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Finding Elegance in Unexpected Places

Mar 31, 2020

John R. Crook

Volume 46 (2019) - Issue 1

The theme of Berkeley Law’s September 2018 Symposium honoring the memory of Professor David Caron was “The Elegance of International Law.” This intriguing theme was taken from David’s opening address, entitled “Confronting Complexity, Valuing Elegance,” at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law in April 2012. His address opens with an analysis, drawing on a daunting array of sources and disciplines, probing the challenging notion of complexity. David then turns to examining the rule of elegance in devising solutions to complex problems. His reflections conclude with an admonition that “we should distrust complex solutions to complex problems and seek instead those that are elegant.”

Good lawyers have an intuitive sense of what David was talking about. They know that some examples of legal craftsmanship—analysis, writing, advocacy, or combinations of the three—have an intangible characteristic that sets them apart. These pieces of lawyering seem to render complicated matters simple. They impose structure and clarity upon what seem to be jumbles of facts and arguments. They somehow have the aura of being obvious, compelling, even graceful. They explain. The good lawyers, assessing these characteristics of clarity, grace, and simplicity and searching for a word to describe them, might conclude that they are elegant.