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Are "White Shoe" Law Firms "Conservative"?:

There is a prevalent myth that large law firms, especially old, "white shoe" firms, are bastions of patrician conservatism. This may have been true forty years ago, but the evidence suggests that the vast majority of big law firms are firmly, institutionally, on the Left, whether judged by the political content of their pro bono work, the voting and contribution patterns of their partners, or their willingness to embrace politically correct agendas, such as racial preferences in hiring. Walter Olson offers a case in point: Clifford, Chance honoring heroes of the radical left. AmLaw Daily reports that "Clifford Chance sponsored the book party on the advice of a consultant who advises the firm on art and diversity," the very existence of which should tell you something.

As an aside, given that several of the honorees were PLO propagandists, back in the days when the PLO didn't even pretend to want a peaceful settlement with Israel, I wonder whether the diversity consultants considered the sentiments of Jewish partners and associates. (The PLO folks may or may not have been treated unfairly, I'm not familiar with the relevant story, but merely fighting a First Amendment battle successfully does not make you a "hero" worthy of having your picture in the lobby of Clifford, Chance. Or should I be sending the firm photos of the Nazis who won the Skokie case, for proud display?)

UPDATE: As a further aside, do you think any major law firm is going to honor the Boy Scouts of America as heroes of the First Amendment for winning what I think is one of the most important First Amendment cases of the last two decades, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale? No? Actually, it's almost unthinkable, despite the BSA's overall "mainstreamity". That, combined with Clifford Chance's honoring "heroes of the radical left" for their First Amendment battles, should give readers an idea of how "conservative" big law firms are.

EH (mail):
[rude introdutcion deleted by editor], but maybe the (or a) question to be answered is whether diversity and conservatism are fundamentally opposed by definition. Is an expansiveness of concern one of the things being conserved?
6.14.2008 9:15pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Do you mean diversity (def: variety; multiformity) or "diversity" (def: considering the skin color and/or ethnic background of individuals as a primary attribute in making decisions, and disregarding or downplaying other aspects of diversity, such as social class, political ideology, religion, etc.)? The latter is indeed antithetical to conservatism, as commonly understood.
6.14.2008 9:20pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Thanks to David for bringing up this subject. Many large law firms do a have a left agenda. If you don't think you could do pro bono work for FIRE without hurting your career, you probably work for a left law firm. If your female and black employees get targeted emails inviting them to special functions not open to white men, you work for a left law firm. If anyone knows the names of large law firms that are really conservative, then please share.

Much of big business also plays the same game. Companies like Google and Sun also buy into multi-culturalism, affirmative action etc.
6.14.2008 9:44pm
MQuinn:
DavidBernstein said:


Do you mean diversity (def: variety; multiformity) or "diversity" (def: considering the skin color and/or ethnic background of individuals as a primary attribute in making decisions, and disregarding or downplaying other aspects of diversity, such as social class, political ideology, religion, etc.)? The latter is indeed antithetical to conservatism, as commonly understood.



I would not and do not suggest that conservatives are racist or biased. However, many of us moderates or slightly-left-of-moderates find it curious that on every issue pertaining to race, conservatives side with the preferred viewpoint of the racial majority over the preferred viewpoint of the racial minority. Of course it could be a coincidence--and for most conservatives I believe it is--but it is nonetheless remarkable.
6.14.2008 9:53pm
corneille1640 (mail):
Perhaps these instances of the non-conservatism of law only underscores the degree to which what passes conservatism has changed. Mr. Bernstein mentioned "patrician conservatism." Maybe that "patrician conservatism" is part of what "liberalism" is today. A common complaint among self-proclaimed conservatives today (a group that includes, among others, free market, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps types) is that "liberals" in government treat their citizens like children.
6.14.2008 9:55pm
corneille1640 (mail):
Sorry, I should have said "the non-conservatism of law firms."

That's what I get for writing unwieldy sentences.
6.14.2008 9:58pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
" ... conservatives side with the preferred viewpoint of the racial majority ..."

What does that mean? What is the preferred viewpoint of the racial majority? Do you mean the typical viewpoint towards affirmative action, hate crimes that only apply one way etc?
6.14.2008 10:00pm
anonymouseducator:
"Prevalent myth"? I don't know anyone who thinks that prestigious law firms are conservative. They are liberal and most people who know anything about the political tendencies of law firms are aware of this.
6.14.2008 10:00pm
corneille1640 (mail):

As an aside, given that several of the honorees were PLO propagandists, back in the days when the PLO didn't even pretend to want a peaceful settlement with Israel, I wonder whether the diversity consultants considered the sentiments of Jewish partners and associates. (The PLO folks may or may not have been treated unfairly, I'm not familiar with the relevant story, but merely fighting a First Amendment battle successfully does not make you a "hero" worthy of having your picture in the lobby of Clifford, Chance. Or should I be sending the firm photos of the Nazis who won the Skokie case, for proud display?)

I, too, am not familiar with "the relevant story," but anecdotally speaking, I find it very hard to express any criticism of Israel's policies without facing charges of antisemitism or being a "PLO propagandist." I'm willing to assume that most defenders of Israel's policies are not so quick at the name calling, but a few of the extremists are.
6.14.2008 10:01pm
anon252 (mail):
Quinn: The only thing really at stake here, i.e., the major difference between liberals and conservatives on race, is "should racial minorities get special preferences?" (If you look across the broad range of issues tangentially related to race--welfare, abortion, school vouchers, etc, it doesn't seem that liberals agree with "minorities" more than conservatives, overall).

Very few people turn down speical treatment when offered to them. I don't think farmers should get special preferences, as they do in various farm bills. Farmers generally do. That doesn't make me anti-farmer. I don't think sports teams should get special tax breaks from cities. Sports teams generally do. That doesn't make me anti-sports. The fact that many members of racial minorities would like to get preferences doesn't make those who think that they shouldn't get them anti-minority.
6.14.2008 10:01pm
davidbernstein (mail):
These were literal PLO propagandists, I believe they were facing deportation for aiding and abetting terrorist organizations.
6.14.2008 10:03pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
I'm an associate at one of the most liberal of the "white shoe" firms. Some office conversations are quite hilarious when the other particants assume everyone in their company thinks like them. You get someone saying something to the effect of "I hate/can't stand conservatives" or "God, how could people be so stupid as to vote for George W." Sometimes I can't resist and return it with a wisecrack. When called out, they usually have the good sense to be embarressed about their remark.
6.14.2008 10:09pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
I would agree with some of the previous comments. I doubt many people familiar with the law profession think the big/old firms are politically conservative.
6.14.2008 10:11pm
MQuinn:
anon252 said:



Quinn: The only thing really at stake here, i.e., the major difference between liberals and conservatives on race, is "should racial minorities get special preferences?" (If you look across the broad range of issues tangentially related to race--welfare, abortion, school vouchers, etc, it doesn't seem that liberals agree with "minorities" more than conservatives, overall).

Very few people turn down speical treatment when offered to them.




I think that you make a great point, but you are wrong. Many examples spring to my mind that are not related to what you call "special preferences" laws. For instance, Hispanics are generally (though not exclusively) opposed to the GOP's stance on immigration. African Americans are generally (though not exclusively) opposed to the GOP's stance on abortion. Other examples are plentiful.

I want to clarify my point a little bit. The majority of conservatives are honest, kind individuals. However, it is curious that on almost every political issue related to race their view can be used to keep the racial majority in power. Is that really very controversial to suggest?
6.14.2008 10:12pm
taney71:
Being "liberal" today is so easy. Many of the initial arguments in support of their views are simplistic and take little effort to mouth-off. Doesn't surprise me that big law firms support such a view.

My wife works for a black man who hates all the multi-cultural crap her company does to appear more "accepting" of various races. Her boss refused to attend a "southern" lunch with fried chicken and home fires, etc. as part of this effort. I am from the South and I can tell you I was personally offended by this white guilt display. Liberals at times can be well meaning, and maybe even harmless materially, but their decisions usually inflect some type of harm even when they try to do good.
6.14.2008 10:13pm
corneille1640 (mail):
Is the "PC-ness" of large law firms a result only of "leftist" proclivities? It seems to me that most large firms might institute affirmative action programs and "celebrations of diversity" to avoid lawsuits. If sued for discrimination, one of the large firm's defenses would be "we don't discriminate....look at how accepting we are of diversity." (I don't know if such a defense actually holds up in court, as I am not, never have been, and never will be a lawyer.)
6.14.2008 10:20pm
anon252 (mail):
"African Americans are generally (though not exclusively) opposed to the GOP's stance on abortion."

Last time I checked the polls, African Americans were much more likely to support limits on abortions than were whites. And I suspect, though I can't recall poll data, that African Americans are more opposed to immigration than are whites.
6.14.2008 10:26pm
TerrencePhilip:
I think there is no doubt that the elite element of the profession- represented by the big firms, the ABA leadership, and the academy- embrace a sort of NPR, wine-drinking liberalism.
6.14.2008 10:31pm
corneille1640 (mail):

I think there is no doubt that the elite element of the profession- represented by the big firms, the ABA leadership, and the academy- embrace a sort of NPR, wine-drinking liberalism.

which, I believe, has the "patrician conservatism" as one of its ancestors
6.14.2008 10:36pm
frankcross (mail):
I think this is all very true, but you might reflect on why this is.

I believe that when conservatives allied themselves with the religious right and its causes, including ant-gay and anti-Darwinist positions, they turned what might seem a natural constituency (well-paid corporate lawyers and related types). That and the approach of prominent and popular conservatives, such as Rush and Ann Coulter. These law firm folks felt more distant from those groups than from economic liberals who were contrary to their own economic self-interest.

The Republicans coopted the old Democrat constituency of relatively poor working class whites, but I think this cost them richer urban white constituencies.
6.14.2008 10:38pm
Matt_T:
However, it is curious that on almost every political issue related to race their view can be used to keep the racial majority in power. Is that really very controversial to suggest?

All you're pointing out is that the majority rules in a democracytic republic. Why wouldn't the majority, however you slice it, retain power?
6.14.2008 10:38pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Hmm. The NPR liberals at law firms today and the patrician conservatives of yesteryear do have something in common--they reflect the views of the "establishment," which I suppose is exactly what you expect large law firms to do, given that large corporate clients are a very significant part of that establishment.
6.14.2008 10:42pm
hawkins:

a sort of NPR, wine-drinking liberalism


I find this comment extremely immature
6.14.2008 10:54pm
MQuinn:
Matt_T said:


[MQuinn said:] However, it is curious that on almost every political issue related to race their view can be used to keep the racial majority in power. Is that really very controversial to suggest?

All you're pointing out is that the majority rules in a democracytic republic. Why wouldn't the majority, however you slice it, retain power?




Notice I said the "racial majority." I find it scary that you believe that "the majority, however you slice it, [should] retain power." Do you intend to suggest that the racial majority should always rule?
6.14.2008 11:02pm
Dave N (mail):
I think that this phenomena is partly due to the social conservative wing of the Republican Party--but only in part. Additionally, I think biglaw reflects their location. The trendy salons of Manhatten, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are all hard left--and the elite are part of it.

Overall, the Republican Party is a middle-class party. That is not to say there are not rich Republicans (or poor ones, for that matter). The Democratic Party, by contrast, attracts the upper-income and the lower class. That is not to say that there not middle-class Democrats.

By the way, although there are plenty of Democrats, one area of law where you will find as many Republicans if not more Republicans than Democrats are in the District Attorney offices around the country. Prosecuting crime takes a certain mindset, usually more conservative than liberal.
6.14.2008 11:08pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
I find this comment extremely immature

I found it funny. Were we voting?

Would've been funnier without "wine-drinking." As someone who listens to NPR about 4-5 hours a day, I think there's definitely a type of semi-thoughtless moderate liberalism-that doesn't-know-it's-liberalism which NPR typifies. It's fun.
6.14.2008 11:09pm
dick thompson (mail):
Funny but I see the trial lawyers being overwhelmingly leftist and have been since the days of FDR. They are not nor have they ever been pro-conservative. In fact they are about as far from conservative as it is possible to get.

As to the conservatives allying themselves with the religious right, the problem for the legal profession appears to be more the fact that any religious folk ally themselves to the group than any of their other beliefs. Religion appears to be anathema to the legal profession.

The conservatives try to say that all should be judged on their abilities and the trial lawyers see this as a big income cut for their earnings and run screaming. Look at what MLK sought in his speeches and it is very reflective of the conservative position and yet the people who try to claim him reject this totally. Instead they make saints of RFK who sicced the wiretappers and the FBI on these same people. Seems perverse to me.
6.14.2008 11:11pm
Anderson (mail):
As a further aside, do you think any major law firm is going to honor the Boy Scouts of America as heroes of the First Amendment for winning what I think is one of the most important First Amendment cases of the last two decades, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale?

So, if the Ku Klux Klan were to win a major First Amendment case, David Bernstein would "honor" the Klan as "heroes of the First Amendment"???

Permit me to doubt.
6.14.2008 11:15pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Frank, I agree. But I still hear people, almost always left-wing people, talking about the "conservative" law firms. I think there is some cognitive dissonance that the left, which is supposed to be the home of the "workers" fighting the "capitalists" is in many ways dominated instead by the "new class" of well-educated, and generally well-off lawyers, professors, government workers, etc., who, not coincidentally, benefit from the growth of government.
6.14.2008 11:17pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
"So, if the Ku Klux Klan were to win a major First Amendment case, David Bernstein would 'honor' the Klan as 'heroes of the First Amendment'???"

Anderson, of course I wouldn't. But neither would I honor, as Clifford Chance did, "Margaret Randall, ordered deported in 1984 on the basis of her past communist writings; [and] seven Palestinians arrested in Los Angeles in 1987 for distributing literature for the PLO." It's especially ironic to honor as heroes in of the First Amendment people who use the Amendment for their own ends, but don't believe in freedom of speech (see also Ten, Hollywood).
6.14.2008 11:21pm
one of many:
Hispanics are generally (though not exclusively) opposed to the GOP's stance on immigration. African Americans are generally (though not exclusively) opposed to the GOP's stance on abortion.
I was going to go with a cutting sarcastic remark but managed to refrain.

Which GOP stance on immigration are you referring to, there are 3 major ones (open borders/closed borders to illegal immigration and more although not unlimited legal immigration/closed borders to illegal immigration and no increase in legal immigration)? I should note that the last is the closest to the immigration policy of the Democrats, (such as a consensus exists, Democrats are also fragmented on immigration although less so than Republicans) as well as being the least popular of the big three in the GOP.

As for African-American opinion on abortion, yes there is some disagreement with the GOP stance on abortion, most of them are in favor of more regulation than the GOP is comfortable with. A significant number of African-Americans (a higher percentage than Republicans) even go beyond the GOP stance and believe abortion should be illegal.

Equating the GOP's stances with conservativeness is a poor choice usually, the GOP (like the Democratic party, only moreso) is a coalition of interests and when it comes to actual positions there is usually a balancing of those diverse interests. Reading a Republican Party Platform will give you an idea of different the "GOP's stance" is from what you appear to think it is.
6.14.2008 11:28pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
By the way, the lawyers who represent the Klan, Nazis, Communists, terrorists, etc. in First Amendment cases may well be "heroes of the First Amendment" if they take unpopular clients to stand up for an important constitutional principle. For that matter, the lawyer who represents a criminal can also be a hero if he uncovers a pattern of misbehavior by the police. But I'm surely not going to call the murderer he represents, who beats the rap because of the misconduct of the police, a "hero of the Fourth Amendment."
6.14.2008 11:30pm
Matt_T:
Do you intend to suggest that the racial majority should always rule?

Proportionally, sure. One person as one vote. Why are you surprised that a majority white country has mostly white politicians and power brokers? Then again, a large number of people think more along ideological lines than racial ones, so whites in the US aren't anywhere close to a voting bloc. Either I'm misreading you or you're making a mountain out of a molehill based on a view of conservatives' colorblind policies as somehow being a illegitimate mechanism of preserving the white majority's power.
6.14.2008 11:31pm
Displaced Midwesterner:
I think most people who even know what the phrase "white shoe law firm" means realize that these firms, along with all the other big law firms, whatever their particular taste in footwear coloration, are not conservative in the modern American political sense. These firms are, however, quite naturally, fairly economically conservative in the style of most of the corporate world. And I think "corporate" is the word most people today associate with law firms, not "conservative." I don't have actual data on it, but I'm not sure the myth about conservative white-shoe firms is really alive anymore (maybe in Grisham novels or something? I don't read him so I couldn't say).

For what its worth, many law firms have distinct cultures, more by office than by firm. There are some big firms that are more conserative dominated in their DC offices for instance. But it seems to be a minority.

And while most big firms lean heavily left, including their pro bono, for instance, as noted above, their business interests do trump. You don't really see, for instance, many firms doing pro bono environmental or labor work that is likely to put them on the other side of their corporate clients' positions (even when there are no genuine conflict of interests present). Instead they gravitate toward landlord-tenant, asylum, prisoner appeals, etc.
6.14.2008 11:33pm
Katherine (mail):
Their pro bono work "leans left" because helping poor people is seen as left-ish. Of course, if that's true, then helping rich people ought to be seen as right-ish, and that's most of what firms do.
6.14.2008 11:41pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Katherine, I'm obviously talking about political pro bono work, not "helping poor people." Most non-criminal ACLU cases, for example, are not about "helping poor people," but pushing a particular social agenda.
6.14.2008 11:47pm
MQuinn:
one of many:

"Equating the GOP's stances with conservativeness is a poor choice usually." This falls into the "you know what I mean" category. But thank you for your critique. We have all benefited from your pickiness.

As to your statement on immigration, I have several critiques. First, you are wrong for pigeon-holding the conservatives and the liberals into a mere three positions. Second, surely we can all admit that as a general (though not exclusive) rule the GOP base is more likely to put forth views on immigration that are unfavorable to those Hispanics entering the country.

As to the abortion paragraph, you're right. What can I say? I looked at bad information before I posted, got blasted for it, did further research, and realized I was wrong. Wow, that really, really hurts to admit to an army-sized group of staunch conservatives.
6.14.2008 11:50pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

However, it is curious that on almost every political issue related to race their view can be used to keep the racial majority in power. Is that really very controversial to suggest?


Actually, I find that attitude deeply pernicious. I decided to post my extended rant on the topic on my own bandwidth instead of using the VC's, however.
6.14.2008 11:51pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

I think there is some cognitive dissonance that the left, which is supposed to be the home of the "workers" fighting the "capitalists" is in many ways dominated instead by the "new class" of well-educated, and generally well-off lawyers, professors, government workers, etc., who, not coincidentally, benefit from the growth of government.


Continuing my endeavor at concision, I'll just say: +1.
6.14.2008 11:54pm
Katherine (mail):
ACLU issues-based litigation strikes me as a very small % of law firm pro bono work. Probably a larger % than, oh, suits for the Alliance Defense Fund, but what's least common at all is for firms to take on a pro bono case that might anger a major client (e.g. suing a defense contractor). Opposing the gov't in liberal causes, maybe.
6.14.2008 11:57pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

Second, surely we can all admit that as a general (though not exclusive) rule the GOP base is more likely to put forth views on immigration that are unfavorable to those Hispanics entering the country.


Um, I don't think so; I don't have any handy statistics, but I'll note the current Republican apparent presidential candidate is not known for his exclusionary views, while many democrats have been. The usual polling data seems to suggest much more than 50 percent of the population holding exclusionary views; this argues against the correlation being very strong unless "conservatives" are a dramatic majority.
6.14.2008 11:59pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
The AmLaw article linked by me states that C.C. will next year will "commit at least 4,000 hours, or about 20 percent of the pro bono hours performed by its U.S. lawyers, to civil rights and civil liberties cases in the United States." Civil rights and civil liberties can be approached from a range of political perspectives (e.g., Grutter can be seen as a "civil rights" case, and my old firm had, to much controversy, a case defending a church that Hawaii was trying to force to hire a gay organist), but the left perspective dominates.
6.15.2008 12:03am
Richard A. (mail):
Here's a fine point of legal trivia: Is there anyone out there who knows what the surname of the plaintiff in Dale v. BSA was before he changed it?

Hint: It would have made for a case title that rivals Hardwick v. Georgia.
6.15.2008 12:12am
MQuinn:
Matt_T: It was your suggestion that the majority, "however you slice it," should rule, that I took issue with. The racial majority should not always rule. I cite as precedent Brown v. Bd. of Ed. In fact, the structure of our Constitution negates your suggestion that the majority always rules. I cite as precedent Art. III.

Charlie (Colorado): your very post runs against itself. McCain is a "maverick" with his stance on immigration because he supported a bill that ran against the GOP position on immigration -- i.e., McCain sought to give "amnesty" to a very narrow class of immigrants and the GOP chastised him for it. I dare say that his immigration bill was received more kindly by the Democrats.
6.15.2008 12:13am
Brian G (mail) (www):
There is a bumper sticker that says "Don't steal. The government hates competition." If you look at how the Boy Scouts are, and how they learn to take care of themselves and look to almighty God as opposed to all-mighty government to take care of problems, it is no surprise why they get no respect from liberals. Of course, the gay thing is the biggest reason, but liberals would hate them anyway because of their self-reliance.
6.15.2008 12:17am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

Charlie (Colorado): your very post runs against itself. McCain is a "maverick" with his stance on immigration because he supported a bill that ran against the GOP position on immigration -- i.e., McCain sought to give "amnesty" to a very narrow class of immigrants and the GOP chastised him for it. I dare say that his immigration bill was received more kindly by the Democrats.


Perhaps, but you don't offer any evidence of it but your own prejudices. Given that my recollection is correct that 70+ percent of the population would prefer a crackdown on illegal immigration leading to illegal immigrants leaving the country --- it seems supported by the polls I find in a few seconds of googling --- it's pretty much impossible that people opposed to some kind of legalization are just Republicans. There just aren't enough Republicans.
6.15.2008 12:43am
MnZ:

Charlie (Colorado): your very post runs against itself. McCain is a "maverick" with his stance on immigration because he supported a bill that ran against the GOP position on immigration -- i.e., McCain sought to give "amnesty" to a very narrow class of immigrants and the GOP chastised him for it. I dare say that his immigration bill was received more kindly by the Democrats.


And his position happened to correspond to the position of the Republican President...and contrasts with many freshman Democrats in Congress.
6.15.2008 12:58am
Laura S.:

I think there is some cognitive dissonance that the left, which is supposed to be the home of the "workers" fighting the "capitalists" is in many ways dominated instead by the "new class" of well-educated, and generally well-off lawyers, professors, government workers, etc., who, not coincidentally, benefit from the growth of government.

This is a rather insightful remark. All the more so once one understands that Democratic lower-class voters tend to be minorities whose association with the party is arguably a historical accident of having large African-American populations in the South and the utter crippling of the Republican party therein following the end of reconstruction.
6.15.2008 1:09am
one of many:

As to your statement on immigration, I have several critiques. First, you are wrong for pigeon-holding the conservatives and the liberals into a mere three positions.
I didn't mean to suggest there were only 3 opinions on immigration, only that those were the 3 major ones for the GOP. There are variations among those 3also, those who wish for more legal immigration split on whether it should be general or only for "skilled" immigrants, immigration to citizenship or guest workers, and so on.


"Equating the GOP's stances with conservativeness is a poor choice usually." This falls into the "you know what I mean" category. But thank you for your critique. We have all benefited from your pickiness.
It's pickiness to ask that when you use a precise term with a specific meaning for something other than that meaning you clarify you are using a subculture variant? This isn't Daily Kos and we don't all know what you mean, I certainly thought you actually were arguing that the Republican party held those positions, not that a subset of conservatives some of whom are Republicans held those positions. Indeed you should clarify, as is needed for your later posts, that when you use "GOP" you are not necessarily referring to the Republican Party.
6.15.2008 1:29am
Dave N (mail):
Here's a fine point of legal trivia: Is there anyone out there who knows what the surname of the plaintiff in Dale v. BSA was before he changed it?

Hint: It would have made for a case title that rivals Hardwick v. Georgia.
I found several sites that claim that James Dale's original name was James Dick. However, the only source, when cross-referenced, is a Time Magazine story. It may be true, it may not.

I spent an hour finding this out and my final conclusion was, "So what?"

By the way, the Supreme Court case was Bowers v. Hardwick not Hardwick v. Georgia.
6.15.2008 1:39am
Displaced Midwesterner:

This is a rather insightful remark. All the more so once one understands that Democratic lower-class voters tend to be minorities whose association with the party is arguably a historical accident of having large African-American populations in the South and the utter crippling of the Republican party therein following the end of reconstruction.

You have a curious sense of history. To the extent they could, African-Americans tended to associate with the Republican Party until around the time of the New Deal. They became more strongly associated with the Democrats with the advent of the civil rights movement (which itself eventually sent most Southern Democrats into the Republican Party). African-Americans tend to vote Democratic because, rightly or wrongly, many perceive the Republican Party as the party of white racists, not because of a "historical accident."
6.15.2008 1:43am
Elliot Reed (mail):
This is a rather insightful remark. All the more so once one understands that Democratic lower-class voters tend to be minorities whose association with the party is arguably a historical accident of having large African-American populations in the South and the utter crippling of the Republican party therein following the end of reconstruction.
Are you seriously suggesting that American blacks have been reliable Democrats since Reconstruction? I think you need some remedial history lessons.
Overall, the Republican Party is a middle-class party. That is not to say there are not rich Republicans (or poor ones, for that matter). The Democratic Party, by contrast, attracts the upper-income and the lower class. That is not to say that there not middle-class Democrats.
This is completely wrong. In fact, as income increases, voters are more likely to be Republicans and less likely to be Democrats. See, e.g., the 2004 Presidential election results, where Bush beat Kerry 63-35 among the richest 3% of voters, 58-42 among the next 4%, and 57-42 among the 11% below that. (There is an effect that resembles the one you're talking about if you measure class status by educational attainment, but the idea that well-off people tend to be Democrats is complete nonsense.)
6.15.2008 1:44am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):

African-Americans tend to vote Democratic because, rightly or wrongly, many perceive the Republican Party as the party of white racists, not because of a "historical accident."


That's not a historical accident?
6.15.2008 1:46am
Perseus (mail):
The majority of conservatives are honest, kind individuals. However, it is curious that on almost every political issue related to race their view can be used to keep the racial majority in power. Is that really very controversial to suggest?

Speaking specifically about affirmative action in higher education, I'd simply like to point out that eliminating affirmative action tends to benefit Asians as much as (if not more than) whites. For instance, Asians now constitute a plurality of students (ahead of whites) at several University of California campuses following the adoption of Prop. 209 (which prohibited racial preferences).
6.15.2008 2:18am
Dave N (mail):
Elliott Reed,

You are right, I should have been clearer--education is a better indication than income. But I do stand by my assertion that the Republican Party is a "middle class" party--bourgeoisie actually, in the Marxist sense.
6.15.2008 2:23am
Psalm91 (mail):
The term "left" as used in this thread, and most others, has no analytic meaning, but is rather used as a pejorative. It is mere name calling. You could all do better to define your terms.
6.15.2008 2:28am
Dave N (mail):
By the way, using Michael Barone's excellent Almanac of American Politics 2008 as my source, it is interesting that the congressional district with the second lowest median income nationwide is solidly Republican (Kentucky 5, $21,915).

Likewise, the congressional district with the highest median income (CA 14, $77,985) is solidly Democrat.
6.15.2008 2:37am
Laura S.:

You have a curious sense of history. To the extent they could, African-Americans tended to associate with the Republican Party until around the time of the New Deal. They became more strongly associated with the Democrats with the advent of the civil rights movement (which itself eventually sent most Southern Democrats into the Republican Party). African-Americans tend to vote Democratic because, rightly or wrongly, many perceive the Republican Party as the party of white racists, not because of a "historical accident."


Lets go over this. I grant you that Blacks voted Republican after the civil war until the New Deal Wave--when they were permitted to vote. Regardless the Republican party was eviscerated in the South by Jim Crow. As Blacks began to regain voting rights in the South, they became associated with the Democratic party which was a result of the Democratic primary being the only political contest that mattered. By this way, the party slowly became the vehicle for Black representation.

In mid-20th century, it was the Democratic party which was strongly regarded as Racist (e.g., Strom Thurmond). Meanwhile Republicans introduced the Civil Rights Act of 1957 (in '56). The actual bill passed was gutted by LBJ who was hewing to racist elements embedded within his party. Kennedy meanwhile came into office a part of the new Democratic party and seized civil rights as his issue. But both the civil rights act of '64 and the voting rights act of '65 passed with significantly more Republican than Democratic support (as measured by the fraction of the caucus in favor).

I otherwise agree that African-American affiliation with the Democratic Party today is the result of a perception that Republicans are racist. This explanation is ahistoric though if applied to the 50s or 60s where the affiliation arose from the dominance of the democratic party after the New Deal, and the particular evisceration of the Republican party in the South after the end of reconstruction.
6.15.2008 2:51am
Xrayspec:

whether judged by the political content of their pro bono work, the voting and contribution patterns of their partners, or their willingness to embrace politically correct agendas


Gee, how about judging them by who pays their invoices? Too often it seems that pro bono work is the only chance these lawyers have to show off their "progressive" bona fides. The rest of the week, they're happy to bill $625/hr to work on virtuous projects like helping chemical companies give children cancer.

These partners can dedicate their careers to whatever clients they like, but political contributions and diversity hiring do not redeem those choices. It's like Arnold Schwarzengger's vegetable oil-powered Hummer --- a nice gesture that sort of misses the bigger picture.
6.15.2008 4:29am
Frater Plotter:
If you look at how the Boy Scouts are, and how they learn to take care of themselves and look to almighty God as opposed to all-mighty government to take care of problems, it is no surprise why they get no respect from liberals.

Oddly enough, the Boy Scouts organization feels free to feed at the government trough, to encourage funding of units by government agencies, and so on, even as they preach acts of intolerance and exclusion that government agencies are forbidden from engaging in.

(I'm not talking about exclusion of gays, since federal law does not ban discrimination against gays. But the Constitution does forbid the government from favoring monotheism over polytheism, pantheism, or atheism -- and the BSA explicitly preaches monotheism and explicitly excludes atheists.)
6.15.2008 5:11am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
<i>on every issue pertaining to race, conservatives side with the preferred viewpoint of the racial majority over the preferred viewpoint of the racial minority.</i>

School choice?

1971. My left-wing prof and our college group is meeting in DC with Patsy Mink (D) HI in the House of Reps. Busing comes up. Patsy is all for it. My Prof points out that a majority of all racial groups opposes "busing to achieve racial balance". Patsy fluffs the comment off.
6.15.2008 6:43am
Modus Ponens:
what a pointless rant, Bernstein. even for Bernstein.

compare "white shoe" with "magic circle," attempt a synthesis of these 15-20 firms, and then give us something more than a rant against Clifford Chance topped off with a paeon to the politics of homophobic campers.
6.15.2008 7:51am
BT:
The question I have is don't "white shoe" law firms simply reflect the political views of the profession of law as a whole? If that is the case then it should come as no surprise that these firms represent this viewpoint through their actions.

I am not a lawyer, but my sense is that the vast majority of lawyers today are moderatley to hard-left politically. Like the professions of social work, journalism and most academics, lawyers (at least the ones I have met and gotten to know) seem to be highly idealistic and view their profession as a way to "change the world". Granted, I am not saying that there are no conservatives or libertarians in law (this web site proves that there are), just that a significant majority are liberal.
6.15.2008 8:48am
Adam B. (www):
Yawn. Regardless of the private preferences of individual attorneys, the work these firms do is to help corporations against those who feel wronged by their activities, whether it's their employees or those affected by their products. They reify the status quo; they do not seek to change it.

[Which is not to say that every defendant doesn't deserve counsel, etc., but the idea that these minor symbolic acts outweigh what's going on during the billable days is ridiculous.]
6.15.2008 9:24am
Elliot Reed (mail):
You are right, I should have been clearer--education is a better indication than income. But I do stand by my assertion that the Republican Party is a "middle class" party--bourgeoisie actually, in the Marxist sense.
Indeed, the Republican party is not a middle-class party, which is why you have to pull out a word from Marxist theory to describe people who make their money from owning capital assets rather than from wage labor.
6.15.2008 9:34am
T. Gracchus (mail):
Most pro bono work at large firms has no real political content. Civil rights litigation is frequently litigation aimed at obtaining compliance with existing law, not social transformation. Large law firms reflect their client bases -- commitment to affirmative action, etc., is driven more by concern for complying with express and implicit requests from clients and marketing than any political will. (Many Fortune 500 companies have explicit racial and gender targets for law firms.)
6.15.2008 10:00am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think that you could title this as well, why the ABA doesn't represent the legal profession.

The fastest way to become a Republican is to run a business, the smaller the better. So, not surprisingly, small firm and and solo attorneys are more likely to be Republicans. But in the big firms, you are isolated from that. All of the overhead associated with the nanny state is absorbed into those high billing rates. So, you have to worry about insider trading laws? Just set up an office and hire some people to do your checks for you and have everyone run their stock trades through it. You ultimately end up having specialists hired to solve or address all those governmental regulations and programs. All it takes is money, that comes from bumping your billing rates, and that in turn is doable since your competition is bumping theirs at the same time for the same reasons.

So, the average big firm lawyer does not have an incentive to be conservative, since he is immunized and isolated from all of the overhead and BS involved in running a business. The average small firm or solo attorney is not.

I note this because I moved from a solo practice, to a small firm, to a much larger firm this last year. One of the big differences is that now there are firm specialists available for pretty much anything, ranging from fixing my computer, through insider trading. Plus, of course, committees for professionalism, diversity, women, pro bono work, etc.
6.15.2008 10:05am
Associate in Hiding:
I work at a very liberal Northeast firm and was appalled recently when someone referred to the "idiots" who voted for Bush. That, in my mind, is the problem with modern political discourse. Am I happy with Bush? Of course not. But between Bush and Kerry, reasonable people could have and did disagree. This incessant effort to demonize and mock political opponents is really dividing the country, so that people tend to live in one cocoon (red states) or another (blue states). A little intellectual honesty would be refreshing (e.g., Republicans should acknowledge that Bush lacks managerial competence and that his foreign policy has been unnecessarily provocative; Democrats should acknowledge that some of their candidate's economic policies (anti-trade/pro-Union, and resistance to indexing capital gains taxes) are incredibly short-sighted in a global marketplace). I don't expect that sort of intellectual honesty from politicians; I would expect it from otherwise talented lawyers at good firms. But that's what happens when you're in a cocoon — you forget that there are other reasonable viewpoints.
6.15.2008 10:26am
Elliot Reed (mail):
Large law firms reflect their client bases -- commitment to affirmative action, etc., is driven more by concern for complying with express and implicit requests from clients and marketing than any political will.
I think it's more related to P.R. and a desire to avoid discrimination lawsuits. Clients wanting to see that their lawyers aren't all white men is a considerably more recent phenomenon. But if it affects their business it will have a lot more effect than offering lip-service to "diversity" in order to attract liberal law students.
6.15.2008 10:49am
Javert:

Some office conversations are quite hilarious when the other particants assume everyone in their company thinks like them. You get someone saying something to the effect of "I hate/can't stand conservatives" or "God, how could people be so stupid as to vote for George W." Sometimes I can't resist and return it with a wisecrack. When called out, they usually have the good sense to be embarressed about their remark.

Sounds like faculty gatherings at my college -- only they don't have enough conscience to be embarrassed.
6.15.2008 10:51am
Cornellian (mail):
(e.g., Republicans should acknowledge that Bush lacks managerial competence and that his foreign policy has been unnecessarily provocative; Democrats should acknowledge that some of their candidate's economic policies (anti-trade/pro-Union, and resistance to indexing capital gains taxes) are incredibly short-sighted in a global marketplace).

I'd happily acknowledge both of those things, but then I'm neither a Republican nor a Democrat.
6.15.2008 10:57am
Cornellian (mail):
As a further aside, do you think any major law firm is going to honor the Boy Scouts of America as heroes of the First Amendment for winning what I think is one of the most important First Amendment cases of the last two decades, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale?

Do you think Bernstein is going to honor Hustler Magazine publisher Larry Flynt as a "hero of the First Amendment?"
6.15.2008 11:02am
Elliot Reed (mail):
I am not a lawyer, but my sense is that the vast majority of lawyers today are moderatley to hard-left politically. Like the professions of social work, journalism and most academics, lawyers (at least the ones I have met and gotten to know) seem to be highly idealistic and view their profession as a way to "change the world". Granted, I am not saying that there are no conservatives or libertarians in law (this web site proves that there are), just that a significant majority are liberal.
I believe the bulk of lawyers are on the left side of the political spectrum. But how many lawyers at large law firms can possibly be entertaining the delusion that they're doing anything to change the world? Big-firm lawyers aren't that dumb.

Also, I agree with those who think it's odd to look only at the 2% of big-firm work that's done pro bono.
6.15.2008 11:05am
Cornellian (mail):
There is a prevalent myth that large law firms, especially old, "white shoe" firms, are bastions of patrician conservatism. This may have been true forty years ago, but the evidence suggests that the vast majority of big law firms are firmly, institutionally, on the Left

The "evidence" in this case, consisting of one anecdote from a British firm.

The "patrician conservatives" are still at the white shoe firms. But to paraphrase Reagan, they didn't leave the category of "conservative," the category left them. Now they're sneered at as "liberal elites" for their inability to recognize that abortion and gay people are the two most pressing issues facing our country.
6.15.2008 11:05am
Anderson (mail):
look to almighty God as opposed to all-mighty government to take care of problems

Stunningly clueless, as already noted above, but too clueless to leave rebuked by only one comment.

I suppose that if the Scouts excluded Jews from leadership roles, instead of "just" gays, then DB might not consider them quite so heroic. But who knows.

Dale never much impressed me, since the "expressive association" holding seemed quite forced, and the "intimate association" rule much more applicable (parents deciding who should educate their kids), but of course anathema to most of the justices in the majority.
6.15.2008 11:07am
Cornellian (mail):
I'm not familiar with the relevant story, but merely fighting a First Amendment battle successfully does not make you a "hero" worthy of having your picture in the lobby of Clifford, Chance. Or should I be sending the firm photos of the Nazis who won the Skokie case, for proud display?)

So if you think the Boy Scouts are "heroes of the First Amendment" because of Boy Scouts of America v Dale, why don't you think the neo-Nazis in Skokie are also "heroes of the First Amendment" for their First Amendment case?
6.15.2008 11:08am
Eli Rabett (www):
Hilarious that a rant against law firms based on their support for the PLO degenerates into rants against minority preferences. G-d indeed has a sense of humor.
6.15.2008 11:16am
advisory opinion:
So if you think the Boy Scouts are "heroes of the First Amendment" because of Boy Scouts of America v Dale, why don't you think the neo-Nazis in Skokie are also "heroes of the First Amendment" for their First Amendment case?

He doesn't. Which is precisely the point.

BSA was just an example used to illustrate the curious 'selectivity' of their choice of "heroes."

Why do you misread Bernstein even after he corrected Anderson - who was guilty of the same misreading - at 6.14.2008 10:21pm?

In fact, it's ludicrous misreading of Bernstein's post, possible only if you've read him uncharitably in your eagerness to catch him in a non-existent 'contradiction'.
6.15.2008 11:42am
EPluribusMoney (mail):
I know a former hard right lawyer who started voting Democratic merely to stop tort reform and protect his income.
6.15.2008 11:42am
A.C.:
What Adam B. and Xrayspec said. If you take big firm or big corporation money and live like an upper middle class or wealthy person, you aren't a leftist. Symbolic acts and sentiment don't matter in the least. A real leftist would be on the side of labor.

Now, a lot of the establishment in this country fancies itself to be leftist. We talked about this recently in connection with Brandeis university. But this has no practical significance. The position of ordinary working people keeps declining in this country, which would not be the case if the people with all the power were really on the left.

I therefore suspect that our cultural and economic elites are trying to have things both ways. One way they seem to square the circle is to try to push things off on the government. God forbid the private economy should pay the workers enough to live on. Far better (in their mind) to let the private economy be as cutthroat as possible and make up the difference with government programs. Not everyone agrees with this.
6.15.2008 12:40pm
Brian G (mail) (www):

Oddly enough, the Boy Scouts organization feels free to feed at the government trough, to encourage funding of units by government agencies, and so on, even as they preach acts of intolerance and exclusion that government agencies are forbidden from engaging in.


Obviously, you know very little about the Scouts. For example, it is they alone that have paid for their spaces in San Diego for decades, the government there wanted them out because of the hurt feelings of a few homosexuals. Like it or not, there are many of us who prefer their children to be heterosexual and aren't interested in glorifying the homosexual lifestyle.

One more thing: Name me on ACLU member who went on to do something important because of what they learned from the ACLU. That list would be quite short, as in none. On the other hand, you could write an almanac on how many great Americans started as Scouts.
6.15.2008 12:50pm
pireader (mail):
Professor Bernstein --

Your summary of the original AmLAw article seems a bit confused. It says that:

(1) Clifford Chance sponsored a party for an oral-history book on "the struggle for constitutional rights past and present." Which sounds pretty good, for a law firm or for a libertarian law professor.

(2) Three of the book's subjects attended the party: Janet Nocek, Hany Kiareldeen, and Ray Rogers. From the hyperlinks provided, they sound rather harmless, even laudable, people. Maybe they're somehow "hard left", although there's no evidence provided; but it sounds a bit unlikely, at least about the surburban librarian (Nocek).

(3) Clifford Chance has photos of 19 of the book's subjects posted in its lobby. Whose photos are displayed is not specified in the article, but they range in time from 1920 forward.

(4) The book also discusses/interviews some contemporary people that you find objectionable.

So your indictment of "white shoe" law firms as a class comes down to this -- one firm, Clifford Chance, had a party for an interesting-sounding book that (also) discusses some people you disapprove of.

Pretty weak stuff.
6.15.2008 12:55pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"I think there is some cognitive dissonance that the left, which is supposed to be the home of the "workers" fighting the "capitalists" is in many ways dominated instead by the "new class" of well-educated, and generally well-off lawyers, professors, government workers, etc., who, not coincidentally, benefit from the growth of government."


So in your mind, liberal = communist/Marxist.

This is a ridiculous caricature, of course. The vast majority of liberals believe in capitalism, but that modest safeguards are necessary.
6.15.2008 1:02pm
byomtov (mail):
Having just read the AmLaw article linked, I agree with pireader. The post seriously misrepresents the event in question.
6.15.2008 1:10pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
A.C. and Brian G--unintentional self-parody or intentional self-parody? I think A.C.'s is intentional and Brian G's is unintentional, but it's hard to be sure.
6.15.2008 1:11pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I observe many people adopt the politics of the group that does the most for their personal welfare. Liberals are for far more government regulation of society than are conservatives. Lawyers make their living dealing with laws and regulations. The more laws and regulatione there are, the more money lawyers make. Hence, lawyers tend to support the agenda that promises to do the most for their personal welfare.

Does it make much sense for lawyers to be campaigning for fewer laws, less government, and less regulation?
6.15.2008 1:32pm
Cornellian (mail):
Liberals are for far more government regulation of society than are conservatives.

The example of Republican government between 1994 and 2006 makes me doubt the Republicans as a whole have any interest in reducing the size of government.
6.15.2008 1:53pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Liberals are for far more government regulation of society than are conservatives."


Actually, I think liberals are for a different kind of government regulation.

Republicans can hardly assert that they are for "less government regulation" when they have presided over the Executive Branch's biggest power grab in decades. Department of Homeland Security anyone? Massive increase in regulation and bureaucracy. Patriot Act? Ditto. Unprecedented increases in government spending? That too.

Are you guys going to claim you're for "fiscal conservatism" too? Oh yeah, there's that minor expense of god-knows-how-many hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq...

Less government indeed.
6.15.2008 1:56pm
Toby:

I want to clarify my point a little bit. The majority of conservatives are honest, kind individuals. However, it is curious that on almost every political issue related to race their view can be used to keep the racial majority in power. Is that really very controversial to suggest?

The majority of democrats (as a Lockean, I can't abide the current misuse of the word liberal) are honest, kind individuals. However, it is curious that on almost every political issue related to race their view can be used to foment inter-racial resentment and to encourage people to see themselves primarily as members of a class or ethnic group and only secondarily as individuals Is that really very controversial to suggest?
6.15.2008 1:58pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"...used to foment inter-racial resentment...


Obama's "baby mama"!

Terrorist fist jab!!

Damn you, liberals!!!
6.15.2008 2:09pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Actually, it is the AMLaw story that refers to the event as Clifford Chance honoring "heroes of the radical left." They seem to think this is a man-bites-dog story, as if big firms and left-wing politics are somehow at odds.
6.15.2008 2:19pm
byomtov (mail):
Come on, David, get serious. The honorees were Janet Nocek, Hany Kiareldeen, and Ray Rogers.

Did you check their stories?

Nocek is one of a group of librarians who challenged Patriot Act gag provisons in court.

Kiaraldeen is a Palestinian who was detained for 19 months based on secret evidence, which turned out to be an allegation by his ex-wife that he once made a threatening remark about Janet Reno.

Rogers is a successful union organizer.

You may not like these people. Despite claiming to be a staunch libertarian you may think challenging a gag order is a terrible thing to do, and that it's OK to imprison people based on classified evidence. You no doubt hate the idea of unions, and think it's just fine to deport people, like Margaret Randall, who hand out political literature the government disapproves of.

All the more evidence of what a limited conception of "liberty" libertarians have.
6.15.2008 2:46pm
Anonymous but a semi-regular poster here:
I work at a BIGLAW firm in Manhattan, a top tier firm by any standard. I also used to work at Shearman &Sterling for 4 years as an associate.

S&S was notoriously hard left, although each individual partner varies. However, as an institution, S&S was very hard left. The indoctrination of their diversity program was beyond parody. Their pro bono consists almost exclusively of asylum cases for illegal immigrants. They're also, as widely known, in bed with the Gitmo terrorists.

You'd be surprised how much the Biglaw firms pander to the diversity racket. Being a white male in this profession is really a mark against you. It seriously limits your chances at making partner. The firms go crazy competing for minority candidates or women. They're much more likely to make a woman or a minority a partner (non-equity, of course) than to make a similarly qualified white man a partner. Their brochures and intra-firm reports are full of the typical diversity group in almost all of their pictures: a black man or woman, a hispanic woman, an asian man, and standing in the back, a white man (who is obviously gay).

One other thing: if you're a practicing Christian, DO NOT TELL ANYONE. It will destroy your career. Orthodox Jewish? Fine. Atheist? Fine. Lapsed Catholic? Even better, since you can bash the Church with your experience. Evangelical? You'd better shut up. Catholic who likes Ratzinger? Unless you're willing to be fed to the lions, keep quiet.

It would really be a much nicer working environment if the firms just treated people as people. Instead, they are so mad into this collectivism and racial consciousness that it's seriously a distraction sometimes. And of course, most are democrats. Just do an opensecrets search on some of the firms for verification of that. Yes, you'll find a partner or two that donates to Republicans (Guliani, mostly). But it's really outside the norm, and of course doesn't mean that the culture isn't institutionally liberal.
6.15.2008 3:06pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
ABASRP--I see someone is bitter about not making partner.
6.15.2008 3:13pm
unwelcome guest:
I think this post sets up a false dichotomy. At my firm, I know several very conservative lawyers who have done quite a bit of pro bono work and would have probably liked to have worked on either Dale or for the Communist or PLO pamphleteers. I know individuals who have gone to work for DHS in this administration who also have represented detainees pro bono (not all detainees are in Guantanamo). By the same token, I know several very liberal individuals who volunteered on amicus briefs in favor of the gun rights organizations, even though they personally disagreed with that position.

Pro bono work is simply more fun in the majority of cases than our day - and if you believe in the rule of law, you probably feel that everyone is entitled to good representation. I have always thought that the essence of being a lawyer is being able to take your own views out of the equation and using your intellectual capabilities on your client's behalf. That's also what frustrates the general population about lawyers - until they need someone to take their side.
6.15.2008 3:13pm
Anonymous but a semi-regular poster here::
ABASRP--I see someone is bitter about not making partner.

I'm actually several years away from making partner. I'm a mid-to-senior level associate.
6.15.2008 3:21pm
Joe Stigler:
David,

Regarding the PLO "propagandists" -- you're assuming that these top flight Jewish attorneys are pro-Likud. Please keep in mind that the majority of Americans Jews aren't as "proud" of Israel's behavior as you and Eugene might be. This one isn't. A PLO propagandist may frustrate "Zionists" (who are overwhelmingly Christian), but "Jews" (as a group) are far more inclined to be sympathetic to some of the goals of the PLO.
6.15.2008 3:30pm
Letalis Maximus, Esq. (mail):
Big law firms suck. I am so glad to be working in a government law office where I basically work a 40 hour week, get to do work that I find interesting, I don't have to worry about bringing in clients (and keeping a bunch of asshole clients who I wouldn't associate with at all if I had the choice), and I know the management isn't going to raise the number of billable hours. Again.

Oh, and about the money. Where I live, I am able to survive quite nicely on a federal salary.
6.15.2008 3:35pm
one of many:
UG,
I'm not willing to entirely disagree with false dichotomy (I think there may be one) but CC was not honoring lawyers for their commitment to clients the lawyers might find offensive, but was honoring the clients. It is one thing to honor Goldberger (the Nazi march through Skokie Il.) as a hero of free speech rights, but honoring his client (The Nationalist Socialist Party) as a hero of free speech is a different thing entirely.
6.15.2008 3:39pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
Lol, I just checked out my law firm on opensecrets. My firm has given Obama hundreds of thousands of dollars the past year. No big suprise I guess.
6.15.2008 3:48pm
Humble Law Student (mail) (www):
Since when did opensecrets start charging for detailed information? I tried to see how much it has given to Republicans, but I can't figure out a way without the charge page coming up.
6.15.2008 3:49pm
one of many:
Since when did opensecrets start charging for detailed information? I tried to see how much it has given to Republicans, but I can't figure out a way without the charge page coming up.

But you were able to get the information for Obama for free? I smell a conspiracy theory being born.
6.15.2008 4:06pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"They're also, as widely known, in bed with the Gitmo terrorists."


Great quote there.

As a criminal defense attorney, I suppose I'm "in bed with the criminals".
6.15.2008 4:10pm
Dave3L (mail) (www):
Anecdote does not equal data, Prof. Bernstein.
6.15.2008 4:22pm
unwelcome guest:
One of Many - I agree entirely. Everyone is in favor of their own speech being free. The heroes of free speech defend others' rights to speak. I am not particularly sympathetic to the Nazis, etc. (way to stick my neck out). Some speakers, however, have to be quite courageous to stick up for their rights in the face of overwhelming opposition - back in the McCarthy era, I imagine it was much easier for workers' rights sympathizers to remain silent rather than be branded "Communist".

Many of the original union organizers were communist or socialist. It both fueled their own drive to protect workers and gave their opponents a convenient hook to villanize them. I personally am more willing to honor those who stood up to the Pinkertons and other strike-breakers (they weren't being euphamistic back in the beginning). But there are many who do not view the original union organizers as heroes.

Back to the original question - in my own experience, I do not feel that the big law firms are particularly liberal as a class. Even those who are considered liberal, are still part of the "establishment" as they used to put it. For every example of the Wilmer Hales and the Fried Franks (both considered "liberal"), there is a Kirkland &Ellis or a Gibson Dunn. And to my original point, recently Ken Starr argued a pro bono death penalty case before the Court - is he liberal?
6.15.2008 4:23pm
gwinje:
ABASRP

I just glanced at the S&S website. At their DC office 12 of 15 partners were men and there wasn't a non-white face of either sex. Am I missing something?
6.15.2008 4:23pm
Budd Williams:
While I was an associate at Cravath, Swaine &Moore, following the death of a notorious partner, a New Yorker expose made it known how friendly the firm had become to openly gay lawyers.
6.15.2008 4:32pm
MQuinn:
Toby said:


The majority of democrats (as a Lockean, I can't abide the current misuse of the word liberal) are honest, kind individuals. However, it is curious that on almost every political issue related to race their view can be used to foment inter-racial resentment and to encourage people to see themselves primarily as members of a class or ethnic group and only secondarily as individuals Is that really very controversial to suggest?



I assume you are referring to affirmative action? In which case, your argument mischaracterizes reality. It is the social systems that create the "inter-racial resentment and ... encourage people to see themselves primarily as members of a class or ethnic group" that affirmative action seeks to combat. The former existed long before the latter. Thus, you have mistakenly suggested that the principal cause of this resentment is the very programs that are designed to defeat it.

Now, it is possible that affirmative action programs perpetuate this resentment, but your solution -- forever maintaining the status quo -- assuredly will bring about no progress at all.
6.15.2008 4:41pm
m.:
But a big law firm represented BSA, and the partner who argued the case is a big liberal. Real litigators don't choose their clients on the basis of politics, so what is the point of this post? Is Bernstein saying that conservative organizations are not getting competent representation? That there is something wrong with private organizations spending money the way they choose, or having articulable political leanings? Let aside the fact that the read of the article is highly misleading (oh, and Clifford Chance is a British firm)


Their pro bono consists almost exclusively of asylum cases for illegal immigrants.



Excellent, careful lawyering there. Asylee applicants are not illegal immigrants; presumably your impression comes from the ill-informed opinion that all non-citizen immigrants are necessarily illegal. I find your political views to be carefully considered and would like to subscribe to your crazy white man rant newsletter.
6.15.2008 4:54pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
"African-Americans tend to vote Democratic because, rightly or wrongly, many perceive the Republican Party as the party of white racists"

I think it would be wrong to claim that most Republicans are racists, but I think there's some basis to claim that most racists are Republicans:

[a] study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did ... "George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice."
6.15.2008 4:57pm
Kirk:
MQuinn,

Who assigns these "racial majority" and "racial minority" preferred viewpoints, and where do I go to found out what particular positions I'm supposed to hold?
6.15.2008 5:11pm
seeking asylum:

Asylee applicants are not illegal immigrants; presumably your impression comes from the ill-informed opinion that all non-citizen immigrants are necessarily illegal.



Actually, they are. If they had legally immigrated to the US, there would be no need for them to seek asylum. The asylum process it there to convert their status from illegal to legal.
6.15.2008 5:18pm
Guest101:
Academia, elite law firms, journalism-- seems as if the educated classes are rejecting conservatism all across the spectrum, doesn't it? Obviously a vast left-wing conspiracy is a more plausible explanation than the alternative, that conservatism simply isn't a very intellectually meritorious philosophy.
6.15.2008 5:33pm
Federal Dog:
"seems as if the educated classes are rejecting conservatism all across the spectrum"


There's a difference between being educated and having been given credentials in exchange for tuition.

There's also a difference between being educated and having spent a lot of time in classrooms and/or courtrooms.
6.15.2008 5:45pm
Letalis Maximus, Esq. (mail):
Guest101:

Actually, it seems to me that the larger, older, more entrenched, corrupt, and more dependent upon bureaucracy that an institution becomes, the more likely it is to lean Liberal. There is nothing intellectual about it. Classical Conservatism celebrates and empowers the Individual while Classical Liberalism celebrates and empowers the Organization.

And if there is one thing that big law firms and big academia cannot tolerate, it is an individual who thinks and acts for himself and on his own.
6.15.2008 6:03pm
J.S. Thompson:
I can say that in my law firm, a well respected mid-sized firm, not a week goes by without some diversity event mailing, some hailing of a pro bono client that inevitably strikes me as barely fit for polite society, and the constant mailings of ethnic- or gender-based events, which are never, ever male or of European heritage. When I scanned the opensecrets.org site I saw that the partners that do contribute to political campaigns overwhelmingly contribute to democrat candidates. It's a lonely frustrating life being a conservative in any law firm of a decent size these days.
6.15.2008 6:04pm
Dave N (mail):
Guest101,

Or is it that, as one commenter above noted, the common denominator in journalism, academia, and big law is that they are all large, bureaucratic organizations that engage in groupthink and where those who are part of it do not have to actually worry about meeting a payroll or taking entrepeneurial risks?

And I would NOT equate "the educated classes" with journalism, academia, or the elite law firms. For one thing, "the educated classes" as a group are not nearly as arrogant as those three.
6.15.2008 6:06pm
Perseus (mail):
seems as if the educated classes are rejecting conservatism all across the spectrum, doesn't it? Obviously a vast left-wing conspiracy is a more plausible explanation than the alternative, that conservatism simply isn't a very intellectually meritorious philosophy.

The bulk of the great political philosophers from Socrates to Nietzsche rejected political equality. Ergo, political equality has little intellectual merit. QED.
6.15.2008 6:09pm
John Herbison (mail):
At least in my part of the country, the midwife of the Republican Party was Lyndon Johnson, and the godfather was George Wallace.
The catlyst for racial realignment of our major political parties was President Johnson's persuading Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and open housing legislation in 1968. Governor Wallace's independent candidacy for president in 1968 gave Southern whites and urban whites in the rest of the nation, who were ancestral Democrats, a way station to vote their fears and resentments without actually voting Republican. The Nixon "Southern Strategy" was designed to convert the Wallace voters to the Republican Party.

The late Lee Atwater, former Republican National Committee chairman (and mentor to Karl Rove), explained in 1980:

''You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' -- that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

''And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me -- because obviously sitting around saying, 'We want to cut this,' is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than 'Nigger, nigger.'''

Southern Politics in the 1990's, by Alexander P. Lamis

What with this kind of racial pandering, combined with the influence in the current day Republican Party of buffoons like Rush Limbaugh and the late Jerry Falwell and charlatans like Ralph Reed and Ted Haggard, the Twenty-First Century Republican Party is simply not a respectable association for well-bred people to embrace. To paraphrase John Stuart Mill, Republicans are not necessarily race-bating fundies, but most race-bating fundies are Republicans.
6.15.2008 6:10pm
one of many:
Thanks UG, you've put me on the path to discovering my problem with DB's argument. The metrics (the political content of their pro bono work, the voting and contribution patterns of their partners, or their willingness to embrace politically correct agendas) of liberalness are more likely to be metrics of other things, like pragmatism. It seems likely that pro-bono work for a "leftist" cause will generate more favorable reactions than similar work for a "rightist" cause, the Boy Scouts aren't honored as 1st amendment heros while Janet Nocek who courageously chose to obey what she felt was an unjust law is so honored. Given that white shoe firms are concentrated in urban areas, more Democratic than Republican, voting for a Democrat may be the only viable choice (Chicago **cough, cough**), and even when there is a viable Republican choice it is often still a liberal (Bloomberg **cough, cough**). A willingness to embrace PC agendas is obvious, it merely indicates a pragmatic desire to avoid the endless lawsuits that stem from anything which can be construed as being non-PC.

The strongest metric proposed is political contributions but that still doesn't necessarily mean much. To use contributions as an accurate measure you'd have to control for perceived viability of each party (the British press already considers Obama the presumptive next president with an occasional nod to the fact McCain has the poor grace not to have conceded yet) and whether the contributions are meant to support or to buy influence (tough call, but bundlers probably have an interest in influencing) among other things.

I'm not willing to go so far as to say that big law isn't liberal, just that while the metrics are indicative of such a trend they don't constitute irrefutable proof. As a note about the honoring of these "heroes" of the left despite any negative attention it will still be a net a PR gain for CC, and BigLaw firms could have hosted 50 similar events for left heroes without one being by chance receiving any negative attention while an event honoring right "heroes" like the BSA would result in a net less to the public image of any BigLaw firm (Headline: "Gay rights advocates protest Covington event honoring the Boy Scouts of America, an organization noted for it's anti-sexual policies"). Simple pragmatism not to honor the BSA and to honor left heroes.
6.15.2008 6:11pm
Dave N (mail):
On Meet the Press today, in eulogizing Tim Russert, someone told about Russert initially being somewhat intimidated by all the Harvard types on Daniel Moynihan's staff.

According to the anecdote, Moynihan told Russert, "Don't let them intimidate you. You have something they can't learn."

That something is a humility and willingness to listen that made Russert so respected--and the lack of which makes some people (including certain commenters on this site) fatuous jerks.
6.15.2008 6:13pm
one of many:
Actually, they are. If they had legally immigrated to the US, there would be no need for them to seek asylum. The asylum process it there to convert their status from illegal to legal.

Erg, I think you are confusing asylum with amnesty. Some who come to the US (legally and illegally) are doing so for asylum and once in the US apply for asylum, but the "regular" procedure is to apply for asylum before entering the US. Regular is in scare quotes to denote that while the irregular procedure is more common, it is done as an exception to the "regular" procedure.
6.15.2008 6:20pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Big firms are generally biased towards people and businesses with lots of money. On gay rights issues, firms know that being openly anti-gay would be a major impediment to recruitment. Not only would they be banned from most law schools, a lot fewer top people would want to work for them. Given the number of openly gay clients (or corporate clients with openly gay officials), it would not be good for business to tick them off, just like it would be bad for business to be known as the anti-black law firm.

Bragging about helping an openly anti-gay group like the Boy Scouts would not be good for business. The Boy Scouts used to be in the "mainstreamity," but they decided that discriminating against gay people was critical to their mission. Now, the mainstream, especially the young mainstream, is strongly pro-gay, and becoming more so.
6.15.2008 6:30pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Regarding the PLO "propagandists" -- you're assuming that these top flight Jewish attorneys are pro-Likud.
You have no idea what you are talking about. I doubt you'd find 1% of the Jewish population of the U.S. that was sympathetic to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine circa 1987, or today, for that matter.

As for those of you who read my post as advocating that law firms honor the Boy Scouts as heroes of the First Amendment, or as defending the substantive positions of the Boy Scouts that led to the Dale litigation, you need some serious work on your reading comprehension skills.
6.15.2008 6:33pm
Guest101:

Or is it that, as one commenter above noted, the common denominator in journalism, academia, and big law is that they are all large, bureaucratic organizations that engage in groupthink and where those who are part of it do not have to actually worry about meeting a payroll or taking entrepeneurial risks?

Can you please explain to me how that description is remotely applicable to a law firm, which is surely an entreprenurial enterprise which, last I checked, does in fact have a payroll to meet?
6.15.2008 6:38pm
Guest101:
Come to think of it, I'm not sure how the description applies to journalism either, since, with the exception public broadcasting, journalism outlets are also not subsidized by the state. For that matter, neither are private universities. I suppose the argument could be made that well-endowed liberal bastions like Harvard are so rich that for all practical purposes they don't need to worry about fiscal policy, that argument surely doesn't apply to other equally liberal but less rich private universities.
6.15.2008 6:42pm
jrww (mail):

There is a prevalent myth that large law firms, especially old, "white shoe" firms, are bastions of patrician conservatism. This may have been true forty years ago, but the evidence suggests that the vast majority of big law firms are firmly, institutionally, on the Left, whether judged by the political content of their pro bono work, the voting and contribution patterns of their partners, or their willingness to embrace politically correct agendas, such as racial preferences in hiring.

All of which may be true, but quite irrelevant given the fact that the vast majority of the professional services provided by the partners and associates of such firms is provided to giant corporate clients - either assisting them in minimizing taxes, defending them against product liability or other actions and so forth.

All of the feel-good pro-bono stuff is just window dressing or a balm to the conscience.
6.15.2008 6:45pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
"Bragging about helping an openly anti-gay group like the Boy Scouts would not be good for business."
What about honoring an attorney who disagrees with the Boy Scouts' policy, but defends them on First Amendment principle? Is that somehow worse than honoring lawyers who represent Guantanomo detainees, PLO shills, Communists, etc., much less honoring the clients themselves?
I'd be very interested to know which subjects of the book are actually honored in C.C.'s lobby. Maybe only the uncontroversial ones, like Fred Korematsu?
6.15.2008 6:48pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
My final post on this thread: of course the CC example doesn't prove anything. That's why I just called it a case in point, while prefacing by noting that big law firms are institutionally on the left, "whether judged by the political content of their pro bono work, the voting and contribution patterns of their partners, or their willingness to embrace politically correct agendas, such as racial preferences in hiring." If someone has data contradicting those statements, feel free.
6.15.2008 6:50pm
Dave N (mail):
Guest101,

Let me use simple words. Maybe then you can understand my point (though I suspect you do not want to). If you work for a large organization where you, as an employee, do not have to worry about payroll, you can become part of the "group" and fit in. Bureaucracies are not unique to government--and neither is groupthink.
6.15.2008 6:58pm
Guest101:
Dave,

So your position is that only business owners are competent to hold political opinions? That would still include law firm partners.
6.15.2008 7:12pm
Guest101:
Moreover, while I can see some argument for why business owners' views regarding fiscal and economic issues might be granted some special degree of authority given that they are on the front lines, so to speak, where policy meets the real world, I fail to see how one's competence to assess social issues (on which all of the above groups are also notably liberal) is at all affected by one's entreprenurial status. If it makes you happy to believe that everyone whose views are to the left of your own are simply zombies brainwashed by the ruling elite and striving to fit in to the left-wing culture established at elite institutions by leftover Communist sleeper agents or whoever the ultimate villains may be, go right ahead and think that; I suspect there's nothing I could say to rebut that view. But it's pretty damn condescending and, it seems to me, a lot less plausible than the alternative I noted above.
6.15.2008 7:18pm
Dave N (mail):
Guest101,

My my, I hit some kind of wierd nerve with you, didn't I? I never stated that people who disagree with me are not entitled to their views. I never stated that business owners are the only people competent to hold political views. I certainly never anything remotely resembling your last rant. It is easy for you to refute arguments that I never made.

You started this dialogue by suggesting that "conservatism simply isn't a very intellectually meritorious philosophy."

I (along with several others) responded by noting that journalism, academia, and biglaw are not synonymous with "the educated classes."

We sparred some more, and I noted that academia, journalism, and big law all engage in a form of groupthink and are bureaucratic organization. You evidently came to the conclusion that I thought that you (whom I must assume fits into one of those catagories) does not have the capability to think for yourself. Again, I never said that, never even implied that.

But if you want to have a discussion, skip the invective--it does keep things more civil (and to that end, I apologize if I sounded unduly harsh in my post where I talked about making my point in simple words).
6.15.2008 8:01pm
Guest101:
Dave N,

I fail to see how anything I have said is either 1) a "rant"; 2) "invective"; or 3) in any way an unfair characterization of your position. Your argument, in your own words, is that the institutions that I noted in my initial post are left-leaning not because they tend to attract highly educated individuals, but because they are "bureaucratic organizations that engage in groupthink and where those who are part of it do not have to actually worry about meeting a payroll or taking entrepeneurial risks." I then queried how it could be the case that any of the organizations we're discussing, with the possible exception of state-funded public universities, met the criteria you described (i.e., lack a need to worry about making payroll or taking entreprenurial risks), to which you responded "[l]et me use simple words [hardly consistent with the high-mindedness you now profess]... [i]f you work for a large organization where you, as an employee, do not have to worry about payroll, you can become part of the 'group' and fit in."

On the basis of your own words, it seems pretty apparent to me that the only people, in your view, who are competent hold political opinions are those who "need to worry about making payroll" and "take entreprenurial risks"-- if that class is not more or less synonymous with business owners, I'd like for you to explain to me (in small words, obviously), how that's the case. Moreover, if you're using the term "groupthink" in some sense that does not mean "lacking capacity to think for oneself," or at least not exercising that capacity in reaching political judgments, please explain it. In short, it seems to me that my understanding of your argument is perfectly consistent with your own words, and nothing you said in your last post even addressed those points, much less rebutted them.


I (along with several others) responded by noting that journalism, academia, and biglaw are not synonymous with "the educated classes."


Fair enough. Most scientists I know are pretty liberal, too.
6.15.2008 8:11pm
Javert:

Obviously a vast left-wing conspiracy is a more plausible explanation than the alternative, that conservatism simply isn't a very intellectually meritorious philosophy.

Or that they have accepted without question the dominant anti-individualist, anti-capitalist ideas being taught by their professors.
6.15.2008 8:33pm
Guest101:

Or that they have accepted without question the dominant anti-individualist, anti-capitalist ideas being taught by their professors.

Yes, that's a possibility as well. Either the majority of leaders in the intellecually demanding fields of law, academia, journalism, and science are in fact incapable of exercising basic critical thinking skills, or people who hold political beleifs different from your own might actually have good reasons for doing so. I think the more plausible answer is obvious, but I suspect we'll disagree as to which that is.
6.15.2008 8:45pm
Connecticut Lawyer (mail):
As as a general counsel who hires "white shoe" law firms, it annoys me no end that they generally devote their pro bono efforts to causes that I find deplorable. However, I put my personal feelings aside because my job is to find the best lawyer for my company for the particular matter at issue, even if that lawyer or his firm devotes his or their free time to springing terrorists from Gitmo so they can return to the battlefield, or to striking down referenda prohibiting racial preferences.
6.15.2008 9:02pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"...even if that lawyer or his firm devotes his or their free time to springing terrorists from Gitmo so they can return to the battlefield...


They may also be devoting their time to freeing innocent persons. I direct your attention to this detailed analysis of some 66 former inmates of Gitmo and other US military prisons:

America's prison for terrorists often held the wrong men

Akhtiar was among the more than 770 terrorism suspects imprisoned at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They are the men the Bush administration described as "the worst of the worst."

But Akhtiar was no terrorist. American troops had dragged him out of his Afghanistan home in 2003 and held him in Guantanamo for three years in the belief that he was an insurgent involved in rocket attacks on U.S. forces. The Islamic radicals in Guantanamo's Camp Four who hissed "infidel" and spat at Akhtiar, however, knew something his captors didn't: The U.S. government had the wrong guy.

"He was not an enemy of the government, he was a friend of the government," a senior Afghan intelligence officer told McClatchy. Akhtiar was imprisoned at Guantanamo on the basis of false information that local anti-government insurgents fed to U.S. troops, he said.

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

6.15.2008 9:25pm
m.:

Actually, they are. If they had legally immigrated to the US, there would be no need for them to seek asylum. The asylum process it there to convert their status from illegal to legal.


Erg, I think you are confusing asylum with amnesty. Some who come to the US (legally and illegally) are doing so for asylum and once in the US apply for asylum, but the "regular" procedure is to apply for asylum before entering the US. Regular is in scare quotes to denote that while the irregular procedure is more common, it is done as an exception to the "regular" procedure.


The first poster doesn't know how immigration works: someone who arrives in the U.S. and applies for asylum is not an illegal immigrant until proven otherwise; their immigration status is as an asylum applicant or the status they came in as (as a visa or otherwise). After all, they are telling the government that they are in country in order to apply. It's not a binary-- you are a citizen or an illegal. Also, I want to note, what about asylum is leftist? Are you seriously opposed to granting asylum because you are conservative? That's a plank? That's stupid. I suspect it's because you think asylum is some kind of trick those dastardly "illegals" use.

The second is confused. A person applies for refugee status outside the country, asylum status is only applied for once in country.
6.15.2008 9:51pm
Dave N (mail):
Guest101,

I have reached the conclusion that you do not want a discussion. You want to condescend and then create straw arguments that I never made.

I have better uses of my time than to engage in discussion with someone obviously acting in bad faith.
6.15.2008 9:53pm
Guest101:
Dave N,

How about cutting the ad hominems and actually responding to any of the arguments I have made?
6.15.2008 10:08pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
"detailed analysis of some 66 former inmates of Gitmo and other US military prisons"

A similar detailed analysis can be found if you click through here.
6.15.2008 10:14pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"The first poster doesn't know how immigration works: someone who arrives in the U.S. and applies for asylum is not an illegal immigrant until proven otherwise;"


If there is one central tenet of conservatism these days, it is this: "Guilty until proven innocent."
6.15.2008 10:14pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
"You want to condescend and then create straw arguments that I never made."

He used your words to show that you did indeed make the arguments that you deny making.

"I have better uses of my time than to engage in discussion with someone obviously acting in bad faith."

English translation: 'please don't expect me to take responsibility for the words I actually said.'
6.15.2008 10:17pm
KenB (mail):
Could it be that elite law firms tend to the left because left-leaning politics is a ticket to admission to the circle of the elite?
6.15.2008 10:22pm
seeking asylum:
Funny...I didn't say a word about being opposed to granting asylum. Why would you assume that I was opposed (or conservative for that matter)? In fact I have represented clients who have illegally entered the United States that are seeking asylum. Last one waded across the Rio Grande. As illegal as can be. That doesn't mean he wasn't a refugee entitled to asylum.

You may be picking at nits a bit...I suppose it is possible that a person could come here on vacation or to study legally and then seek permission to say as refugee....but if someone came here with the intent to stay (to immigrate), they are not legal (therfore "illegal"?) immigrants until their status is converted to legal permanent resident. This from the US Govt. website...




Asylum is a form of protection that allows individuals who are in the United States to remain here, provided that they meet the definition of a refugee and are not barred from either applying for or being granted asylum, and eventually to adjust their status to lawful permanent resident.

Every year, thousands of people come to the United States in need of protection because they have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Those found eligible for asylum are permitted to remain in the United States.


Maybe you would prefer that I use the term "not yet legal immigrant"? But in any event, if someone is a legal immigrant, there is no reason or need for them to seek asylum.
6.15.2008 10:22pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Republicans can hardly assert that they are for "less government regulation" when they have presided over the Executive Branch's biggest power grab in decades."

Who said they were? I said conservatives were.
6.15.2008 10:53pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
javert: "Or that they have accepted without question the dominant anti-individualist, anti-capitalist ideas being taught by their professors."

Above Elliot Reed helpfully cited these election statistics, which show clearly that rich people voted for Bush. I think no one has mentioned what these statistics show with regard to education: people with graduate degrees voted for Kerry.

This is consistent with a statement made earlier: "the educated classes are rejecting conservatism," because "conservatism simply isn't a very intellectually meritorious philosophy." The alternate interpretation (as implied by javert) is that high educational achievement is a sign of being inclined to accept ideas "without question." I don't believe that. On the contrary. But I do believe that Republicanism is a sign of being inclined to have a bad attitude about education. That attitude is reflected in javert's comment. It's also reflected in this comment, from another poster:

There's a difference between being educated and having been given credentials in exchange for tuition.


It's also reflected in a comment above about "Harvard types."

One of the many remarkable things about the modern GOP is its naked contempt for education. Bush is always delighted to put his rampant anti-intellectualism on display, like when he announced that bad grades lead to success (text, video). The anti-education rhetoric in this thread is in the same mold. And is also moldy.
6.15.2008 11:07pm
unwelcome guest:
Many religious (and other types of) conservatives support asylum (and devote pro bono hours to it). You may have read recently about people trying to get Iraqi translators asylum in U.S. There are also circumstances where the alleged persecution is based on religion. Coptic Christians have had a hard time of it lately in many Muslim countries, for example. There is also the issue of Africans converted to Christianity from tribal pagan areas where there are many practices carried out that strikes Westerners as gross (such as female genital mutilation).

In terms of legality of asylum, if there is a statute and regulations specifying how immigrants can apply for asylum, even after entry without inspection (what most people traditionally call illegal), how can it by definition be illegal?
6.15.2008 11:09pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ken: "Could it be that elite law firms tend to the left because left-leaning politics is a ticket to admission to the circle of the elite?"

Rich people voted for Bush. So I think you have to explain your novel theory, that rich is not a reasonable synonym for 'elite.'
6.15.2008 11:09pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
elliot123: "Who said they [Republicans] were [for less government regulation]? I said conservatives were."

You're making the claim that 'conservative' and 'Republican' don't mean the same thing. I understand the impulse behind this. Trouble is, self-described conservatives voted overwhelmingly for Bush. Even in 2004, after he had greatly expanded executive power, bureaucracy and spending. So maybe part of the new meaning of 'conservative' is this: 'someone who claims they want less government, but nevertheless votes for someone who is enlarging government.'
6.15.2008 11:24pm
Tocqueville:
A prominent partner in my white shoe firm has publicly stated that, at a bare minimum, anyone who works for him must believe in both global warming and evolution. If you don't, not only shouldn't you work for him, but you don't even belong as part of polite society. You should be locked up in a padded room.
6.15.2008 11:50pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
"Who said they were? I said conservatives were."


Well if you voted for Bush and all the other Republicans on the ticket, it makes no difference whether you call yourself "conservative" versus "Republican", does it?
6.15.2008 11:56pm
one of many:
M.
righto, I forgot to mention it was a application for refugee status made outside the US followed by an application for asylum on entering the US. my bad, especially light of the fact that I also seem to have been wrong about it being a confusion of asylum and amnesty, it seems to be confusion about the nature of what is a legal immigrant and what a legal immigrant is subject to. I cannot go into more detail without dripping sarcasm so the short form is: legal immigrants may be sent to other countries for a variety of reasons and asylum is a way of letting them stay in the US because human decency prevents of us from sending someone who forgot to tell UCIS they moved down the block to a country where they will be mutilated for the crime of being a woman.
6.16.2008 12:44am
Ricardo (mail):
ken: "Could it be that elite law firms tend to the left because left-leaning politics is a ticket to admission to the circle of the elite?"

Rich people voted for Bush. So I think you have to explain your novel theory, that rich is not a reasonable synonym for 'elite.'


That's because "elite" is used by the Bill O'Reilly/Pat Buchanan brand of populist conservatives as a synonym for "liberal elite." It's the same kind of thinking that allowed the quite incredible attacks on John Kerry (who I'm no fan of, by the way) as an out-of-touch elite when the people making those attacks were supporting an Ivy League legacy admit from a prominent political family who was a former CEO and state governor before ascending to the Presidency.

That resume has "elite" written all over it. But since Bush speaks with an acquired Texas accent, fumbles his words in public and makes a big show of posing for photo-ops on his ranch in Crawford, he gets to avoid a label that has become so poisonous in American politics.
6.16.2008 1:03am
unhyphenatedconservative (mail):
Jukeboxgrad,

Your argument about voting for Bush making people not conservative is brilliant given that he ran a race against another candidate whose platform was clearly for small government.
6.16.2008 1:05am
one of many:
all this talk about politics make me long for the 1988 election, where the criticisms boiled down to one guy was too qualified to president and the other guy was too intelligent.
6.16.2008 1:39am
Elliot Reed (mail):
This is consistent with a statement made earlier: "the educated classes are rejecting conservatism," because "conservatism simply isn't a very intellectually meritorious philosophy." The alternate interpretation (as implied by javert) is that high educational achievement is a sign of being inclined to accept ideas "without question." I don't believe that. On the contrary. But I do believe that Republicanism is a sign of being inclined to have a bad attitude about education.
Actually, I'm pretty sure going to graduate school (which is where you really see education correlate with voting patterns in a big way) is mostly a sign of wanting admission to, or advancement in, a profession like teaching, social work, engineering, business, law, medicine, nursing, or ministry.
6.16.2008 2:11am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ricardo: "the quite incredible attacks on John Kerry"

Good point. It was also quite incredible to see the person who saw combat painted as a coward by a bunch of people who avoided combat.

unhyphenatedconservative: "Your argument about voting for Bush making people not conservative is brilliant given that he ran a race against another candidate whose platform was clearly for small government."

OK, I think I get it. A conservative is someone who is so committed to the idea of small government that he would prefer to vote for the candidate with a proven track record of greatly expanding executive power, bureaucracy and spending, as compared with the candidate who is merely being accused (by his hypocritical opponent) of having that potential. Makes perfect sense.

Your comment is based on the idea that the GOP is more likely to shrink government than the Dems. Trouble is, that idea is mythological, just like other ideas the GOP has promoted (e.g., the Bush family is not 'elite;' Dubya's courage in wartime compares favorably with Kerry's). So maybe what you're really saying is that a conservative is someone who is likely to make voting decisions based on mythology.
6.16.2008 7:52am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
elliot: "a sign of wanting admission to, or advancement in, a profession like teaching, social work, engineering, business, law, medicine, nursing, or ministry."

Right. But the question remains: why do those groups vote D? Two competing theories have been advanced.
6.16.2008 7:52am
A.C.:
Elliot Reed -

My previous statement was not meant as parody in any way. I truly don't believe that the current style of upper middle class liberalism counts as "left" in any substantive way. It's as if well-off people are going out of their way to choose issues where they can take what looks like a progressive stand without actually threatening their own status and privilege in any way. So, they care a great deal about ensuring racial diversity in high-status occupations and at top universities. All while not caring at all about how much the office cleaners get paid. If they even notice that the office cleaners are there.

In my mind, if you are an educated person and nevertheless want leftist streed cred, you can't accept upper middle class (or higher) status for yourself. You CERTAINLY can't look down socially on the people who don't have it, and that includes Walmart shoppers. And, as I said on the Brandeis post, you can't underpay the maid. Your leftist membership card gets revoked for that offense.

That said, I don't claim to be a leftist myself. Not even an NPR liberal. I like capitalism. However, I do think the rewards of capitalism should be distributed more equitably than they are at the moment. We seem to have gotten rather top heavy in this country, with executive and top professional compensation way out line with what ordinary people make. I'd like to see this change, but I want the change to be cultural (remember the concepts of obligation and shame?) rather than imposed by the government. Don't know what that makes me -- perhaps someone who would like to see the return of a certain kind of patrician conservative.
6.16.2008 8:48am
KenB (mail):
Jukebox grad says:
Rich people voted for Bush. So I think you have to explain your novel theory, that rich is not a reasonable synonym for 'elite.'
I have no statistics readily at hand; neither did I notice you quote any. But what do you mean by "rich"? If you mean reasonably well to do, perhaps you are correct. On the otther hand, I once heard true wealth humorously defined as being in the situation that having more money would not change the car you drove, the house you lived in, what you did with your time during the day, or who you slept with. Again, I suspect most people in that situation are Democrats.
6.16.2008 9:44am
The Oracle of Syracuse:
There was an article on this phenomenon in the American Bar Journal a couple of months ago. If memory serves, it was in the same issue that had the '50s pulp comic themed story on "Ethical Traps" (or some such) on the cover. The article came to the same conclusion you did, based on surveys of partner gifts to political campaigns. Many of the major blue chip firms cut 90/10 Democratic.
6.16.2008 9:48am
SIG357:
Lawyers as a group are notably left-wing. Why is that? I'd like to see the contributors here explore that question further.
6.16.2008 10:09am
Some Guy II- This Time It's Personal (mail):
I don't know about Clifford Chance, but I knew some folks at one big firm here in DC who spend their hours ranting about the evil right wingers without a thought as to how their neighbors might vote their consciences in private.

My own experience is that most big firm associates (maybe not partners) grew up in a very insulated world where no one ever challenged their accepted worldview. Boy scouts are racist, redneck semi-literates or, to use the example the moron above was kind enough to provide, "homophobic campers." Most of them never think they will be forced to practice law with or against attorneys who, gasp, weren't born in Bethesda and didn't attend prep school. They're barely willing to tolerate a white person from West of the Mississippi...as long as they state they areen't "like the rest fo the people they grew up with."

And yes, I have seen partners do some pretty nasty things to Republican associates, because they know they can get away with it. Heck, they've even asked me to do those nasty little things, because I had the good sense to keep quiet about my political leanings.

I know when my time comes, the payback will be a BE-OTCH.
6.16.2008 10:14am
SIG357:
"I believe that when conservatives allied themselves with the religious right and its causes, including ant-gay and anti-Darwinist positions, they turned what might seem a natural constituency (well-paid corporate lawyers and related types). That and the approach of prominent and popular conservatives, such as Rush and Ann Coulter. These law firm folks felt more distant from those groups than from economic liberals who were contrary to their own economic self-interest."

You claim that lawyers work against their own economic best interests because they are cultural snobs who despise large sections of America.

I'm not disagreeing, just clarifying the point. What's the matter with New York?
6.16.2008 10:18am
SIG357:
You're making the claim that 'conservative' and 'Republican' don't mean the same thing. I understand the impulse behind this. Trouble is, self-described conservatives voted overwhelmingly for Bush. Even in 2004, after he had greatly expanded executive power, bureaucracy and spending.

You seem to be under the impression that conservatives had a choice between Bush and some small government candidate. I don't think that even you would call John Kerry that. If the left wants to beat the small government drum, go ahead. But start with your own party.
6.16.2008 10:25am
Guest101:

That said, I don't claim to be a leftist myself. Not even an NPR liberal. I like capitalism. However, I do think the rewards of capitalism should be distributed more equitably than they are at the moment. We seem to have gotten rather top heavy in this country, with executive and top professional compensation way out line with what ordinary people make. I'd like to see this change, but I want the change to be cultural (remember the concepts of obligation and shame?) rather than imposed by the government. Don't know what that makes me -- perhaps someone who would like to see the return of a certain kind of patrician conservative.

That's an interesting position and not too far from my own view, but I think everyone, libertarians included, would agree that left to its own devices, the free market can't and won't correct the inegalitarian distribution of wealth. The point of disagreement is whether that's a problem. It seems to me you're fooling yourself a bit, recognizing the existence of the problem while insisting that the unregulated market will correct it, while all of our historical experience with unregulated markets says that the notions of obligation and shame that you mention don't carry much motivational force against more concrete market incentives. So which do you choose in the end: assuring an equitable distribution of goods through government-mandated redistribution, or accepting the growing gap in wealth as an inevitable cost of maintaining laissez-faire doctrinal purity? There are pros and cons to both, but your suggestion that you can have both egalitarian distribution and an entirely unregulated market is a pipe dream.
6.16.2008 10:30am
SIG357:
Letalis Maximus

There is nothing intellectual about it. Classical Conservatism celebrates and empowers the Individual while Classical Liberalism celebrates and empowers the Organization.


I think that gets to the heart of the matter. The words "liberal" and "left" nowdays denote a devotion to a specific sort of hierarchy, to centralised power, and to rule by an elite. They say you become that which you hate. It certainly happened to liberalism, which has become a parody of what it once fought against.
6.16.2008 10:32am
SIG357:
"So which do you choose in the end: assuring an equitable distribution of goods through government-mandated redistribution, or accepting the growing gap in wealth as an inevitable cost of maintaining laissez-faire doctrinal purity?"

It's not an either/or question. Both egalitarian distribution and laissez-faire doctrinal purity are impossible, as a practical matter. Both are silly ideologies. Both owe more to Marx than to anyone else. You don't find a lot of interest in laissez-faire doctrinal purity in the works of Adam Smith or of Hayek.
6.16.2008 10:37am
A.C.:
Guest101 -

I'm not absolutely opposed to regulation. Where there is a fair degree of consensus on what to regulate, sensible regulation can prevent a rush to the bottom that harms all interests -- including those of business owners who want a higher standard. Most entities behave better when they know they are being watched, and I see no reason to prevent society from hiring the government to do the watching in areas where individual members of the public aren't really equipped to protect themselves.

The devil's in the details, of course, and you have to watch out that business owners don't push for standards so high that they amount to restraints of trade. (I believe the Japanese used to do this a lot. Don't know if they are still known for it.) It's possible to err in both directions on this sort of thing.

But when I said "government," I wasn't thinking so much of regulation as of actual transfer payments to individuals. I have some concerns with the notion of transfer payments to low-wage workers, for example, not because I want to harm low-wage workers themselves but because they amount to a subsidy for low-wage industries. If you subsidize something, you get more of it, and we seem to be getting more low-wage occupations. Is this the right way to go about things, or should we be trying to encourage the development of high-productivity, high-wage employment? It was possible in the past, and with tools that were inferior to the ones available now.
6.16.2008 10:52am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
ken: "I have no statistics readily at hand; neither did I notice you quote any."

The statistics have already been cited in this thread, twice (once directly and once indirectly). And now for the third time.

"what do you mean by 'rich' ?"

Bush won every group making over $50k, and lost every group making less. But it's especially striking to notice that he won the over-$200k group by an especially large margin (63/35%).

"I suspect most people in that situation are Democrats."

I think your description of a certain "situation" is quite vague. But no matter what interpretation I apply, it seems to me that the data proves your claim is wrong. (I think we are both making the reasonable simplification that Democrat=Kerry voter.)
6.16.2008 10:57am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
some guy: "weren't born in Bethesda and didn't attend prep school"

I'm totally mystified by the implied proposition that somehow prep school=leftist. Given that prep school requires money and rich people voted for Bush. Another data point: Bush's educational background.
6.16.2008 10:57am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
sig: "You seem to be under the impression that conservatives had a choice between Bush and some small government candidate."

Someone else already made that comment. And I already responded, here.

There seems to be a sudden outbreak of posting-without-reading-prior-comments.

"The words 'liberal' and 'left' nowdays denote a devotion to a specific sort of hierarchy, to centralised power, and to rule by an elite."

Since Bush's background is nothing if not "elite," and given that he and the GOP have gone to great lengths to centralize power, your comment is howlingly humorous.
6.16.2008 10:58am
Thales (mail) (www):
White shoe firms, like many other institutions, are a mixed bag. While I'd say it's correct that many *tilt* liberal (as do many professionals and upper income people at large), it's a pretty genteel establishment sort of liberalism. Move it a few notches (or go back a few decades, when Rockefeller Republicans existed) and it would be genteel, establishment conservatism.

Within most firms interested in making money (i.e. all firms), virtually no one is excluded on the basis of political voting record (why shut out a Ted Olson or a Ken Starr, who can make the firm millions?) but may well be excluded within certain firms on the basis of failure to be a member of the establishment "club" (i.e. not going to a prestigious law or undergraduate school, not being of an upper middle or just upper class family). In this sense, white shoe firms are deeply conservative.

As for pro bono work, pushing a "left" agenda is hard to square with what firms do on the litigation defense and corporate transactional side. For example, Biglaw generally won't take an NRDC style environmental case, because it would often be at least indirectly adverse to the interests of their polluting/emitting clients. By contrast, what corporate client really cares whether Guantanamo detainees get habeas corpus rights or not? (A deeper question is, why is the position that they should not considered "conservative"?) I think some Biglaw lawyers actually like the satisfaction of doing pro bono work for a change, get good training in doing so, and yes, want the recognition that comes with winning and facing down the government (or occasionally, a private sector "bad guy"). I don't think that's a demonstrably "left" agenda though.
6.16.2008 11:18am
SIG357:
Since Bush's background is nothing if not "elite," and given that he and the GOP have gone to great lengths to centralize power, your comment is howlingly humorous.


A quick google on your name suggests that you are hardly in a position to call other peoples remarks "howlingly humorous". As for the "substance" of your comment - that would be a devastating come-back, if I had ever said that Bush was not a member of the "elite". Or a conservative. But don't let me interfere with your molestation of strawmen.


OK, I think I get it. A conservative is someone who is so committed to the idea of small government that he would prefer to vote for the candidate with a proven track record of greatly expanding executive power, bureaucracy and spending, as compared with the candidate who is merely being accused (by his hypocritical opponent) of having that potential.

Talk about "howlingly humorous"! I don't know which is funnier. The idea that you give a rats patootie about the size of government, or the idea that John Kerry was an unknown quantity on this issue.

Based on the comments you're making here, it's clear that you'll be supporting John McCain over Obama. Smaller government being such a passion of yours and all.
6.16.2008 1:00pm
SIG357:
Bush won every group making over $50k, and lost every group making less.

Not every group. Kerry carried the billionaire vote. Pretty funny, considering all the "Billionaires for Bush" spoofs the Democrats ran.
6.16.2008 1:04pm
SIG357:
As for pro bono work, pushing a "left" agenda is hard to square with what firms do on the litigation defense and corporate transactional side

I'n not sure why you think so. You seem to regard the words "corporate" and "left" as being antithetical. But corporations and the left don't seem to agree.


By contrast, what corporate client really cares whether Guantanamo detainees get habeas corpus rights or not? (A deeper question is, why is the position that they should not considered "conservative"?)

I don't think that's that deep a question. It's a conservative position because until the USSC made up that right a few days ago (ignoring their own precedent in the process) no such right ever existed.
6.16.2008 1:12pm
CJColucci:
Thales largely said what I was going to say, except for my planned follow-up question: If they're not in the big law firms, where are all the high-quality, elite-educated, well-connected conservative lawyers? There are plenty of them, they have to eat, and they like to eat well.
6.16.2008 5:27pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"I don't think that's that deep a question. It's a conservative position because until the USSC made up that right a few days ago (ignoring their own precedent in the process) no such right ever existed."

Unless the precedent (Eisentrager) itself was not on point factually, and unless the Court reconsidered/considered for the first time the precise contours of constitutional (i.e. pre-dating Eisentrager) habeas corpus v. statutory habeas corpus when applied to persons of unknown citizenship and unknown status (i.e., they might be "enemy combatants," they might not be), who are claiming the right to challenge the legality of their detention and the procedural adequacy of combatant status review tribunals before being tried for alleged offenses by military commissions. Many would say that a vigorous defense of the Great Writ is the most conservative (in the sense of ancient and legally hallowed) position on this issue, and that it is the Addington/Yoo/DOJ theory that is radical and "made up."
6.16.2008 7:10pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
sig: "A quick google on your name suggests that you are hardly in a position to call other peoples remarks 'howlingly humorous' "

I've posted thousands of comments in various places. If you claim one or more of them are "howlingly humorous," you should let us in on the secret and be specific. Otherwise, it's obvious that you're just taking a cheap and cowardly shot.

"that would be a devastating come-back, if I had ever said that Bush was not a member of the 'elite' "

Since you acknowledge that Bush is elite (and surely you would make the same acknowledgment about the GOP president who preceded him), it's even harder to understand why you tried to argue that elite=left. Then again, maybe your "devastating come-back" will be to point out that you never said Bush isn't left. The people who voted for him seem to be rushing to disown him, so it wouldn't surprise me.

"the idea that John Kerry was an unknown quantity on this issue"

As of 11/04, Bush had a distinct track record of greatly expanding executive power, bureaucracy and spending. Kerry did not. No claim you make about Kerry is going to change that basic reality.

The national debt is not a perfect proxy for size of government, but it's another helpful reference. It is mostly our recent GOP presidents, not Clinton, who gave us a soaring debt. So this is another indication of the same mysterious phenomenon, that 'conservatives' in 2004 voted for the party that was demonstrably less conservative.

"it's clear that you'll be supporting John McCain over Obama. Smaller government being such a passion of yours and all."

I never said that smaller government is a passion of mine. Speaking of "molestation of strawmen." I said that 'conservatives' are inconsistent.

But you seem to be claiming that McCain is for smaller government. That's more baloney, since despite his 'maverick' reputation, he's been a rubber stamp for Bush.

"Kerry carried the billionaire vote."

That's not reflected in the data that's been cited here. So you should tell us where your proof is.
6.16.2008 8:04pm
neurodoc:
I think most people who even know what the phrase "white shoe law firm"...

How remarkable that in the course of 180+ reactions to this DB post about the culture of "white shoe" law firms today, no one has commented on a great irony here. Many of the old, "white shoe" firms so keen on "diversity" now, started out and continued for many years to be decidedly anti-diversity. While "white shoe" may have been an allusion to footwear, either the white spats that gentlemen wore so long ago or preppy white bucksin shoes with red crepe soles, the term was generally understood to mean "WASPs only," and it was practically synonymous with "No Jews." Catholics were somewhat less disfavored; women, blacks, and other ethnic minorities weren't even in contention.

I'm not a fan of many expressions of "diversity," "multiculturalism," and the like, but I prefer them to the overt, malignant bigotry that the law profession took for granted in the not so distant past.

Professor Bernstein, would you really prefer a return to that genteel (gentile) "patrician conservatism" of yesteryear with all that it entailed over the much more egalitarian/meritocratic present in law schools and law firms?
6.17.2008 1:17am
one of many:
I thought Catholics were on a par with Jews at the old white shoe firms. I do like the phrase "patrician conservatism", if white shoe firms are indeed liberal these days I think "patrician liberalism" with the connotations is a good phrase for the type of liberalism practiced.
6.17.2008 10:13am
AndrewK (mail):
I'm not taking sides here, but as a student at NYU law, I received this invitation email today:

"Annual Pride Art Exhibition &Reception at Clifford Chance

In celebration of Gay Pride,

Clifford Chance is holding a simultaneous exhibition in its London and New York offices of artwork by openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender artists."

etc. etc.
6.17.2008 2:08pm