Vanderbilt Law Review


David Luban

First Page



In 1905 Louis D. Brandeis delivered a talk entitled The Opportunity in the Law to the Harvard Ethical Society.' It was delivered as a pep talk, what Harvard Law Professor Duncan Kennedy, seventy-six years later, would refer to as "the old address to the troops." Brandeis hoped to rally law students to his vision of the moral possibilities of legal practice-specifically, the elite corporate legal practice into which Brandeis could assume his audience would enter. Brandeis was concerned that elite lawyers were becoming thralls of robber-baron capitalists, that they were ignoring the possibilities of law practice as a kind of public service and redefining the ethics of their profession to encompass little more than the principle of unadulterated loyalty to their clients--a redefinition that, not incidentally, generated great personal wealth for the lawyers themselves.My purpose in this Article is to elaborate and defend a version of Brandeis' vision of the opportunity in the law. What was this vision? What transformations and redefinitions has it undergone? Why is it-as I believe--in contemporary eclipse? Most importantly for the subject of this Symposium: can this vision be resurrected as a public philosophy for the legal profession or, at least, for the influential stratum of the legal profession consisting of large-firm corporate lawyers?.