12-5-87 I had an interesting discussion with my LSAT students during the break. They’re budding lawyers, so I asked them about the anti-lawyer sentiment in this country. In particular, I asked them why doctors, but not lawyers, are held in high esteem. “Remember the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India, when lawyers who flew in to represent victims were described as ‘vultures’?”, I asked. “What about the doctors? I’m sure dozens or hundreds of doctors flew in, but I didn’t hear a word about them taking advantage of another’s misery or misfortune.” One student tried to explain the difference. Lawyers, he said, create winners and losers. One party recovers damages; the other party pays. But doctors create only winners. Healing someone does not require that another person become ill. This sounds good, but on further reflection it rests on a false assumption. The assumption is that the “loser” in a lawsuit is being treated unjustly. If one person has stolen money from another, one should be a loser, and we would not think poorly of lawyers for rectifying things. So the distinction rests on justice. The claim must be that lawyers create losers who don’t deserve to lose. Once we make this assumption explicit, the difference evaporates. I still don’t know why lawyers, but not doctors, are treated with such scorn.
This year’s Heisman Trophy winner is Tim Brown of Notre Dame. I’m disappointed with the selection, not because Brown is unworthy (he’s a good football player), but because Notre Dame is a publicity machine. Brown was touted as this year’s Heisman Trophy winner before the season even began. Notre Dame is an independent university, so it plays teams from many different conferences. It’s also the foremost Catholic university in the United States. These combine to give it lots of television exposure, and this exposure works to the advantage of its athletes. Several Notre Dame players have won this award over the past quarter century. Terry Mallory, for instance, who has Catholic roots but is not religious, loves the Fighting Irish. Growing up, I had a friend (Rick Venturino) who worshipped Notre Dame. It’s every Catholic kid’s dream to play football or basketball in South Bend, Indiana. So I resent this popularity. Brown was in the right place at the right time. In my opinion, there were better players in the nation this year, such as Don McPherson of Syracuse, who led his team to an unbeaten season.
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