A Job for Fools (and Other Humans)

 Posted on December 28, 2009 in Uncategorized

When I was 25, I was a fool.

In this I am far from alone-most, if not all, 25-year-olds who went directly from high school to college to law school are fools. Wisdom requires understanding, and understanding (as opposed to knowledge) comes only from experience of a type not provided by formal education.

Fortunately for the 25-year-old me, wisdom is not a prerequisite for my then-and-now-chosen job.

It's not that wisdom is not helpful to a criminal-defense lawyer-to the contrary, it's important from first interview to final verdict and beyond: the more understanding a criminal-defense lawyer has of the way the world-and more specifically the human heart-works, the better job he'll do for his clients. Barring any serious accidents, I'll be a better lawyer in 2024 than in 2009, because I'll have 15 more years of life experience digested. I may even, at age 54, look back on my 39-year-old self as a fool.

Better to have a wise lawyer than a fool advising you to plead guilty or try your case, picking your jury, and cross-examining the witnesses against you. But a criminal-defense lawyer can perform the fundamentals of his job without wisdom. I know one lawyer-now a great lawyer-who when young tried a string of murder trials by reading all he could about Gerry Spence and doing what Gerry did. (Frighteningly, he won.)

The job can technically be done without wisdom because the job description doesn't include judging. Bring us your factually guilty, your scummy, your sleazy, your downright evil yearning to remain free: we'll defend them all-that's what the contract says.

If it were otherwise, if at 25 years of age, we had to decide who deserved a defense, if we were responsible for deciding what justice was, the fact that we were not only mortals (and therefore fallible) but also (at 25) fools would cause us to destroy many lives. But we don't have to worry about that, at least, because-whether foolish 25-year-olds or grizzled silverbacks-we're not charged with the job of deciding what is just.

We can leave the foolish destroying of lives to our adversaries.

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