Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Noticed a debate between fellow law-bloggers Waddling Thunder and JMB regarding whether someone can work at a big law firm without sacrificing his or her moral beliefs. Since I want some of the web traffic my two fellow bloggers seem to be getting out of their back-and-forth, I figured I'd offer my thoughts. :)

My initial reaction is that defending bad people is bad. And I don't see any real way around that -- if you go to court defending tobacco companies, I have trouble thinking you're doing good for society. But there's the counter-argument that being entitled to representation in court, and having a justice system where even people who do bad things get a fair trial is a value that's just as important to protect as the value of not selling things that kill people. I can understand that argument intellectually, but I don't know if that's really the motivation for why people defend companies doing bad things, and why people go to work for law firms -- I'm pretty sure it's more about the money and the prestige than about making sure we have a fair and equitable justice system. Because if the fair and equitable justice system was really their concern, there are people more in need of representation than big companies -- like poor people, I suppose.

But I guess my more fundamental question is whether working on something bad necessarily makes you immoral and a bad person, or if it's just a job and it's okay. The argument I don't like is that if you don't do it, someone else will. That seems like a cop-out. But it's possible to work somewhere and not truly be emotionally invested, and not truly care if your client wins -- you might care on an intellectual level, that you're doing competent work and won't get fired -- but not truly deep down. I imagine more people than we'd like to believe sleepwalk through their jobs not really feeling a stake in what happens to whoever they're working for. But does this absolve them of moral responsibility for their actions? Or at least make them less blameworthy than people who really care? Or is it worse to be doing stuff that's bad for society without even having a good reason, or a low moral character that can justify your actions?

I don't really have an answer there -- and I'm certain this rambling makes little sense. But I just figured I'd post my thoughts...