This class will attempt to answer a perennial question - "How can a good lawyer be a good person?" - through an examination of attorney memoirs. We often study legal ethics through the use of hypothetical problems that are intended to raise vexing issues for practicing lawyers. Even in sophisticated simulations (such as those used at Northwestern), however, it is nearly impossible to duplicate the exigencies, pressures, and conflicting demands experienced by contemporary lawyers. Studies of the legal profession are also often one step removed (at least) from actual law practice, based on surveys or aggregations of information that do not address the actions of individuals. Lawyer (and judge) memoirs may be the means to bridge this gap, providing an opportunity to explore the ways in which individuals assume roles, make compromises, and seek solutions to daily problems in law firms and in courts. Of course, most memoirs are self-serving (when they are not self-aggrandizing), so they will have to be read with much skepticism. But that will be revealing as well, as we will be able to consider the most common rationalizations that are used to excuse -- and sometimes glorify -- questionable choices and conduct. Some memoirists are painfully introspective, some appear to be blinded by ego, and others are surprisingly naive. In combination, I believe this literature can be the basis for some true insights into the way law is, and should be, practiced.
Catalog Number: LAWSTUDY 647A