Hearts vs Minds

2 Mins

Which is more important in your legal job – Empathy ???? or knowledge ??"??

Currently, President Biden is in the process of appointing a new Supreme Court justice. Back in 2009, President Obama was doing the same and declared that he wasn’t focused on ideologies but character, and wanted someone with “empathy” for “people’s hopes and struggles”.

At the time, some Republicans thought this violated a judge’s oath to bring justice to all. They wanted to ensure Obama’s pick wouldn’t be some activist out to crush the corporations but be fair to the rich as well as the poor in society.

Others suggested that without empathy, simply enforcing the letter of the law could be done by robots.

Ultimately, empathy can help us recognise how situations arose and it doesn’t have to dictate the outcome of a case. Nor does it have to lead to outpourings of sympathy for the side seen as weaker. The law has a job to do, but judges and lawyers have a role to play in ensuring the human side isn’t forgotten.

Obviously, US law and UK law are very different beasts. But there’s an idea here that being human has an important part to play in being a lawyer.

Written by Jason Connolly