The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Congratulations to Winning Lawyers


A few months ago, I started congratulating winning lawyers in many of the cases I note. I don't do this because I necessarily agree with the lawyers; I do it because I want to tip my hat to fellow professionals who have successfully served their clients.

Maybe they served the greater good or improvement of the law as I see it, and maybe they didn't. But their job isn't to serve humanity or America or justice writ large; it's to serve their clients, and they succeeded at their job.

I especially feel that because my job is to teach law students, and to teach law students to do a good job for their clients; if some law students read these cases and see me congratulating people with whose positions the students suspect I disagree, all the better. And to the extent it's pleasant for people to see their names in e-print, well, I'm happy to give them such pleasure, which I think they've earned through their efforts (again, regardless of whether I agree with them).

Now sometimes I won't congratulate the winning lawyers, for instance because I don't have the time to look up the details, or because I forget, or because the result is complex enough that I'm not sure it's quite a victory. And perhaps there might be a position that's so remarkably odious that I can't bring myself to congratulate someone who successfully litigated it (though I don't recall this ever happening since I started the practice I'm discussing here). But my general plan here is to acknowledge the professional successes of my fellow lawyers regardless of my views on their position.

(Note that some of this is a bit of an oversimplification; for instance, prosecutors' job is to serve their clients—the public—by seeing justice done, not just by securing convictions, though presumably prosecutors who do win a case generally believe that they were indeed properly serving the public, whether or not I agree. But it's still a pretty good general guide to my thinking on the matter.)