academics sometimes become judges this is increasingly rare, I think. And although practicing lawyers sometimes become academics the reality is that the pathway to a teaching gig is pretty distant from the ordinary realities of actual lawyering. Generally speaking legal academics graduate at the top of their class, take a judicial clerkship or two, or maybe a very fancy gig a a governmental agency- DOJ is a good one- and then briefly practice in a niche specialty at a large firm. When they've had enough, which is usually within ten years of graduation, they  get out, and then when I meet them at fundraisers or the like they tell me, "I used to be a litigator." Friends, I didn't know shit about law for the first ten years I practiced, and while I will stipulate that these cats were better law students than I was I would put it to you that my time in the trenches blessed me with a lot more insight into how the system works than the path I have just outlined could ever generate.

Judges are a whole 'nother thing. Judges are political. The baseline qualification for being a judge is a broad familiarity with the outlines of the law, and when I say broad I mean extremely broad.

All of this brings me to this excellent piece.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Recommended: The Paris Review Podcast. Beautifully produced, with material that inspires thought. A highlight for me is Jason Alexander reading Philip Roth's "Conversion of the Jews". I haven't read the story in years and years, and thought I remembered it. There is, it turns out, a lot more there than I'd thought I remembered- it is clever, but also contains beautiful, unpretentious writing. Also, Mr. Alexander does a fine job of playing the humor against the commentary on the nature of our common humanity.

I may have mentioned here that lately I have come to think that American culture might be best understood through the lens of the African experience in the New World. (New to Europeans and Africans, I mean. The story of the native peoples of the Americas is another matter altogether.) While I hold to that it is certainly also true that the American experience also has to be described through the eyes of the people who have come here and made lives for themselves, assimilated and, maybe, not quite assimilated. The post WWII American novel was profoundly affected by the emergence of writers documenting the Jewish-American experience. Roth's work is about a lot of things, but certainly it is about the pain and alienation that accompanies assimilation. As jazz is to the African American experience, maybe, one can say that there is a streak of dark humor running from the Jewish theatrical tradition through vaudeville and film and Roth and Saul Bellow.   

Thursday, March 12, 2020

I don't suppose there's a good Camus novel to be trapped in, but I'm really not enjoying this one. I'm sure my mother is relived though

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

A while back I thought I'd track down some old teachers I'd had, write to them, and thank them. At the time I was teaching at my law school and so in touch with some of the faculty there, and my efforts to find a high school teacher that had a major effect on my life were bootless. Some, it turned out, were dead, but one- Edward Janosik, wrote back and we developed a bit of a correspondence. Dr. J taught American Politics and Legislative Process, and a lot of other things that were interesting and important to me, and was a delightful presence. I've just received word that he has died, at the age of 102, and I am musing about my good fortune in having him as a teacher when I was at such a formative age, and as a friend in his later life.

Friday, February 28, 2020

On June 11, 2016 I dropped my iPod Classic and it stopped working*. I took it to a shop to be repaired but they said it was broke for good. It's been sitting in my office since, with the thought that I might try sending it to Apple. The other day I decided to try charging it and low and behold it worked! This made me extremely happy. There is music on this device that I haven't heard in the ensuing years and I am glad to have it back in my life.

It is an appealing device that feels good in my hand, but it's funny how obsolete it has become in such a short period of time. It does not have Bluetooth connectivity, so in order to listen to it I need to use hardwired earbuds. It doesn't take photographs, or give me directions, or tell me what the weather is going to be. I can't use it to text or make phone calls. It just plays music, and although it holds a vast amount of music- over 8,000 songs it says, and that's less than half of its 160 gig capacity- my phone and my iTunes subscription allow me to download and play very nearly anything I can think of. So here it is, a relic.It is, in fact, so outdated that current versions of iTunes require downloading a plug-in in order to synch with it.  I think a lot about how technology has affected our relationship to music, and how it also affects how artists communicate their vision to us, and this is one more example. The LP gave us up to 20 minutes plus, which meant that longer compositions became possible; cassette tapes made mixtapes a genre. The Walkman made portability simple. CDs expanded the amount of music one could play without having to stand up and put on something new. The iPod returned us to single songs, and now we are living in the vinyl renaissance.

I'm not sure how I am going to use my resurrected iPod, although I may start taking it on long trips to help conserve the battery on my phone. I'm glad it's back

UPDATE, 3/3/2020: Zeitgeist-y 


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* I remember exactly where it happened, and it tells me the date and time the last song was played. It was "Oh Sailor" by Fiona Apple.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Watched an episode of The Adventures of Superman last night in which a scientist synthesized (or possibly refined) Kryptonite. In the story this was the first time Supes had encountered it. Subsequent developments suggest that the Earth is lousy with it, and it occurs to be that there are a lot more people from Krypton around than is generally assumed as well. I'd like to see a breakdown of Superman stories some day. You have your secret identity tales, and bad guys who think they have a gimmick (in the comics that's mostly Lex Luther, but there are others). Sometimes there's a menace from outer space, and every now and then (every 90 days if I recall correctly) Mister Mxyzptlk shows up. Also time travel. 

Friday, February 07, 2020

Time for Oscar Picks! From time to time I write about movies elsewhere, but this annual exercise is always fun to do.

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