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Letters to a Young Lawyer (Art of Mentoring) Paperback – April 13, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dershowitz helps inaugurate a new series called the Art of Mentoring with this volume of advice and reflection on practicing law. Several unifying themes run throughout, most prominently the ethical traps for defense attorneys, prosecutors and even judges inherent in the practice of criminal law. Dershowitz alerts a fledgling lawyer to the systemic bias, corner-cutting and outright cheating that he sees permeating the criminal courts. While Dershowitz recognizes the ethical ambiguity that suffuses much of the law, he is more concerned with communicating the moral absolutes he believes in. These include the uncompromising obligation of a defense lawyer to work for the accused's acquittal by all legitimate means. A believer in telling the truth, Dershowitz excoriates deceitful lawyers and hypocritical judges alike. Along with the moral imperatives, the author tells some war stories and settles a few scores, for example, with critics who took him to task for defending O.J. Simpson, and with the Supreme Court, whose decision in the 2000 election case Dershowitz finds dishonest and unprincipled. The young lawyer (to whom these mini-essays are addressed) will perceive how ethically messy and complicated the law can be and how many core issues in our national life the law touches. Even more, the reader will come away with a sense of Dershowitz himself as teacher, tenacious advocate and self-described provocateur.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Rilke is hot this year--as an advice-giver. His Letters to a Young Poet is the point of reference for Dershowitz's "oral letters," part of a new series called the Art of Mentoring, and for Christopher Hitchens' commentary on contrarianism (see p.271). Having written more than a dozen previous books, Dershowitz is a known quantity; readers tend to be either fans or foes. Those who like him will find plenty of commonsense suggestions here, on heroes and enemies and on morality and wealth. The "young lawyer" of the title is the book's most obvious target reader, but Dershowitz's commentary on his profession will also appeal to those who work with lawyers and even to readers who love legal thrillers. And because attorneys simply face different versions of the challenges most white-collar workers face, much of Dershowitz's advice can be applied in other workplaces as well. Likely to circulate where Dershowitz's other books are popular. Mary Carroll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Art of Mentoring
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465016332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465016334
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #94,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ is a Brooklyn native who has been called 'the nation's most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer' and one of its 'most distinguished defenders of individual rights,' 'the best-known criminal lawyer in the world,' 'the top lawyer of last resort,' and 'America's most public Jewish defender.' He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Dershowitz, a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School, joined the Harvard Law School faculty at age 25 after clerking for Judge David Bazelon and Justice Arthur Goldberg. While he is known for defending clients such as Anatoly Sharansky, Claus von B'low, O.J. Simpson, Michael Milken and Mike Tyson, he continues to represent numerous indigent defendants and takes half of his cases pro bono. Dershowitz is the author of 20 works of fiction and non-fiction, including 6 bestsellers. His writing has been praised by Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, David Mamet, William Styron, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua and Elie Wiesel. More than a million of his books have been sold worldwide, in numerous languages, and more than a million people have heard him lecture around the world. His most recent nonfiction titles are The Case For Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can be Resolved (August 2005, Wiley); Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights (November 2004, Basic Books), The Case for Israel (September 2003, Wiley), America Declares Independence, Why Terrorism Works, Shouting Fire, Letters to a Young Lawyer, Supreme Injustice, and The Genesis of Justice. His novels include The Advocate's Devil and Just Revenge. Dershowitz is also the author of The Vanishing American Jew, The Abuse Excuse, Reasonable Doubts, Chutzpah (a #1 bestseller), Reversal of Fortune (which was made into an Academy Award-winning film), Sexual McCarthyism and The Best Defense.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Caution: This book contains some strong language that will offend some. I found it no worse than what is said on television talk shows every day, if you can read lips.
I highly recommend this book to all those who are thinking of going to law school, are attending law school, or are planning their legal careers. Professor Dershowitz (whose student I have been) tells it like it is about the many flaws in the legal system, the ways that law and personal morality come into conflict, and the flagrant abuses of power that occur.
His purpose is to prepare you for what is coming, so that you can make a good decision about where practicing or teaching law fits the balance of professional challenge and personal integrity that makes sense to and for you.
He also warns against those who give advice, noting that most describe how you can become like them . . . or repeat all of their mistakes because they have never learned from those experiences.
Law is "ethically ambiguous terrain." Then, section by section, he describes those moral ambiguities, especially as they occur in the criminal justice system. Although not everyone will agree with his advice, you will certainly see the terrain clearly. Perhaps the most interesting argument is that "the truly moral person . . . does the right thing without . . . reward or . . . punishment." In making this case, he moves to a notion of morality that is beyond religious ethics.
I could see myself again traveling down the road of disillusionment that Professor Dershowitz describes. First, we find a legal hero. What we don't realize is that this hero also has human flaws of which we will not approve. When we find out about those flaws, our sense of the idealism of the law is diminished.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Craig on January 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Although some parts of this book contain useful advice, I am somewhat disappointed in it. First, Dershowitz too often uses this book as a sound board to express his political views about topics such as.. defense lawyers, judges, politics, etc. He comes off sounding arrogant and wastes the time of a reader who, like me, was looking for practical advice and lessons based upon his vast experience as an attorney, rather than his defense of his personal views of politics, law, and life in general. Second, this book is largely geared towards criminal law. I understand that this is what Dershowitz has spent his career practicing, but far too many chapters only apply to those who are interested in pursuing careers in criminal law. The book would be more aptly titled "Letters To A Young Criminal Lawyer." That is why I believe this book is not appropriate for everyone. There must be books written by well-known attorneys that dispense far better advice than this one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By sir_isaac_newton on July 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
For some reason this book caught my eye -- perhaps because I find Alan disarmingly candid on TV. I like people who are intelligent that can get straight to the heart of an issue -- Alan is one of those all too rare people. This book is a surprisingly caustic look at the American lawyers and their weaknesses and criminal and unethical behavior -- bravo! The book also provides some insight in to the weaknesses of the American legal system. This book was written before the Enron and Worldcom crisis we now find American in. I read yesterday that seven ImClone executives and a lawyer were off-loading ImClone stock a few weeks before the final government turn-down of their new ill-researched supposed-wonder drug -- this book will help you understand how the lawyer managed to be part of this shameful affair. Yes this book would be a wonderful present for a young law student -- I would go as far as to say a "must read".
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By BostonLawyer on January 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
For a Harvard law professor with extensive practical experience this book is disappointing. Mr. Dershowitz relies heavily on quotations from his previous books (sometimes quoting sections twice) and at times dispenses trivial advice. For those (like me) who have read some of his other books, Letters is repetitive and the non-repetitive portions are insubstantial. Ironically Mr. Derschowitz includes a chapter on how professors should publish without peer review and not be reluctant to get less-than-perfect writing out to the public. He followed his own advice a little too literally with this hastily drafted book. For an introduction to Dershowitz, I recommend his other books.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Lake on July 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Dershowitz's book is a series of short letters, each proffering a piece of advice to young lawyers. Although the introduction begins with a promise that Dershowitz will try "to be conscious of avoiding the mistake of telling you how to become me," he inevitably falls into that trap and spends many pages lecturing the reader on the evils of particular political views and the corruption of particular high-profile enemies of his.

Not a fan of the Bush v. Gore decision? You will find plenty of vitriol in this book to support that view -- sentences like: "The Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore should be followed ... But it should not be respected, any more than the robed cheaters who wrote it should be respected."

But on the positive side, the side with far less polarizing rhetoric, Dershowitz is at his best when explaining the moral and intellectual reasons for defending the accused. For instance, "If we move away from the American tradition of lawyers defending those with whom they vehemently disagree ... we weaken our commitment to the rule of law." Dershowitz explains well how the practicing defense attorney can defend a guilty person without any danger of ethical or moral compromise, and what's more, why the lawyer ought to do so.

Each of the chapters focuses on one discrete element, and Dershowitz excels at inspiring his reader to think. A myriad of topics are covered, from self-doubt to absolute morality, from winning and losing to dealing with criticism. Whether you agree or disagree with his opinions, Dershowitz provides plenty of food for thought, and I could scarcely read three pages before shutting the book to ponder a new idea. This is a great book to start a young lawyer (or aspiring lawyer) thinking about the profession, but be warned that the language and the rhetoric get a bit heated in places.
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