Analysis and Commentary on Law Practice
What It Means to Be a Zealous Advocate: A Behavioral Approach

Criminal defense attorney Jon May discusses the importance of zealous advocacy in the legal profession, examining what it means to be a zealous advocate, the motivations behind lawyers’ practices, and why zealous advocacy is essential to the justice system. Mr. May argues that while zealous advocacy does not justify unethical conduct, it is a critical component of lawyers’ professional identity and obligations to their clients, and that efforts to eliminate references to zealous advocacy in ethical codes or to prioritize the “public good” over clients’ interests in legal education are misguided.

Law Firms Should Not Be Hiring Election Deniers. One Just Did.

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut criticizes the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner for hiring Mark Brnovich, the former Attorney General of Arizona, as a lateral partner, citing Brnovich’s prominent role in misleading the public about election fraud. The author argues that such a hiring decision tarnishes the law firm's reputation and undermines the legal profession's responsibility to uphold truth and democratic values.

Does the New York Times Owe Rudy Giuliani an Apology?

Cornell professor Joseph Margulies criticizes a recent article by the New York Times that focuses on Rudy Giuliani’s drinking habits, questioning its relevance to the prosecution of Donald Trump and suggesting that the article engages in public shaming. Professor Margulies argues that while Giuliani’s public behavior may be worthy of scrutiny, his personal struggles with alcohol should not be the subject of journalistic attention, especially when they have no proven relevance to his professional advice to Trump.

Is Resistance to AI in the Law School Classroom Futile?

Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the implications of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools in law schools. Professor Dorf observes that for now, smart, well-motivated students will outperform AI in most tasks required of law students, but legal educators will soon have to grapple with the reality that banning AI-based tools will make less and less sense as they become more mainstream various ways in legal practice.

The Coinbase Arbitration Decision: Sensible Procedural Correction or Court Invention?

Arbitrator and mediator Barry Winograd comments on the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Coinbase v. Bielski, in which the Court held that a litigation stay is required when an interlocutory appeal permitted by Section 16(a) of the Federal Arbitration Act is taken from a federal district court order denying a motion to compel arbitration. Mr. Winograd summarizes the Coinbase decision, shares several thoughts about its reasoning, and considers the decision’s potential effects on arbitration practice.

Forced Apologies: Thinking about Ordinary, Restorative, and Transitional Justice

Illinois Law professors Lesley Wexler and Jennifer Robbennolt comment on the recent decision by a judge declining to require an apology from the lawyers who submitted a brief with fictitious cases generated by ChatGPT. Professors Wexler and Robbennolt explain why the judge’s reasoning that “a compelled apology is not a sincere apology” assumes that a compelled apology has no value and fails to consider the other purposes apologies serve, such as acknowledgment to victims and affirmation of violated norms.

“We Acknowledge the Court’s Rulings” and Other Terrible Apologies

In this second in a series of columns on the litigation ending in settlement between Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems, Illinois Law professor Jennifer K. Robbennolt, University of Houston Law professor Jessica Bregant, and Illinois Law professor Verity Winship comment on the non-apology Fox made at the end of the case. The authors argue that the Fox/Dominion settlement is a stark example of the multiple audiences for an apology and how the incentives and desires of private parties and public audiences may diverge.

What’s So Special About the Fox/Dominion Settlement? Less Than You’d Think

Illinois Law professor Jennifer K. Robbennolt, University of Houston Law professor Jessica Bregant, and Illinois Law professor Verity Winship describe the findings of their study of people’s perceptions of legal settlements generally, and what that means about the Fox/Dominion settlement. The authors point out that the lawsuit ended exactly as most lawsuits do—in settlement—and argue that for all the case’s weighty implications, the public reactions to the settlement are exactly what we would expect.

First, “Let’s Corrupt All the Lawyers”: Trump’s Pathway to Autocracy

Harvard Law professor emeritus Laurence H. Tribe and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comment on an order last week by Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordering former Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to answer questions he had declined to answer in January before Special Counsel Jack Smith’s grand jury. Professor Tribe and Mr. Aftergut point out that lawyers are uniquely positioned to either defend democracy against tyranny or facilitate its downfall; Judge Howell’s order reaffirmed the DC district court’s commitment to the rule of law as our shield against tyranny.

Trump Lawyer Jenna Ellis Snatches Shame from the Jaws of Redemption

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the public censure of Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis for her misrepresentations on Fox News and elsewhere regarding the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election. Mr. Aftergut points out that now, thanks to Jenna Ellis, we have a discipline case on the record against a lawyer whose only misconduct was in misleading the public in the public square.

Defamation Lawsuit Hits “Big Lie” Bullseye

Former federal prosecutor comments on recent news that courts have required several far-right television networks to issue statements recanting their false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Aftergut praises these decisions as demonstrating the role of lawyers and courts in upholding truth and provable facts.

Lawyers’ Special Role in Preserving Democracy: More Important Today Than When First Described by a Great Chronicler of America

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut describes the special role that lawyers play in preserving democracy—a role even more important today than it was at the county’s founding. Mr. Aftergut calls lawyers to action particularly in light of the news of a forthcoming memoir by Geoffrey Berman, the former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York who resigned rather than carry out former President Trump’s efforts to bring weak cases against political opponents.

Picking Your Own Poison and Capital Defense Lawyers’ Ethical Quandary

Amherst professor Austin Sarat describes the ethical quandary capital defense lawyers face when they have to, under the Supreme Court’s current methods of execution jurisprudence, suggest an alternative readily available method to execute their clients. Professor Sarat argues that the only way to eliminate this ethical quandary is to end the practice altogether, particularly in light of the current Court’s apparent hostility to arguments of death row inmates.

Judge’s Ruling Helps January 6 Committee Zero in on Trump Lawyer’s Emails

Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, explains how a recent ruling by a federal judge in Santa Ana, California, helps the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack get closer to obtaining emails from former Trump lawyer John Eastman. Mr. Aftergut argues that disclosure of Eastman’s emails would advance the committee’s search for truth, and with it, strengthened hope for preventing another insurrection.

Last Call at the Bar: Grading the Briefs in Trump Impeachment 2.0

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, offers thoughts on the legal tactics and briefs filed by each side in former President Trump’s second impeachment trial. Mr. Falvy argues that if Trump can survive a second impeachment vote, it will show that he is still operating where he has always believed himself to be: well beyond the reach of the law.

Trump’s Lawyers Will Get Away with Facilitating His Anti-Democratic Antics and They Know It

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—predicts that because the lawyer discipline process is broken, President Trump’s lawyers will get away with facilitating his anti-democratic misconduct. Professor Sarat notes that Lawyers Defending American Democracy (LDAD) released a letter calling on bar authorities to investigate and punish members of Trump’s post-election legal team, but he points out that while LDAD can shame those members, it still lacks the ability itself to discipline or disbar.

In (Trial) Courts (Especially) We Trust

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone describe the increasing importance of courts and lawyers in safeguarding and reinforcing the role of factual truths in our democracy. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that lawyers and judges are steeped in factual investigation and factual determination, and they call upon legal educators (like themselves) to continue instilling in students the commitment to analytical reasoning based in factual evidence, and to absolutely reject the notion that factual truth is just in the mind of the beholder.

Should Department of Justice Lawyers Defy William Barr?

Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on an open letter addressed to the 100,000 professionals working in the U.S. Department of Justice and published by Lawyers Defending Democracy. In the letter, more than 600 members of the bar from across the United States call on their DOJ colleagues to refrain from “participating in political misuse of the DOJ in the elction period ahead.” Sarat argues that the letter rightly recognizes that Attorney General Barr’s blatant partisanship endangers the integrity of the DOJ itself and its role in preserving the rule of law.

Why It is Unconstitutional for State Bars, When Doling out Bar-Exam Seats, to Favor In-State Law Schools

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar explains why it is unconstitutional for state bars to favor in-state law schools when deciding who may sit for the state bar exam while complying with social distancing requirements, based on the Supreme Court’s precedents on the dormant Commerce Clause.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is a Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Davis School of Law and a Professor... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, is a visiting professor at both Osgoode Hall... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is Dwight D. Opperman Professor of Law and Director of the Center of Labor and... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Laurence H. Tribe
Laurence H. Tribe

Laurence H. Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more