Supreme Court Justice and Louisville native Louis Brandeis reputation as a studious and knowledgeable lawyer and justice is established, so it seems like there may not be much left to write about him. But a new biography by Melvin Urofsky digs into some of Brandeis’s methods of study. As The Nation points out in a review:

Like Dickens’s Gradgrind, Brandeis wanted facts. He had a bathtub filled with clippings and articles—a reservoir of data waiting to be tapped. During his thirty-nine years as an attorney in private practice in Boston, he devised an arduous habit: upon taking on a new client, he holed up and learned everything he could about its business, and more important, its opponent’s. A masterful cross-examiner, Brandeis was able on more than one occasion to trip up a hostile witness, wielding a better understanding of the opposing firm’s affairs than its own president did.

The review also highlights what an extensive reader and researcher Brandeis was:

He was officially the first justice to cite a law review article in an opinion, and unofficially the first to cite Bakers Weekly (in a case involving a law that standardized weights for loaves of bread). He once even cited The Nation in a dissent, if only for its convenient reproduction of one of Thomas Jefferson’s speeches. One Thanksgiving his law clerk (and a future secretary of state) Dean Acheson was over for dinner, and Brandeis sounded off about the French, who were trying to renegotiate loans entered into during World War I. Acheson considered arguing a little with his boss by pointing out France’s contributions to Western civilization but later admitted, “I knew he would floor me by quoting their export statistics for the same years, so I gave it up.”

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