We Are Devoting Too Many of Our Best Minds to Lawyering

Justice Scalia recently said in a interview that we are wasting too many good minds lawyering:

I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise.

I mean there’d be a, you know, a defense or public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?

I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.

And they appear here in the Court, I mean, even the ones who will only argue here once and will never come again. I’m usually impressed with how good they are. Sometimes you get one who’s not so good. But, no, by and large I don’t have any complaint about the quality of counsel, except maybe we’re wasting some of our best minds.

This is undoubtedly true. I know really smart people whose work produces absolutely no real value for society. For example, what value for society does a tax attorney produce? They do not increase knowledge or produce anything of real value, instead they spend their time navigating the labyrinthine tax code. If we had simpler laws, we wouldn’t need to devote some many smart people to figuring out the laws.