Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Speaking Truth to Powerlessness


Howard Lesnick


The most striking aspect of Patrick Schiltz's essay is that it directly addresses students. In word (the salutation) and deed (what follows), he speaks, not to the folks who help rule the world (judges, legislators, officials, weighty practitioners, and those rulers-once-or- twice-removed, professors), but to those who are hoping-dare they?-to ascend to some future vacancy in those positions. Schiltz's message is in two parts: First, he tells students several important empirical truths (as he thinks they are): the sources of the extraordinary malaise that seems to be tightening its grip on our profession in recent years (Parts I-III); the realities of large-firm life (Parts IV, VI); the priorities that are driving so many lawyers to live and work in so self-defeating a manner (Part V). He then (Part VII) offers students some advice, "little picture" and "big picture." The former is full of important detail, not "little" at all, but it is the two sentences of "big picture" advice that I want to note here: [Rlight now, while you are still in law school, make the commitment-not just in your head, but in your heart-that, although you are willing to work hard and you would like to make a comfortable living, you are not going to let money dominate your life to the exclusion of all else .... Make the decision ow that you will be the one who defines success for you-not your classmates, not big law firms, not clients of big law firms, not the National Law Journal.1