First, when I was in law school, I wish I’d had some intimation that things would turn out as well for me professionally—as both an attorney and author—as they have. It would have made law school and the subsequent years when I was starting my career more bearable. Everyone who gets into law school encounters people who tell them they have it made. To most entering law students—certainly to me—those declarations only seemed to add to the pressure. The expectations were high. Could I possibly fulfill them? There is no accounting for the extraordinary good luck from which I’ve benefited. Random forces will often push you around. One of the blessings of being a lawyer is that hard work, dedication to clients, and a sense of fidelity to the higher purposes of the law are generally rewarded.
Second, I wish I’d had a longer view of the law and understood, in particular, that legal principles are rarely eternal. In the last 15 years—that is, in the second half of my legal career—I have watched rules of law I lived by as an assistant U.S. attorney, and even sometimes fought to establish, often overturned in court, legislatively overruled, or sometimes simply disregarded. Law students are generally taught that there are competing arguments underpinning most of the judicial decisions they study. That competition is rarely resolved. The rivalry in American law between rules aimed at enhancing equality and those that favor protecting liberty will remain. Changing national circumstances, and changes in political power, often elevate the former minority views to a dominant position. Lawyers struggle to see which side will gain ascendancy at the moment. But there are few rules of law that will apply forever.