A Letter To Hon. Earl Warren, Chief Justice Of The United States (retired And Deceased)

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Well, now for the summation, the argument to the jury: Where are we, on balance? You used to remark that, no matter how thin the pancake, it still had two sides. In my view, it still does. On the one hand, there is a lot for our profession to be proud of—our openness, our willingness (we were among the first to admit women to the Inner Temple)—our participation in attempts to improve society, the continued concern of at least some lawyers and courts for the underdog. The changes in our levels of compassion, which you more than any other twentieth-century American stimulated, have not been entirely reversed.

There is, however, an “on the other hand” (you’ll recall the client who searched vainly for a one-armed lawyer who couldn’t end his sentences with that ubiquitous phrase). Some of our compassion is fading. We are convincing ourselves that selfishness is somehow moral —that the rich man can pass through the eye of the needle. We need a rejuvenation, a force to turn our heads away from the giant amounts of money some of us are making toward the responsibilities that a ticket to practice law used to impose. We are parts of big organizations now, but most of us, deep down, are still sole practitioners. Maybe that spirit can be revived—the independent attorney-at-law, to whom you turn if you are in trouble. I hope so.