On Wednesday, May 2, ACS teamed up with the Federalist Society for a special lunchtime event. In honor of the finals of the Hinton Moot Court competition, Justice Eid of the Colorado Supreme Court and Judge Pallmeyer of the Northern District of Illinois, both alumnae, joined us for an informal discussion entitled, “Misconceptions of Life on the Bench: What we would have liked to learn in lawschool, and what we could have done without.” Professor Strahilevitz moderated the discussion, which was guided primarily by student questions. Both speakers extolled their experiences here at the Law school, but emphasized that there is a great deal about the legal profession that is not taught in law school. For instance, Justice Eid spoke at length about the importance of “court cultures,” where norms about collegiality and expressing disagreement vary among courts. She added that it is helpful to have a panel of judges with diverse backgrounds, and that more discourse among these judges tends to yield better opinions. The speakers themselves illustrated this point; Justice Eid discussed the great responsibility of holding the highest Colorado state court position, while Judge Pallmeyer reminded the audience that the district courts “don’t make law,” but rather “just apply it as it’s been determined by higher courts.” Likewise, many issues arise in state court but not federal court (and vice versa), i.e. domestic disputes.
Judge Pallmeyer also noted that law school instruction does not pay enough attention to the “pure stress of the profession” and the inevitable challenges associated with performing “new lawyer” duties. Correspondingly, Pallmeyer lamented an “overly narrow understanding of our [career] options,” with momentum guiding so many law students toward large law firms. Audience members expressed that they enjoyed the unique access to such distinguished judges and alumnae- rarely are we afforded exposure to distinguished alumnae and judges in such a friendly and frank environment.
Thanks to the audience for their thoughtful questions and to the Federalist Society for their excellent collaboration.