Things Left Unsaid: The Importance of Critical Analysis to the Lawyer

I’m standing in a room that six months ago, I would have found myself hurriedly eating lunch in before my afternoon classes. The students and alumni of Rhodes College, amongst whose ranks I now find myself, along with my new “professor,” Memphis divorce attorney Larry Rice, would affectionately recognize it as the Lair, our campus pub. Today, however, the Lair is filled with three hundred people from all across Shelby County, all staring intently at a television monitor projecting a speech taking place just above where we are all standing. An elderly gentleman with a slight girth and overtly bombastic nature is lecturing on the importance and unique nature of the United States Constitution. While the subject of this lecture is undoubtedly not one that would be found in most people’s favorite conversational topics list, the room is still utterly enthralled. This captivation with the Constitution, however, can at least in this instance be heavily attributed to the identity of the speaker himself, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Regardless of whether you see the Justice himself as a shining light of reason or as a pompous hypocrite, it is still quite rare to see a sitting Supreme Court Justice in the flesh, much less see one in Memphis, Tennessee, and I jumped at the opportunity to see him. My purposes for attending the lecture, however, extended well beyond the desire to merely see the Justice as a spectacle to be passively observed. Unlike most of the people in attendance who are only interested in hearing what Justice Scalia has to say either to use against him or to prove their own political stance as being more righteous, however, I’m attempting to employ a tactic that both Larry, his son Nick Rice, and the Rice Law in general employ on a regular basis. Listening intently to what is being said while also looking past it to see what can be gleaned from what is not expressly said. I like to think of it as an auditory version of reading between the lines.
Admittedly, I’m a novice so as I attempt to use this method on someone who can arguably be seen as both a lawyer and a politician it proves to be a difficult exercise to perform, but years of watching criminal and family lawyers ply their trade allows me to see a bit more than I normally would have. Often you can see the true intentions of an individual even as they verbally state something that is the exact opposite of their nonverbal reaction. The most obvious instance of this during the lecture is when the Justice receives a question concerning the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and birthright citizenship of children of illegal immigrants. While the Justice declines to answer based on his lack of specific knowledge about the case law surrounding the issue it was readily obvious from his fidgeting and shift in tone that he simply doesn’t wish to discuss the subject for fear that the question would eventually be brought before the Supreme Court and his answer at present could be used against him at a later date.
The old maxim that “what is said is important but what isn’t said is often even more important” rings true both within and without of the courtroom. Thinking critically about everything is a skill that I am very thankful that I have honed during my time in the History department at Rhodes and something that I will continue to do under the tutelage of Mr. Rice and all of the members of his team.

This blog is written by the law clerks and interns of the Rice Divorce Law. We document our experience working with Memphis Divorce Lawyer Larry Rice and Memphis Divorce Lawyer Nick Rice, as well as other members of the Rice Divorce Law. The Rice Lawrepresents clients in Tennessee, including Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, Columbia, Johnson City, and Knoxville. We hope these blog posts will be interesting and show the evolution of students as they move towards being divorce and family lawyers and paralegals. The statements in these posts should not be used as legal advice about divorce or family law.
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