Are Lawyers A Productive Part of Society?

The ABA Journal has this interesting thought attributed to Justice Scalia.  Asked to comment on whether the quality of advocacy before the U.S. Supreme Court was too low,  Justice Scalia is quoted as saying:

“I used to have just the opposite reaction.  I used to be disappointed that so many of the best minds in the country were being devoted to this enterprise.

“I mean there’d be a … public defender from Podunk, you know, and this woman is really brilliant, you know. Why isn’t she out inventing the automobile or, you know, doing something productive for this society?

“I mean lawyers, after all, don’t produce anything. They enable other people to produce and to go on with their lives efficiently and in an atmosphere of freedom. That’s important, but it doesn’t put food on the table, and there have to be other people who are doing that. And I worry that we are devoting too many of our very best minds to this enterprise.”

Justice Scalia is at his provocative best here, forcing us to wonder whether our legal system now pervasively controls so many aspects of our society that too many of the best minds have to go into the profession.