ASKED & ANSWERED: Andrew Doctoroff

By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

On January 22, 2008, about 35 Federal Bar Association members, including several district judges, met to discuss Jeffrey Toobin's book "The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court." That gathering marked the birth of the Federal Bar Association - Eastern District of Michigan Chapter Book Club. Attorney Andrew Doctoroff was one of the founders and is active in club affairs. He is a partner at Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, and Cohn LLP where his areas of focus include mass tort product liability defense, complex commercial litigation, labor and employment law, intellectual property law, and media law.

Thorpe: Can you tell us something about the origins and goals of the club?

Doctoroff: The book club was the brainchild of Judge Mark Goldsmith who, at the time of its formation, was the president of the Federal Bar Association for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. He asked me to lead the club, which I was happy to do. I saw the book club as a unique opportunity for the legal community. Too often we get so lost in our cases, and our in interactions with judges are defined solely by our appearances before them in court. This book club provides the opportunity for lawyers and judges to communicate, and explore ideas, in entirely different, informal and provocative ways. At bottom, though, I think the main goal of the book club is to provide lawyers and judges with an intellectually rich experience, thereby helping to make our professional lives more rewarding and textured.

Thorpe: Are the books generally fiction, non-fiction or both?

Doctoroff: To date, we've read only non-fiction books. They've dealt with a lot of different issues, like Supreme Court decision-making, race relations, Detroit history and legal philosophies. We sensed that things were becoming a little too heavy. So, at our next meeting, we'll be discussing a best-selling novel, "Defending Jacob." It's about a prosecutor who defends his 14-year-old son; the son has been accused of murdering his classmate. The book has been really well reviewed. I say that with a lot of pride, because my cousin, William Landay, wrote the book. He'll be speaking to us at our meeting.

Thorpe: What book generated the most "spirited" discussion in the club? Are there ever arguments over the merits or meanings of a book?

Doctoroff: We have differences of opinion all of the time. We frequently discuss hot-button issues. But the great thing about the book club is that diverse views are welcome and respected. No one who attends the book club will feel like he or she is on the set of the old CNN program "Crossfire."

Thorpe: In your experience, are most legal professionals big readers or is it unusual?

Doctoroff: Well, I am not an expert on the reading habits of lawyers, but my impression is this: In the legal profession, it is very easy to become psychologically preoccupied with the day-to-day demands of our jobs. When that happens, we tend not to read books that take up a lot of time or challenge us intellectually. We sometimes tend to lose sight of what attracted many of us to the law in the first place, our love of ideas and curiosities. I think reading is a fundamental part of being a good lawyer, because the act itself forces us to hone how we think and keeps us intellectually engaged in the world around us. I tend to think that people with those characteristics make the best lawyers.

Thorpe: Your favorite book and author?

Doctoroff: I myself am a big biography guy. Years ago, I read David McCullough's "Truman." It had a huge impact on my thinking about politics, because the author wrote beautifully about a president whose decision-making, I thought, was fearless and principled.

I am now really enjoying another presidential biography, "Theodore Rex," by Edmund Morris. I really disliked his book on President Reagan, but I love this one. I've also really loved Brian Greene's recent books, "The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos" and "The Hidden Reality." They're written for the lay person, and they deal with theoretical physics and the structure of the universe. I never thought I'd be able to understand that type of material. It goes to show you that we really don't know what we're intellectually capable of -- until we try!

Published: Tue, Apr 24, 2012

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