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Home » Can a Good Lawyer be a Good Person? by Ronald Sullivan at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

Can a Good Lawyer be a Good Person? by Ronald Sullivan at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)

Ronald Sullivan at TEDxBeaconStreet

Ronald Sullivan – TRANSCRIPT

So, when I was a law student, I read an article by a law professor who’s now a friend and colleague. But the very first line of that article has stuck with me for 25 years. It’s haunted me, in fact. The first line is this: “Can a good lawyer be a good person?” I see everybody laughs, because you’re thinking, “No. A good lawyer cannot be a good person.” Most of the time, this question comes from this notion of, how can you defend the guilty? How can you defend someone whom you think has committed some sort of crime? I’m going to tell you about one of my clients.

I had a client charged with a serious assault. I should say, before I became a law professor, I was a public defender in Washington, DC. So many years ago, I defended a man who’s accused of an assault and the major witness against him was a guy – I’ll call him John – I won’t give his real name. John was a heroin addict. It was a very, very, very close case. In the end, I gave a closing that had something to do with reasonable doubt.

So, in the District of Columbia, the definition of reasonable doubt is this, “A reasonable doubt is a doubt upon which you can base a reason.” It’s the sort or doubt – they’re pretty slick there – reasonable doubt is a doubt upon which you can base a reason. It is the sort of doubt that makes you pause or hesitate in the greater, more meaningful aspects of life. The sort of doubt that makes you pause or hesitate in the greater, more meaningful aspects of life.

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