Analysis and Commentary on Law Practice
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.

The Importance of Incorporating “Soft Skills” Into Your Legal Writing

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and Schiff Hardin writing coach Julie S. Schrager explain the importance of incorporating “soft skills”—rooted in emotional intelligence and viewing your writing from your reader’s perspective—into legal writing. Amar and Schrager offer four key tips to help legal writers, whether first-year law students or seasoned attorneys, become more effective communicators.

Preferences, Norms, and a President Who Can’t Tell the Difference

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies explains the difference between preferences and norms and argues that when social norms and personal preferences conflict, the norm must win. Margulies laments that President Donald Trump misunderstands the elemental distinction between social norms and personal preferences and accepts the norm as legitimate only to the extent it coincides with his personal views.

Especially After Pittsburgh

In the wake of the tragedy in Pittsburg, which in some ways mirrors the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies draws upon his experience representing Abu Zubaydah—the first person held in the CIA "enhanced interrogation program"—to provide an answer the question of how one can represent someone so many people hate. Margulies argues that the advocate’s highest calling is to insist upon humanity even when society is most determined to deny it.

AT&T’s Hiring of Michael Cohen Was a “Big Mistake,” But Was It More?

Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses a statement by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson calling his company’s decision to hire Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen “a big mistake.” Dorf describes under what circumstances AT&T’s hiring of Cohen would amount to a crime, and under what circumstances his hiring would not only be legal but a corporate obligation. As Dorf explains, the proper classification of the decision requires more information than the public currently has.

Lawyers, Passwords, and the Obligation to Keep Clients’ Secrets

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda explains in concrete terms what the ABA's recommendation that attorneys "keep abreast" of "the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology" means: change your passwords into passphrases to keep confidential information secure. Rotunda describes how easy it is to hack simple passwords and cautions lawyers that the ramifications of compromised client information can be significant and far-reaching.

The Helpful Role Lawyers Can Play in Rebuilding American Democracy

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers some wisdom he shared during his keynote remarks at the swearing-in ceremony of new lawyers in Springfield, Illinois, describing how lawyers can help build American democracy. Amar comments on the specific duties and responsibilities lawyers swear to uphold, and explains why these duties are critical to the very foundations of our country.

Can Robots Practice Law?

Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda comments on the laws regulating the practice of law, and specifically, defining (or not defining) what the practice of law means. Rotunda argues that despite (or because of) the difficulty of defining the practice of law, computers and technology are advancing the practice of law and the work of lawyers.

The Ethics of Crowdfunding for Lawyers: Uncharted Territory or Familiar Terrain?

Attorney and Justia editor Sarah Andropoulos comments on some of the ethical considerations raised by the increasingly popular practice of crowdfunding by lawyers. Andropoulos considers whether attorney crowdfunding presents new ethical risks or simply calls for application of established ethics rules to new technology.

An Academic Year-End Look at Some Bright Spots and Significant Challenges for Legal Education

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on two important indicators of the health of legal education—employment outcomes and bar passage rates. Amar points out that based on the currently reported data on employment for America’s ABA-accredited law schools, the overall percentage has gone up for the Class of 2016 as compared to the Class of 2015. Amar also argues that law schools should take a deeper look at the factors contributing to low (and in some cases, increasingly low) bar pass rates.

California’s July 2016 Bar Results, and the Bar’s Apparent (and Wrong-Headed) Decision to Stop Providing School-by-School Data

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the dropping passage rate of the California bar exam, and the bar’s apparent decision to stop providing school-by-school data on passage rates. Amar explains why releasing less—rather than more—data is a poor decision and calls upon the California bar to correct this wrong.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... 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 the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... 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 Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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