This week began with Law Day, held on May 1, and the week will include celebrations and events commemorating the importance of the law in all our lives. Every year a different theme is selected for Law Day, and for 2022 the theme is “Toward a More Perfect Union: The Constitution in Times of Change.” You might think that lawyers regularly deal with the Constitution, but truth be told, the many layers of municipal, state, and federal statutes and regulations that exist underneath the U.S. Constitution take up the vast majority of law practice for most lawyers.
It was not my law practice, but rather, my children’s school assignments that forced me to directly consider the meaning of the phrase “a more perfect union.” My kids were assigned to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution, and as I helped them recite those familiar and world-changing words, I was struck by how simultaneously humble and ambitious they were. The Framers knew they were creating an imperfect system that was nonetheless the best way of governing that human minds had yet built, and which could be made “more perfect” through the articles and amendments it would contain. As the American Bar Association noted when the theme was announced, “Defining and refining those words of the Constitution might be our oldest national tradition, and how each of us works—together—toward a more perfect Union.”
The interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution has been part of the work of lawyers since 1789, but it’s also been part of the work of every American to carry out its purpose. After all, the document itself begins “We the people of the United States,” and that’s exactly who puts it in practice. We don’t always agree, and but that is part of the continual conversation about what the United States of America is, what it should be, and how the ideals found in our Constitution should be carried out.
Every good lawyer I have ever met was always learning something new, whether they had practiced law for 20 years or 50 years or more. Good lawyers will tell you that the “practice of law” is called that for a reason, because we are always practicing to do a better job of representing and defending the interests of our clients. That’s something we share with all Americans—we are working toward “a more perfect Union” day by day.