Friday, September 2, 2011

Pitch for more diversity of skills in Congress swipes at attorneys

RE "A Hill crawling with lawyers" (Op-ed, Aug. 29): We were dismayed to see that in John E. Sununu's attempt to argue for a Congress with diverse skill sets - including legislators with technical backgrounds - he felt the need to lob grenades at lawyers. Massachusetts is fortunate to have lawyers in its congressional delegation.

Particularly offensive is the notion that being able to argue either side of an argument is a detriment. The ability to see all sides of an issue, from ground level to 20,000 feet up, allows lawyers to craft solutions. Skilled negotiators, legislators who are lawyers are often asked to find common ground amid deadlock. Contrary to Sununu's suggestion, lawyers are trained problem solvers.

By virtue of their legal training, lawyers will scrutinize even the most crowd-pleasing, headline-grabbing legislative proposals through the lens of our Constitution. They have a heightened vigilance that laws must not only pass constitutional muster, but work in practice.

In addition, in citing the famous line "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," Sununu misses Shakespeare's point, which was that killing all the lawyers is the first step toward tyranny. Having good lawyers in government is vital to the preservation of liberty.

Lisa C. Goodheart
President Boston Bar Association Boston

Elected officials ought to be able to break down these ballooning budgets REGARDING JOHN E. Sununu's Aug. 29 op-ed "A Hill crawling with lawyers," in which he bemoaned the relative lack of engineers and the abundance of attorneys in Congress: Very, very true. Our elected officials are dealing with numbers that we, the public, do not much care about. Trillions of dollars means what?

Now, if they would just explain little parts of the budget, and break it down for us. Here's an example. Explain the cost of owning and operating an aircraft carrier, including its support fleet. We have 11 of these. China has one (it is now in sea trials). Russia has one. Much of the world has none. And what is the mortgage on the 11 carriers? Or is there a mortgage? If there is a mortgage, when does it end? When does it get paid off?

Richard F. Herbold

Lawyers as persuaders, not problem-solvers? Objection! RE "A Hill crawling with lawyers" (Op-ed, Aug. 29): While I agree with John E. Sununu's general point that our country would be best served by a Congress that reflects a diversity of backgrounds, I take sharp issue with his characterization of lawyers as persuaders but not problem-solvers.

Sununu's focus on "courtroom impresarios" plays into common stereotypes but ignores the significant portion of lawyers who do not appear in court. Many lawyers devote their practices to counseling our nation's business owners and governmental leaders on how to solve problems and get deals done. The best business lawyers are transaction-cost engineers trying to accomplish their clients' goals in the most efficient and effective way possible within the legal confines of our economic system.

By Jeffrey W. Sacks

Source: The Boston Globe

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