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Today, Ben Heineman rejects such self-effacement in favor of a more muscular conception of the lawyer’s professional role. Heineman claims that lawyers’ professional activities groom them to lead. And he proposes that law schools should “more candidly recognize” lawyers’ leadership potential and so change their approach to legal education in order better to develop lawyers’ leadership capacities, and indeed to “inspire young lawyers to seek roles of ultimate responsibility and accountability” more aggressively than they do today.
That some lawyers are also leaders is obvious, and Heineman catalogues familiar examples: the Founders, the Abolitionists, the Progressives, the New Dealers, the Cold Warriors, and the activists of the Civil Rights Era did indeed all include lawyers prominently among their numbers. But Heineman is after a stronger conclusion—that exercising leadership should become one of lawyers’ characteristic social functions rather than just something open to lawyers as to other professionals, and indeed to citizens quite generally. Heineman believes that “[t]he core competencies of law are as good a foundation for broad leadership as other training” and so proposes that the aspiration to lead should supplant the more traditional advisory role in young lawyers’ ambitions. Indeed, he confesses a “wish to redefine (or at least to re-emphasize) the concept of ‘lawyer’ to include ‘lawyer as leader.’”
This stronger proposal substantially misunderstands the lawyer’s social role. In making it, Heineman neglects the lawyer’s traditional virtues and promotes a caste of mind that is incompatible with these virtues. Moreover, because the lawyer’s traditional role contributes importantly to the glue that holds political life together, implementing Heineman’s revisionist agenda would have far-reaching, and dangerous, consequences—not just for lawyers but for society quite generally.
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