Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Funny how it goes: some days there is very little of note to write about, and some days there is too much. Oscar Pistorius. The Court of Appeals clarifying New York's rule regarding liability in cases involving Automatic External Defibrillators (I know!). The Pastrami Project. There'll be time for all that some other day, but right now Outside Counsel would like to take a moment to mourn the death of legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin. "Taking Rights Seriously" was a formative reading experience for me in law school, and his regular contributions to the New York Review of Books were always a challenging, happy surprise whenever I came upon them. (A good example is this one, on Bush v. Gore.) I hadn't realized that he'd worked at Sullivan & Cromwell. I feel a connection there, and our respective statuses at that institution pretty much sum up our place in the legal universe: Dworkin represented the Wallenberg family, and I worked in the mailroom. From time to time I find myself vexed that our glamor profession spends more time on the technical intricacies of practice, and too little time considering the questions Dworkin was trying to find answers for. We hold ourselves out as a learned profession, but there is a determined streak of anti-intellectualism in us that drags us down. The present trend in legal education exacerbates this: students want to take "practice oriented" courses (like mine) and classes in things like Philosophy of Law are deemed too esoteric to bother with (unless one is a full-time academic, or plans to become one). That's a shame, because we should be involving ourselves in the larger question of why we do what we do, and Dworkin was one of the last, I think, who invited us to do that in a systematic-- dare I say scientific?-- way.

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