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Volume 96, Issue 2

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Upon what meat have you fed that you can…

Law & education

I was sufficiently charmed by the sociologist Andrew Abbott’s “Aims of Education” address to tape on my office door the excerpt explaining why a good education is useless to most lawyers. After a few days, however, I decided that he had overstated the case. In my own practice, which centers on trial-level constitutional litigation, I often draw on analytic skills, which at least seem directly related to my undergraduate education in, for instance, mastering enough detail about “bivariate ecological regression” to cross-examine experts on the topic; working with historians and even sociologists to present a persuasive picture of complex topics to a court or jury; and, more broadly, cutting through fairly complicated hogwash and sophistry to articulate the “correct” side of the argument. On introspection, the more free-wheeling methods of inquiry and argumentation that often come into play in this aspect of the job seem more like what is experienced in college than like the dry, issue-spot-by-the-numbers approach of law school.

Perhaps this means that I’m just a glorified peon, rather than Abbott’s ideal of the smooth if uncomplicated, elite rainmaker. Admittedly, there appear to be plenty of uninteresting, uninterested people at every level of the legal profession, from silk to polyester. But I do think that, at least in certain niches of lawyering, one can benefit from thinking broadly, deeply, and creatively in a way not wholly unlike what one experienced in the College.

Andrew S. Mine, AB’81

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