Sunday, April 13, 2008
An interesting discussion, here (Bainbridge) and here (Concurring Opinions) about the messages we (i.e., law teachers) send to our students about practicing corporate law, and serving the common good. Objecting to the tendency to equate serving the public interest with "public-interest law", Bainbridge writes:
. . . You want to help make society a better place? You want to eliminate poverty? Become a corporate lawyer. Help businesses grow, so that they can create jobs and provide goods and services that make people’s lives better.
A corporate lawyer not only serves the public interest by helping to create new wealth, we also help defend an important social institution from statism. . . . Those whose livelihood depends on corporate enterprise cannot be neutral about political systems. Only democratic capitalist societies permit voluntary formation of private corporations and allot them a sphere of economic liberty within which to function, which gives those who value such enterprises a powerful incentive to resist both statism and socialism. Because tyranny is far more likely to come from the public sector than the private, those who for selfish reasons strive to maintain both a democratic capitalist society and, of particular relevance to the present argument, a substantial sphere of economic liberty therein serve the public interest. . . .
It’s time corporate lawyers stopped letting people like Chemerinsky make us feel guilty about our career choices.
Dave Hoffman (at Concurring Opinions) adds:
The big idea to agree with here is that it is a terrible fact that law deans, and law professors, continually push out the message that corporate lawyering is a less moral & desirable career path than "public interest" lawyering. The reason isn't that it makes students feel guilty (though it does) but that those students, when in practice, are probably less likely to be ethical because they've been told they've "sold out."
In my own Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure courses, I try to press a similar point, i.e., that one can probably do more for the poor and disadvantage, and more to protect the vulnerable, and more to safeguard justice, richly understood, as a conscientious prosecutor than as a criminal-defense attorney. What do others think?