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by Alan M. Dershowitz

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 2001
ISBN: 0-465-01631-6
Publisher: Basic

An extended graduation speech by America’s leading legal gadfly.

To his credit, Professor Dershowitz (Law/Harvard Univ.) admits that “I write like I talk.” Readers hoping to find a collection of subtle, elegantly crafted essays about the law will be disappointed. Instead, this collection reads as though it had been dictated within the space of a sleepless 48 hours. But then that’s quintessential Dershowitz: fast-thinking, fast-talking, and unapologetically opinionated. In a series modeled on Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (see Christopher Hitchens’s Letters to a Young Contrarian, p. 1090), Dershowitz dispenses advice to those embarking on careers in the law. His reflections touch on many of his longstanding obsessions, particularly the unethical practices he contends compromise our criminal justice system. Nor can he resist firing off a few gratuitous salvos about his view that the Supreme Court corruptly influenced the outcome of the last presidential election. The Court’s opinion, he writes, “should not be respected, any more than the robed cheaters who wrote it should be respected.” Unlike its flamboyant author, however, little of the advice dispensed here is particularly controversial: Serve your client, not yourself; be willing to advocate for society’s pariahs; and, above all, make career choices that are personally satisfying even if that means forgoing prestige. As though commenting on his current project, Dershowitz observes that certain of his Harvard colleagues resist publishing until a piece is perfect, a search that is “illusory and has no end.” Instead, Dershowitz has opted “to publish my many imperfect books” in order to interject his voice into the “marketplace of ideas”—a highly appropriate motto for this highly imperfect collection.

An uneven performance from one of our foremost celebrity lawyers.