From Justice Souter’s remarks to the Ames finalists and the audience:
“Where I sit, it’s helpful both for people who are listening to arguments and for lawyers who are constructing them to bear in mind the distinction that Isaiah Berlin made when he called attention to the dichotomy between the hedgehog and the fox–the fox being an animal that knows a great many little things and can deal very cleverly with those things, and the hedgehog being an animal that knows one great big thing. And lawyers who argue appeals have got to have a fox side of the brain and a hedgehog side of the brain. The trick in doing this kind of work, the necessary condition for success, is to make sure that ultimately the hedgehog is in control. By the time a case gets to the court that I usually sit on, a great deal of the tough subsidiary, exploratory issues have dropped aside…. Lawyers at the end of the line [should] know what the hedgehog would see, what is the hedgehog issue, and stick to it. And in this case, the hedgehog issue is, What are you going to do with Bellotti and Baird [a case involving the rights of minors]?
“The trick in the arguments this evening was to keep Bellotti and Baird in mind and to keep coming back to it, and making the best possible point that can be made on Bellotti and Baird. There were loads of cleverly raised smaller issues that the fox had to field. But the case gets won, and the case gets lost, in real life, on what is done with the hedgehog issue…. The overall burden that counsel had [here] … was [arguing] without losing sight of Bellotti and Baird, in a lot of detail. The arguments ebbed and flowed, but counsel kept Bellotti and Baird in mind. We’ve got a couple of hedgehogs here in the room.”