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U.S. Supreme Court justice wants others to think like lawyers

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito shared his excitement about the dedication of USC’s new law school building today, despite the common assumption that there are too many lawyers in the United States now.

“The U.S. has three times as many lawyers as Great Britain, ten times more than France and 40 times as many as Japan,” Alito said, speaking to an audience of lawyers and law students. “But, we have the best legal system in the world and there is no doubt we need to train good principal attorneys to preserve our institutions, our society and our rule of law.”

The keynote speaker at the dedication, Alito said law schools play a vital role in teaching students how to think like a lawyer, and current society could stand a dose of lawyerly thinking.

The first aspect he shared was legal culture’s getting in touch with the real world, and knowing that what happens in the real world is not always cut and dry.

“Legal culture teaches us to ascertain facts first,” Alito said. “We have to know that the world is full of surprises.”

Secondly, he talked about dealing with the past, saying the legal system does not worship the past, but does not disregard it either.

“Past decisions are given great weight even when we think the past decision may be incorrect,” Alito said. “We have to keep in mind that the past decision that seems wrong to us may be correct. There is often great value in stability. Past decisions may have elicited heavy reliance, and overturning past decisions may undermine public respect for our legal institutions. We do not foreclose overruling past precedents; some decisions we may come to recognize simply cannot be allowed to stand.”

Alito said this balance is good for society as a whole.

Finally, the justice said thinking like a lawyer allows society to have a deep respect for airing both sides of a dispute. He said he and his colleagues do not feel confident until they have heard the best of both sides of a dispute.

“Hearing both sides is the best way to find the truth,” Alito said. “This feature mirrors our Constitution, and the First Amendment. It is my hope the law schools of this country will remind our society the critical importance of airing all points of view. This new home of the University of South Carolina School of Law will produce generation upon generation of new attorneys who are dedicated to bringing the fulfillment of our lofty national ideals. “

Alito was invited by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to take part in the event. 

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