Is it true that good lawyers interpret the law and great lawyers change the law?

Asked 12 months ago - New York, NY

Is it true that good lawyers interpret the law and great lawyers change the law?

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Jack Richard Lebowitz

    Pro

    Contributor Level 18

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Not necessarily. That's kind of a catchy phrase and a half-truth, but lawyers aren't legislators or judges. They don't have the power to "change" the law, only to suggest how it should be applied to certain facts. Sometimes, as your motto suggests, a lawyer can argue for a creative reinterpretation of case law to facts, perhaps this is what you mean by changing the law.

    Yes, creativity and "thinking outside the box" to come up with novel arguments is good. But, in my experience, what's better is the lawyer who persuasively lays out the FACTS and makes complicated situations understandable to a judge, jury or government agency. After all, the decisionmakers often know (or think they know) the statute and case law, but they know nothing about the facts of a certain situation or how the law should be applied to those fact patterns. That's what a great lawyer does, IMO, and he does it by calling attention to the facts, not his dazzling creativity in "changing the law".

    You're not supposed to be "changing the law" and peacocking around (this actually makes the decisionmakers nervous about following your lead). It's not about the lawyer, it's about the client and his facts. Decisionmakers are most comfortable applying the law as it's been applied before, not "changing it" (and making themselves exposed to appellate reversal).

    So, on the whole, I'd disagree, I guess.

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  2. Elizabeth Taylor Herd

    Pro

    Contributor Level 19

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Interesting question. IMHO The best input that lawyers have into the law is by being active in the legislative process and fighting for the rights of victims when encroachments are made into those rights.

  3. Jeffrey Ira Schwimmer

    Contributor Level 19

    Answered . What i s meant by "interpret" ?
    If a good lawyer advocates an interpretation of a law in such a way that it has not been applied before, successfuly, is that a "change in the law" and does that not mean that a good lawyer is also a great lawyer ?
    If a lawyer seeks the interpretation of a law that allows a beneficial application for a particular client but is "bad" for society as a whole, what is so "great" about that ?
    Doesn't "changing the law" always require an element of interpretation ?
    Final thought: Isn't any lawyer who zealously advocates a client's position or rights, even under the existing law without necessarily changing it, a great lawyer.
    Ah, philosophy of law

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