Despite Brigham’s frequent attacks on the profession, there are a lot of Mormon lawyers. Some LDS thinkers have posited all sorts of troubling reasons why this is so. Nibley sees it as a symptom of moral decline, and I have repeatedly seen it used as evidence of excessive Mormon materialism or anti-intellectualism. However, today I realized that it might be about something else entirely: book binding.
One of the main reasons that I went to law school is that I really like the way that law books look. They are heavy, hard-bound, musty, dusty, and the paper is frequently yellowed and brittle. There is this wonderful feeling in a law library that you are surrounded by more than the blue prints for bureaucratic procedures or the tools of a lucrative profession. You are surrounded by LORE. My corporations professor was an ancient old lawyer who insisted on shouting intellectual abuse at students in class and was frequently incoherent. On the other hand, he always insisted on using the quaintly antiquated phrase “learning,” as in “lets look at the agency learning on this point” or “Mr. Hudson how would you apply the contract learning to this problem.” It was possibly the only thing I enjoyed about professor Brudney’s class.
Thus, I have to confess that at work, I get a little thrill of excitement when I come across a problem that requires that I consult old Supreme Court cases. It gives me an excuse to pull down the old leather bound reporters, pour over the agate type, and lose myself in Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. or Stephen Field. “Pathetic!” you say? Perhaps, but today as I pulled down volume 226 of the U.S. Reports – musty, dusty, leather, and crumbling – I was hit by a flash of insight. One of the reasons that I like law books is because they have a certain scriptural aura to them. Holmes once described the common law as “chaos with an index.” It seems like a some what apt description of the Standard Works as well. On the other hand, both summon up visions of ancient, vaguely esoteric wisdom delivered by oracular sages.
No wonder there are so many Mormon lawyers. They have been seduced by lure of the books!