"Tearing Down ... Attorneys' Work":

Commenter DJR writes, apropos my criticism of the badly written Supreme Court brief:

I see that your (quasi-associated) firm hasn't filed an amicus brief (at least not as lead counsel) in this case. Even so, don't you find it at least a little bit in poor taste to be tearing down these attorneys' work in such a public way? It's one thing to disagree with the arguments or to think that they should have addressed matters more substantively. It's another thing entirely to make them look foolish on a widely read legal blog.

I'm puzzled by this position. It seems to me that when someone is in businesses offering goods or services to the public, it's perfectly proper to accurately criticize the quality of those goods or services. That's true whether the target is a large corporation or a team of four lawyers, and whether or not the critic is a fellow lawyer.

In fact, I'd think that such public criticism is on balance helpful. First, it might be educational for law students and young lawyers who read the blog — bad examples often are.

Second, it might remind some such law students and young lawyers that their work will be evaluated by outsiders, and might be criticized. This reminder could encourage such readers to be more careful themselves.

Third, to the extent the criticism does affect the reputation of the authors of the brief (which I doubt, since I doubt that many potential consumers of their services read this blog), it seems to me that this will help consumers: If I'm right that these lawyers filed a badly written brief, consumers will benefit from knowing the lawyers' weakness.

Naturally, if my criticism were substantively unfair, then it should be criticized for that; yet that doesn't seem to be the commenter's point. Likewise, perhaps it wouldn't be right for me to publicly criticize a law student's moot court brief, since the student is clearly just learning and should be cut some slack on those grounds.

But these lawyers are filing a brief in the highest court in the land, and representing a real criminal defendant. They are playing in the big leagues. If their play isn't up to what should be big league standards, it seems to me quite proper to publicly note that. Or am I mistaken?