John Denvir, Research Professor of Law at University of San Francisco Law School, has launched a new blog, Guile Is Good, in conjunction with his new book, Guile Is Good (available through Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions). Here's an excerpt from the book's introduction:
I want to tell the story of how lawyer creativity and craft shape the world we live in. Since humor often reveals truths that more serious talk misses, let me start with a lawyer joke that encapsulates my thesis.Professor Denvir is also the author of Legal Reelism: Movies as Legal Texts (University of Illinois Press, 1996) and Freeing Speech: The Constitutional War Over National Security (New York University Press, 2012).
A university search committee is interviewing candidates for the presidency of the university. One candidate is a mathematician, another a sociologist, and the third a lawyer. At the end of each interview, one member of the committee throws in a final question: “Excuse me, but can you tell us how much is two plus two?”
The mathematician responds, “That is a really complex question, but for present purposes we can say that if you take an abstract two and add another abstract two, you get an abstract four.” The questioner thanks him for his answer.
The sociologist is asked the same question at the end of her interview. She replies that “this is an empirical question that requires very careful collection and analysis of data, but roughly the range is from three to five with a mean of about four.” The questioner thanks her for her answer.
As he is about to leave the interview room the lawyer is also asked, “How much is two and two?” The lawyer slowly turns around, approaches the committee, and inquires in a soft voice, “How much do you want it to be?”
The lawyer gets the job.
The punch line anticipates the thesis of this small book—the public respect and fear lawyers because they sense we use our creativity and craft (and craftiness) to shape the world. As lawyers, we should take great pride in the power our skills provide us and think carefully about how we choose to employ them.