The ideal lawyer should love justice

Interview with Mortimer Sellers (Regents Professor University System of Maryland, director Center for International and Comparative Law University of Baltimore)

Who did you dream to become when you were a child? 

When I was a child I wanted to become a writer.  I admired authors of every kind, but particularly poets and historians. I wanted to live in the countryside and to write the history of liberty.

Have your dreams came true?

Not yet!

How did you earn your first money?

Helping to put out forest fires in Maine.

When did you decide to become a lawyer?

When I was 26 years old.  I saw many injustices in my home state of Pennsylvania and thought that as a lawyer I could play a more active part in the fight for justice than I could without legal training.

If lawyers became banned, what would you do?

Man the barricades!

What was the most unusual action you made in your life?

Some stories are too good to be told.

What is the most prominent feature of your temper?

Love.  I am a great believer in love and friendship.

Who or what inspires you?

The whole history of liberty and law, but particularly the lives and writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero, William Penn, and John Marshall.

What are three things you cannot live without?

My wife, my daughter, my friends.

What is the most difficult thing in life?

The most difficult thing in life is separation from those we love.

What do you like in everyday life?

Every day I like to run through the woods for an hour with my dog.  This is a perfect opportunity to observe the beauty that is everywhere around us.

What is the best pursuit on Friday night?

To eat a meal with my wife, share a bottle of wine, and dance.

Describe in a few words an ideal lawyer?

The ideal lawyer should love justice. No life is worth living without a purpose and the purpose of law is justice.  The happiest lawyers and the best lawyers are the lawyers who understand the purpose of what they do.  I should also mention clarity and reason.  The best lawyers are clear, well-organized, and reasonable.

How Law should be taught?

Law should be taught as the pursuit of justice.  Too often the law is taught as if it were simply the edicts of those in authority.  This is false.  Law and justice are limitations on those in authority and lawyers are the priests of justice.

What was the most complimentary comment on your work?

When I met a brave lawyer, whom I admired very much -- because he had been so forthright in criticizing the illegality of government repression -- and he told me that he had read and agreed with my books.  This made me determined to be more courageous myself.

Is there any skill you do not have but would like to?

I wish that I could sing more beautifully. I love to sing, but my friends do not always like to hear it.

What is the most valuable thing you can buy for money?


What would you like to do after the next 10 years?

I hope that ten years from now I will live on my family farm and have more time to write the books that I hoped to write when I was a child.

What would you wish to young lawyers?

My advice to young lawyers would be to embrace the noble purposesof their profession.  I have taught and advised young lawyers for thirty years.  Many come back to me when they are older -- or in trouble.  The lawyers who are happiest, most respected, and in the end the most successful are the ones who enter the profession with ideals and a purpose.  No matter what adversity we face, life is worth living if it has a purpose.  The purpose of law is justice.