State of the Profession

“I would never train a child to shoot!  Who puts a gun in the hands of a child and trains them to shoot?!”

“Roni, we have had firearms for over 500 years.  For most of that time education of skill at arms came at an early age, typically father to son and, yes, in many instances from fathers to daughters too.  Incidents of gun violence between children were exceptionally rare.  Yet, in 1968, we passed the Federal Gun Control Act and suddenly, a few years later, we see the beginnings of shootings between students at school.  I’m certainly not saying something is not going on… I’m just struggling to see the causation between the “gun” and these events.  If it was the “gun,” we would have had the incidents going on for centuries.”

“Don’t confuse her with facts, Steve!”

“Steve, putting a gun in the hands of a child is going to affect them!”

“Ummm… We did, and one of my kids is now an architect, and the other is a Cadet at West Point.”

The above exchange took place between a former law school classmate and me.  (The “Don’t confuse her with the facts Steve!” comment came from someone else commenting on the thread.)  She posted her frustrations after the Saugus High School event this last week.

I am saddened, but not surprised, to see another member of the bar engaged in emotional argumentation.  It seems to be par for the course in our profession.

Earlier today, I had a phone call from a soon-to-be graduating senior in college.  He is a philosophy and political science double major and is considering going to law school.  He wanted to hear my take on it.

My response: 

Education is invaluable in any capacity.  If you want to go to law school for the purposes of gaining an education, go… by all means.  If you want to go to graduate school and learn how to manage finances, go… don’t let anyone stop you.  If you want to watch YouTube videos and learn how to be a sculptor, start watching YouTube!  But… if you specifically choose to go to law school, you should probably know what it is you are getting yourself into:

Law school is essentially a study of what “is,” as opposed to what “ought to be.”  It is the normative versus the empirical.  Undergrad is where you put flowers in your hair, beat on the drum, and wear funny clothes.  Undergrad is where you stay up until 2am with people you will never talk to five years from now and solve all of the world’s problems.   Law school dispenses with all of that nonsense.  Law school is the ultimate study of process.  The ultimate outcome of that process, just or unjust, is irrelevant.

(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here…)

More to the point, law school and, ultimately the practice in law, is often times a study of kabuki theatre.  What is far more important in a case is the predetermined outcome of the justices.  The paper you spend so much time preparing to decorate the file is in many instances unread by those who ultimately issue decisions.  One of my favorite stories comes from my law partner.  He was involved in an appeal.  He, as well as his client, honestly could not have cared less about the eventual decision.  His oral argument lasted six seconds, literally to stand at the podium and simply state, “As submitted”. 

The justices were horrified.

When the opposing counsel was arguing their 20-minute orals, my partner was sitting at counsel table disinterested.   

At one point, a justice interrupted the lawyer to turn to Cosmo and ask, “What do you think about what he just said?”

Cosmo looked up.

“I’m sorry, your Honor; I wasn’t listening.”

The court eventually issued its decision:  Cosmo’s side won.

We spent three years in law school learning how to be dispassionate, critical thinkers.  Yet, for many of us that training has evaporated.  Now emotional reactions dictate our policy positions.  Unfortunately, politicians and justices are often recruited from the bar (not a drinking establishment… though I suspect that happens, too… no, here I am referring to the mass of attorneys that have populated our country).

Without a foundation of logic, principled by an understanding of our underlying political philosophy, our judiciary is ultimately doomed.  We will soon become practitioners of cynicism (if we haven’t become so already).

Steven Lieberman and Sandy Lieberman are the owners of the Artemis Defense Institute. A tactical training facility headquartered occupied California.   (  Mr. Lieberman is also one of the founding partners in the Law Offices of Lieberman and Taormina LLP.  Their law firm specializes in use of force, and Second Amendment defense and litigation.

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Comments (4)

  • Olaf Reply

    Great perspective!

    11/20/2019 at 10:36
  • David May Reply

    I’d like to weigh in. What is the difference between “the old days” and present day when contemplating gun violence in society?

    Some would say it’s the denuclearization of the family. In 1960, 7.74 million children lived with only one parent. In 2016, 27.81 million children lived in a single parent home.

    Others may say it is caused by the desensitization of violence due to movies, TV and the news. TV ratings have become much more lax insomuch that was rated R in 1965 than in “the old days” can be rated as low as PG-13 by current standards. In 2004 Harvard School of public health concluded, “The findings demonstrate that ratings creep has occurred over the last decade and that today’s movies contain significantly more violence, sex, and profanity on average than movies of the same rating a decade ago.”

    Could violent video games be the cause? Let’s face it, rarely do we get the opportunity to have a “do over” in real life by simply pushing a reset button.

    Is it our societal lack of addressing mental health issues that create these shootings? In 1955, there were 558,922 psychiatric beds available in the US. In 2005, there were 49,907 beds. Compensating for population growth, beds available are equal to 1850 levels. As of 2017, 278,000 patients with severe psychiatric disorders receive no medical care at all.

    Perhaps the sensationalistic news approach regarding the shooter creates the desire for others to seek their 15 minutes of fame. When one of these shootings happens, the first day or so focuses on the victims. The next two weeks seems to be about the perpetrator.

    I’m quite certain the list could continue ad-infinitum.

    The point is, the tool used isn’t the root cause of the issue; more so, it’s a symptom. Driving a truck through a crowded area, planting a fertilizer bomb, violence with a baseball bat or a golf club and dropping objects on cars from an overpass are also symptoms of our societal plague.

    Instead of working to find a cure for our societal woes, we focus on the method of destruction rather than finding ways to prevent the basic desire for carnage.

    Although teaching a child to handle and respect a firearm offers protection from self-inflicted gun related injury or death, it also offers them the means of protection from the people in our society that won’t or can’t live within societal norms.


    11/20/2019 at 11:59
  • Tawny Lee Thompson Reply

    I absolutely feel that educating my sons on responsible gun use and handling is part of my responsibility as a parent and US citizen.

    11/20/2019 at 14:13
  • Alexaloff Reply

    Fantastic posts. Thank you!

    02/23/2020 at 07:12

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