“Thinker,” for me, the title engenders thoughts of contemplative, thoughtful, creative, visionary, strategic, humble, open-minded individuals. When someone tells me I am a thinker, I am moved by the compliment; it is what I aspire to. I love discussing the philosophical underpinnings of law and government, I love exploring how law and society shape each other. To think about the dynamics behind the policy and the reasons we fight for certain protections, seems to be fundamental to understanding law because it provides clarity and context. Only with clarity and context can we hope to effect change. However, I have had the impression from some that law school is not about producing thinkers, it is about producing law practitioners. My contention is that there should be no difference. (While there are several types of thinkers in the world, I am focusing on the lawyer-thinker.)
A thinker is someone who possesses a natural curiosity about the world and how and why it works the way that it does. A thinker is not a mere navel-gazer, though self-reflection and awareness are an essential part of developed thinking. A thinker is someone who is not satisfied with a party-line; the thinker challenges the status quo, not for sport or the sake of argument, but because he seeks the fullness of understanding, and understanding is the thinker’s pleasure. The pleasure of understanding is not an end unto itself, however, because the thinker is then able to use that understanding to find new, perhaps more effective or efficient ways of bringing about a desired outcome. It is a marriage of creativity and understanding, and in that union, the lawyer as thinker can change society, no matter the scale.
Effective lawyers must be thinkers. By entering this profession, haven’t we necessarily determined that it is nobler to “take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them” (harkening back to Alison’s allusion to the perennial question)? To produce a good law practitioner is the duty of the law school, but to produce good thinkers will not only yield good law practitioners, but individuals who can, and will, make a difference.