Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Alan Dershowitz is so deliberately annoying and provocative that it is easy to lose track of how intelligent he is. His students are, I think, pretty lucky, although it must be a challenge for them to avoid becoming as annoying as he is. Dershowitz really is that smart-- for most other people his mannerisms amount to simply being abrasive for the sake of it. I'm sure I've been guilty of this offense, and I daresay most lawyers, if they are being honest with themselves, would admit the same. This interview captures all of that.

"What is the common law? The common law is a statement that says that we never quite get it right. Every lawsuit results from somebody doing something wrong. If everybody did right, we wouldn't need laws. It's mistakes, some accidental, some deliberate, that drive the law to constantly adapt and change. So I think it's crucially important that we look at errors and learn from them and adapt to them.

"I wrote a book called Rights from Wrongs, and the whole point of the book—which is my whole philosophy of life—is that we learn so much from our mistakes. Our rights come from all the wrongs we've done. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments grew out of recognition of the horrors of slavery. The entire human-rights agenda internationally grew out of the Holocaust.... My whole philosophy is based on correcting error, trial and error. Or, rather, error and trial."

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