Thursday, June 19, 2008

Jerome Frank Hires Some Lawyers, Part III

This is the third of three installments on an exchange of correspondence between Jerome Frank and a USDA official that illustrates some of the challenges faced by those wanted to hire lawyers on the basis of academic merit during America's New Deal. Previous posts introduced the exchange and provided the USDA official's side of the story. Here is Frank's reply.

Photo credit.

Strictly Personal and not for the General Files
November 6, 1934


Dear Julien:

I appreciate your confidential memorandum of October 30 and the good advice contained therein

I will certainly be glad, as you request, to call your attention to the need for additional attorneys for minor positions.

As to the distribution of appointments I shall send you shortly a revised list of the geographical distribution of the lawyers in this office. I recollect that the last time I looked at such a list it was in such shape that it would have been found satisfactory to you.

As to Harvard I wonder whether you are aware of the fact that I am myself a graduate of the University of Chicago and of the University of Chicago Law School. Not only am I not a graduate of Harvard but I have written quite a little in criticism of its educational methods. I hand you herewith a copy of my article on that subject. Therefore, I have no particular bias in favor of that school.

It happens, however, that a very large part of our work is paper work and not court work. Consequently, what we need largely are lawyers of the type that are trained for work in the big offices. It happens that the brightest young men who are preparing for such a career go, for the most part if they can afford it, to Yale, Columbia, Harvard, and a few of the midwest college law schools. That does not mean that those schools are necessarily any better but merely that they have better reputations and, therefore, usually attract the more brilliant students if they have the means to attend those schools. Consequently, when I am looking for an unusually able young man I am likely to find a disproportionate number who are graduates of those few schools

I repeat that, for the most part, we need lawyers who are effective in so-called "office work." We have to contend with the ablest lawyers on the outside who are doing such work. Where, under pressure, I have taken on lawyers without the aptitude or equipment for that kind of activity, I have found almost invariably that the men are misfits and do not do their work very well.

Jerome N. Frank
General Counsel

[Presumably the article Frank sent along to Friant was "Why Not a Clinical Lawyer School?" 81 U. Pa. L. Rev. 907 (1933).]