In a protest over global warming, law students at Harvard, Yale and NYU are urging law students around the country to refuse to interview at Paul Weiss unless it drops ExxonMobil as a client. Sympathetic as it might otherwise be, one has to wonder why they have singled out Paul Weiss when many dozens of other blue chip law firms recruiting on their campuses represent high carbon footprint energy companies.
Zealous client representation is a fundamental requirement of a fair and just legal system. I doubt these students would excoriate criminal lawyers for defending rapists and murderers. Energy companies don’t deserve as much?
One hopes lawyers and law students read about their adversary as much as their cause. Paul Weiss is, of course, the law firm that worked with Thurgood Marshall in representing Oliver Brown in Brown v. Board of Education, leading to the desegregation of our nation’s public schools; Edith Windsor in Windsor v. United States, establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage; as well as leading national anti-gun violence and voter protection efforts in the courts; and on and on. If the protesters can’t imagine working for this law firm, where can they possibly work? To be decent we should not just worry about the future but study the past. It helps us take better aim.