Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Wald & Pearce on Vischer: "What's Love Got to Do with Lawyers?"

Eli Wald (Denver) and Russ Pearce (Fordham) have offered a thoughtful and helpfully critical review of my recent book, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Morality of Legal Practice: Lessons in Love and Justice.  Here's the opening:

Rob Vischer has written an elegant and thought-provoking book, in which he asserts convincingly that something is very wrong with the legal profession and lawyers today and supplies an innovative and intriguing, albeit not fully realised, alternative vision. In doing so, moreover, Vischer joins Brad Wendel in authoring a pathbreaking book as part of a ‘new generation’ of scholars that seeks to build on the success in influencing the academy—and to learn from the failure to persuade practising lawyers—of an earlier generation of leading thinkers, including David Luban, Deborah Rhode, William Simon and Thomas Shaffer, who challenged the dominant conception of lawyers as neutral partisans. . . .

The bulk of Vischer’s book is an attempt to address this very challenge [of individualism] by providing a rich account of relational content to lawyers, offering means of expanding their view, as well as their clients’ view, to develop a practice of law that respects and advances clients’ true nature and objectives as relational beings. The relational content draws primarily on the teachings and thinking of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr—including his reliance upon agape, personalism, justice and Christian realism. Vischer’s book is impressive because it builds on at least three bodies of work—Dr King’s teachings, Christian theology and lawyers’ professionalism—to produce an easily readable, concise, practical blueprint for lawyers interested in serving the actual needs of their clients. The book successfully demonstrates that lawyers’ fundamental premise about clients is erroneous or at least overly reductive, and creatively challenges the orthodoxy of autonomy and individualism by offering a rich relational alternative. It does all of that by reintroducing Dr King’s work to a new generation of lawyers—an objective worthy in and of itself.

Wald and Pearce do express some skepticism about some of my conclusions, wondering, for example, if atomistic individualism is so ingrained in our culture that the removal of institutional barriers will actually pave the way for relational lawyering in any meaningful sense.

You can download the review here and buy the book (now in paperback!) here.  Their review essay is part of a larger symposium on my book forthcoming from the journal, Legal Ethics.


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