Monday, February 12, 2007

Sound Bites from Litowitz

Posted by Jeff Lipshaw (mood:  grumpy)Img112

John Steele and others have been lauding the book, The Destruction of Young Lawyers, by Doug Litowitz, the young associate turned law professor turned investment fund manager.  If the interview to which John linked is any indication, I think I will pass on the book.

I don't doubt that many lawyers are unhappy.  I have no way of knowing whether they are unhappier than dentists, bricklayers, auto workers, or paralegals.  But it's a pretty good living.  I was a litigator for ten years at the outset of my career, and I was unhappy.  Many of my friends loved being litigators (I have no way of knowing if more loved it than hated it), but it's not for everybody.  It wasn't for me.  Still, I know I had more options than the guy who works for Orkin killing bugs.

John Steele's comment that Litowitz "swings wildly at anything that moves" appears to be accurate if this interview is any measure.  Let's see:

- Why do companies get taken private and then go public again?  "It always came down to benefiting the insiders of the corporation. . . . You are pretty much trying to protect these insiders against workers and against consumers."

- Do any lawyers have integrity?  "Yeah, the prevailing ethos among lawyers is that your job is to serve the client, whatever their needs are.  It's not for the lawyer to say that the client is overreaching, or being unfair - your job is just to do what they want you to do."

- And what are you doing now, Doug?  "I needed to earn some money, so I quit teaching recently and came back to Chicago, where I grew up, to work at an investment fund."  [Note to self:  a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.]

I have a couple questions.

(1)  How much responsibility does a lawyer-human have for his or her own ethics-happiness-integrity-courage-balance?  Why is the lack thereof somebody else's fault?  I sat in on my friend Professor Andy Achenbaum's Honors College U.S. history seminar at the University of Houston last week, and watched as a student questioned whether it was correct to use a work of fiction as a means of teaching immigrant working class social history at the turn of the 20th century.   Andy's comment at the time was:  "great question, but I'm asking you to accept for now that in my judgment it's an accurate rendering."  But he said to me later "imagine the guts it takes to question the professor's selection of a text."  I agree, and can't imagine that student, if she were to become a lawyer, agreeing that it's not her job to say what is unfair or overreaching.

(2)  Will there be a sequel in which Professor Litowitz tells us how his experience in academia helped him, in his second working world go-round, cure, or at least deal with, the oppression he perceived coming from the "System" and the "Man" the first time?

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