… And its role in a just society
By Michael Dirda

While reading the papers this past Monday, I paused over two stories. One was a Washington Post review by Patrick Anderson—who specializes in writing about crime fiction—of a new thriller by Dick Wolf called The Intercept. In his opening paragraph Anderson mentioned all the millions Wolf had made from his TV shows, Law & Order in particular, and ended by observing that the writer owned a home in Montecito, California, “which is, as the saying goes, where God would live if he had the money.”

The second story I lingered over was in The Wall Street Journal. According to reporter Jennifer Smith, prominent law firms are now letting go partners who don’t bring in enough business or bill enough hours. As one unidentified source said, quite plainly, “It isn’t enough to be a good lawyer. The job is to make money for the firm.”

Apparently, these are tough times for that most generally despised of all professions. Some years back, and perhaps still, the Folger Shakespeare Library sold T-shirts emblazoned with the words: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” (That’s from Henry VI, Part Two, if you want to look it up.) Of course, nowadays lawyers enjoy lots of competition when it comes to being reviled. Consider, for instance, Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund operators, and overpaid CEOs (i.e., virtually all of them). Many of these are, of course, lawyers as well.


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