The Volokh Conspiracy

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

Free Speech

Prof. Andrew Koppelman's Thoughts for Law Students, from the Left to the Left


Very well put, I think; an excerpt:

The students who disrupt right-wing speakers – the protest against Judge Kyle Duncan, who tried to speak at Stanford Law School, is a prominent recent case – have been appropriately criticized for their obliviousness to the value of free speech.  I want to flag another issue: their piffling political ambitions. Today's left aims to protect minorities from offense.  It ought to aim to change the world.

The two aspirations are in conflict. Hypersensitivity to feelings, and the desire to vent them in the crudest possible way, enfeebles law students. It turns them into lousy advocates, useless to the social movements they hope to serve….

I'm an advocate of LGBTQ rights. I've fought Duncan and his allies for decades. I think it's a good thing when he presents his views, precisely because I want to defeat those views – to change the law, in ways that Duncan would hate.

The fundamental purpose of a law school is to give the next generation the skills to build a more just world. In order to develop those skills, the students need the experience of engaging with smart, skilled people like [Judge Kyle] Duncan who embrace ideas that they find hurtful and abhorrent. A good advocate must anticipate the strongest arguments on the other side – arguments that she may find painful to contemplate, especially when she has not yet figured out how to answer them.

That's true of all lawyers, but it's particularly pertinent to those who are trying to advance social change….

Read the whole thing.