Article Title

Cynicism, Reconsidered

Publication Title

Washington University Law Quarterly


Occasionally I encounter among students the suspicion that law is nothing but politics. In the field in which I teach-employment law-this attitude amounts to the cynical belief that if judges (or at least those judges hostile to workers) can possibly find a way for the employee to lose and the employer to win, they will do so. While I must admit my own misgivings about the extent to which doctrine and precedent actually decide cases, I push these students to try to understand case outcomes as something other than pure politics. Believing that it is important for law students, as future practitioners, to learn the law as articulated by courts and legislatures, and to master the style of argument they employ, I point out underlying doctrinal structures and highlight the ways in which judicial decision-making, though perhaps not fully determined, is at least constrained. Sometimes, however, it's hard to argue with the cynics. Let me explain.