February 10, 2005 · Lessig
Lots of speculation and fantastic praise about the West Wing gig. It was a hoot to watch. But in two seconds (I’m late for a meeting) let me put this in perspective.
The story is based (loosely) upon a true story. I was involved in the drafting of one early version of the Georgian constitution. But the story ended up in the West Wing because I told the story to my students in Constitutional Law at Harvard, and a current writer for the West Wing was in that class.
And so is “fame” made: My story is on the West Wing because I was at Harvard — not because the brilliance of my intervention had been noted and reviewed, but because I was teaching talented kids who would prove to be important. Indeed, so has the most important of my “fame” been made: Did Justice Jackson pick me to be his special master because he had determined I was the perfect mix of Holmes and Ed Felten? No, I was picked because I was a Harvard Law Professor teaching the law of cyberspace. Remember: So is “fame” made.
Two things about the episode did, however, make me very happy. First, that it showed that at least some law students escape the trap that the top law schools have created — the path to a tedious and unrewarding practice that few seem capable of avoiding. And second, that it captured beautifully the single most important thing that I learned from my years working on “constitutionalism” in Eastern Europe: That 90% of the challenge is to build a culture that respects the rule of law, and that practices it. A document doesn’t build that culture. And no one has a formula — either for building it, or preserving it.
Certainly not a law professor.