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Terror and the Law: What the Attacks Mean to JDs

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In the days following the terrorist strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, JD Jungle asked legal experts to assess the impact on lawyers, law firms, and law students.

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Robert Hirshon, President, American Bar Association

Lawyers are going to be asked to help this country achieve the delicate balance between feeling secure on the one hand and protecting our Constitution and civil liberties on the other. A whole range of areas will be affected, from privacy law to immigration law to criminal and international law. With privacy, for instance, we've seen an immediate increase in the desire to expand the use of wiretaps and to broaden the government's power to investigate things like financial documents and computer records. In the days following the attacks, there was talk of doing away altogether with habeas corpus in immigration cases. There was also talk about tightening immigration from certain places like the Middle East and southern Asia.

Whenever America has a calamity or a disaster of this magnitude, the country gets focused on what to do to fix it, and some of the proposals that were surfacing in the days immediately after the attacks were just overboard.

In the past-in World War II, with the Japanese internment camps, and later with the Red Scare-Americans made decisions that most people now realize went too far. With the benefit of historical hindsight, I believe lawyers will be more successful in convincing America that, although we may need to make changes,we must make those changes carefully, without throwing away the Bill of Rights.

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Law Firms
H. Rodgin Cohen, Chairman, Sullivan & Cromwell

Virtually every lawyer here had friends who were lost in this tragedy, and that's not going to go away, ever [Sullivan & Cromwell is located in southern Manhattan, not far from the former site of the World Trade Center]. But I do think people are going to make every effort to work through it. There's a spirit of determination, almost defiance.

The main way that this could affect law firms is if there is a deep and prolonged economic impact. Law firms are a service business, and when their clients are having problems, there's going to be a ripple effect. Right now, we're not planning for a downturn. Our psychology continues to be that we're going to work through this, to continue business as normal. There will certainly be changes. For example, our work with airlines will be different-there may be fewer of them, and they may have different mechanisms for doing business. Insurance lawyers will no doubt be busy with their work-but from what I've seen here so far, it's just too soon to say, "Let's have more people specialize in insurance."

In regard to hiring, we have always planned on a five-to-seven-year basis. No matter what the economy is like in the short term, we're looking at how to service clients in five years. We'd be making a mistake not to look at the long term so that we have enough lawyers to serve our clients' needs in the future. We didn't cut back in the middle of the last serious economic downturn-we kept hiring the same, and we kept the partnership track the same-and we have no plans to cut back now.

Over time, the rule of law will become even more important, and lawyers and law firms will have an even larger role to play.

Law Schools
Michael Fitts, Dean, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Law students today have grown up in a time of security, economically and socially, and this may have a destabilizing effect on them. We had a roundtable with students, and I quoted from an exchange in Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s A Thousand Days between [then assistant secretary of labor] Daniel Patrick Moynihan and [newspaper columnist] Mary McGrory, following the assassination of President Kennedy. McGrory said, "We'll never laugh again," and Moynihan said, "We'll laugh again-we'll just never be young again." I think this is true for a lot of students.

It's difficult to predict all the changes that might occur, but one result might be that certain areas of law may hold greater interest. Questions about international relations, civil rights, and privacy issues will surely be more important; I expect the classes that relate to those issues will be more popular. And law schools and their legal scholars are always involved in examining those issues.

Certainly, law schools that attract international students will be impacted. We have a number of students who come from around the world, and we don't know if they'll still be interested in coming to America. It should have no impact, but in times of uncertainty, people may be less willing to move to other countries.

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Sullivan & Cromwell LLP

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