Law in Contemporary Society


-- By NoahRushin - 14 Apr 2021


Truthfulness plays a crucial role in one’s legal career. Throughout the course we learned that truthfulness operates in two different spheres: honesty to yourself and honesty to others. These two modes of operation impact how successful and fulfilling someone can make their legal practice.

Being Truthful to Oneself:

It is necessary for lawyers to be truthful to themselves. According to Swindling and Selling, many people are swindled by the job market into thinking that money is the sole purpose for running a legal practice. Similarly, as seen in Lawyer Land, many people convince and lie to themselves that money is the only thing that brings them joy. This results in many lawyers taking jobs for the wrong reasons. We have spoken in class that a legal practice’s ability to provide for those who work under it is important. But, as referenced by the audio, this must be balanced with the overall mission and interest of those that the organization must help.

In the Carrie chapter of the Lawyer Land reading, two lawyers became extremely angry when the other would describe their job. However, what they were truly upset about was that their jobs were negatively impacting others. One might claim that these lawyers were experiencing “splitting”, a notion examined in another section of Lawyer Land, which is when people distance themselves from the reality that their jobs are causing harm. This cognitive dissonance can ultimately lead to mental breakdowns.

In the The Trial of John Brown reading, we discussed how John Browne led a raid on Harpers Ferry to protest slavery. Throughout the trial it was evident that John Browne was honest with himself about his contributions to slavery. Unlike most, he realized that if he did not do anything to actively combat the atrocities that were occurring, he, as a white citizen, would be complicit in the act. Just as John Browne was honest with himself about his inaction as a passive bystander, lawyers must also be truthful with themselves about their role in society and their impact on others. On a larger scale, the effects of personal dishonesty that lawyers and others engage in, help to support systematic oppression and violence against others. From slavery to more recent hate crimes, many people continue to be untruthful with themselves about how their actions relate to these issues. As part of a collective society or system, each person plays a role in either fighting or dismantling the mechanisms that allow violence and discrimination, nobody is ever truly neutral.

Being Truthful to Others:

Additionally, lying to others is also detrimental to one’s practice. It has been emphasized that lawyers need to be honest and reliable people; they cannot build successful legal practices without earning the trust of others.

Thoreau, in A Plea for the Captain John Brown, mentions that the press was printing inaccuracies about the John Brown case and concealing the truth from the general public about what really happened during the raid. This emphasizes how the truth is not always profitable. Publishing the truth about Brown would have troubled readers and caused the publishers to lose money. However, as mentioned earlier, money should not be the sole source of satisfaction or motivation for lawyers and their legal practice. The most crucial time for truth to be spoken is when there are no immediate monetary benefits. While doing so may be difficult and come without reward during such situations, it is imperative to do so as the advancement of justice and one’s future reputation relies on it.

In our own legal practice, there will be numerous times where telling the truth to others will not be easy or profitable in that moment. John Brown has shown that those that stay true to their beliefs may be punished. Lawyers have the same duty as John Brown. A practice must be based in truth, even unpopular truths.

Moreover, unconscious thought, as explained by Transcendental Nonsense is necessary in order for a successful, efficient system to operate. As such, trust between lawyers working in a practice must also exist for unconscious efficient thought to occur. If lawyers have to constantly vet whether what others are saying is true, the whole practice suffers.

Trust between others in a law practice is paramount since law is a group effort. Based on the reading Transcendental Nonsense, we see that the law is the result of judicial decisions that are shaped by societal forces. By its very nature, law is a collection of others' thoughts and opinions. In order for the law to be properly analyzed and understood, judges and lawyers alike must be honest about their opinions and what led them to their legal decisions. It is necessary for lawyers to receive accurate and honest opinions from judges on how their legal decisions were formed. Without honestly relaying one’s legal decisions, legal precedent could not be developed and expanded upon properly.


In order to develop a successful legal practice, those who work in the legal practice must be passionate about the issue(s) the practice is working to solve. Both forms of honesty discussed above are necessary to build a practice with strong supporters and a clear mission. Additionally, dishonesty allows people - including lawyers - to refuse responsibility for their actions. This results in legal systems that especially harm minorities and low-income communities. Lawyers’ inability to be honest with themselves and others results in widespread complicity. In order for modern day issues and conflicts to be resolved, those in the legal system must become more like John Brown and lead their lives with integrity.

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r3 - 18 May 2021 - 01:04:30 - NoahRushin
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