Letters to a Young Lawyer

Letters to a Young Lawyer

Letters to a Young Lawyer

Letters to a Young Lawyer

Synopsis

"Where Would the World Be Without the Agitators? The great ideals wouldn't stand a chance. The radiant goals that conservatives hope to conserve were not and could not have been achieved by conservatives. As if the Confederacy abolished slavery. As if the eight-hour day, the minimum wage, social security, public funding for medical care and higher education, clean water, rainforest and species preservation were ideas dreamed up by corporations, politicians, and governments. As if the federal bureaucracy and pharmaceutical companies all by themselves, of their own good will, without benefit of a raging activist movement, put anti-AIDS drugs into the hands of millions of infected people. It's obvious when you think about it, but neglected in the conservatives' self-congratulations: without the disrupters, campaigners, and ideological pests, all the noble words would amount to nothing but blackboard dust. This is not to justify any activity undertaken in the name of activism. It is to state a plain historical truth: no noise, no improvement. Activism as such is not sufficient for improvement, but damned if it isn't necessary."

Excerpt

Giving advice is among the most hazardous of undertakings. I know because I have received much bad advice and because I have almost certainly given some. During the thirty-seven years I have been teaching law at Harvard, I have probably been asked for advice thousands of times.

Most advice turns out to be a series of instructions about how to become the person who is giving the advice. People seem to have a powerful need to re-create themselves (perhaps that's why we worry so much about cloning). I recall vividly being told by one of my mentors, a distinguished professor, the order in which I should publish several writings I was then contemplating. It soon became clear that he was merely recounting his own publishing biography. He wanted me to become him, just as several of my other mentors wanted me to be them. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, for whom I clerked, was always giving me career advice directed toward me becoming a judge — a position to . . .

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