Toobin The Clueless

I don’t want to pick on Jeffrey Toobin.

But, OK.

Has there been a decline in the “need” for lawyers?  Sure, if what you mean by “lawyers” are those who work for the large firms or the government.  We went over this about a year ago.

But if what you mean by lawyers are advocates for the screwees, and not the screwers, there has never been more of a need.  Well, that might be hyperbole, but the thought is there.

So Toobin pens this essay in the New Yorker (h/t Judge Kopf) in which he opines:

The rational response to economic developments of this kind would be straightforward: in light of the plunging demand for new lawyers, there should be fewer law students attending fewer law schools.

Or perhaps the “rational response” is that we don’t need any more Ivy League debutantes feeding at the same trough.  But when Toobin thinks of “lawyers”, the world outside of Ivy League debutantes is not worth considering.  So where does he wind up?

As with law firms, the top law schools are doing fine. Graduates of the most highly regarded institutions may not have the cornucopia of options that their predecessors enjoyed a few years ago, but few, if any, will go jobless. These students have large loans, too, but they’ll be able to repay them. As in days past, they will migrate to the big firms, where, by and large, their prospects are bright. And the cycle will continue: the rich (in credentials, at least initially) prospering, and the poor struggling. So it goes for lawyers—and, it seems, for everyone else.

In other words, in a political justice system world in which the losers are already largely dispossessed, the answer is……dispossess them completely.

Brilliant, Jeff.  They teach you that at Harvard?

Of course, we explored this issue far more thoughtfully in February of 2013, among other places:

There is a lot of work that lawyers should be doing.  And it is true that at present it doesn’t pay, so it doesn’t get done.  That doesn’t mean that it will always be that way.

These people need legal help, for example.  Can’t see any money in it for the lawyers, though.  Not in the short term anyway.  But there could be, later on.  It really depends on what judges do.  And a lot of things are like that.

If judges started doing their jobs, which is applying the rules of law even-handedly instead of toadying for the rich and powerful to whom they owe their positions, legal work for the poor would wind up being effective, rewarding and remunerative.  And then there are a lot of lawyers to do the work.

Of course, no one is quoting me in the New Yorker, because I didn’t go to Harvard.  Self-reinforcing loop, doncha know.

Carolyn Elefant is addressing the issue (h/t Greenfield).  Not nearly so well as we have, I think.  But better than Toobin, at least.

It is the pervasive bias of the judiciary that has brought the practice of law to ruins, and we don’t think that’s too strong a term.  It is not an insurmountable problem, although that surely does not make it easy.

Lawyer strikes remain the only viable answer, but the logical subset of the profession to make that idea go is the criminal defense bar.  They are the most obviously and routinely screwed over, the lowest status and the least feared by the judiciary.  All of that going together like peanut butter and jelly, of course.

And there is also this:  the better natures both of most other lawyers and even a good portion of the judiciary, in my opinion, would be sympathetic.  Not their worse natures, but then that’s what the best kind of persuading is about:  getting people to act on their better natures, not their lowest.  I suspect support might come from some unexpected quarters, people who might be influential but can’t – or won’t – take the lead.  Maybe even Toobin.

Well, okay, but maybe someone sort of like him.

There is yet time, obviously.  The United States has not yet devolved into a 3rd world civil unrest plagued backwater.  And what a massive failure of the legal profession and the justice system if it does.

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