ADVICE TO A YOUNG PERSON INTERESTED IN A CAREER IN THE LAW

July 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

In May 1954, M. Paul Claussen, Jr., a 12-year-old boy living in Alexandria, Virginia, sent a letter to Mr. Justice Felix Frankfurter in which he wrote that he was interested in “going into the law as a career” and requested advice as to “some ways to start preparing myself while still in junior high school.”   This is the reply he received:

My Dear Paul:

No one can be a truly competent lawyer unless he is a cultivated man.  If I were you I would forget about any technical preparation for the law.  The best way to prepare for the law is to be a well-read person.  Thus alone can one acquire the capacity to use the English language on paper and in speech and with the habits of clear thinking which only a truly liberal education can give.  No less important for a lawyer is the cultivation of the imaginative faculties by reading poetry, seeing great paintings, in the original or in easily available reproductions, and listening to great music.  Stock your mind with the deposit of much good reading, and widen and deepen your feelings by experiencing vicariously as much as possible the wonderful mysteries of the universe, and forget about your future career.

With good wishes,

Sincerely yours,

[signed]  Felix Frankfurter 

From THE LAW AS LITERATURE, ed. by Ephraim London, Simon and Schuster, 1960.

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