9 Then came “Woe Unto You,. Lawyers!”. Rodell knew that it would make every lawyer bristle or snort. ‘By FRED RODELL, Professor of Law, Yale University. Here’s a book you don’t have to buy; the entire text is here, in glorious HTML. It’s Fred Rodell’s “lusty, gusty attack on ‘The Law’ as a curious. This Book Reviews is brought to you for free and open access by the College of Law at Via Sapientiae. It has been accepted for Leo Herzel, Rodell: Woe unto You, Lawyers!, 7 DePaul L. Rev. () You, Lawyers! By FRED RODELL.
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Professor of Law, Yale University. For ye have taken away the key of knowledge: No lawyer will like this book. It is written for the woee man and its purpose is to try to plant in his head, at the least, a seed of skepticism about the whole legal profession, its works and its ways.
In case anyone should be interested, I got my own skepticism early. Before I ever studied law I used to argue occasionally with lawyers — a foolish thing to do at any time.
One of the reasons I went to law school was to try to find out. At law school I was lucky.
Ten of the men under whom I took courses were sufficiently skeptical and common-sensible about the branches of law they were teaching so that, unwittingly of course, they served together to fortify my hunch about the phoniness of the whole legal process. In a sense, they are the intellectual godfathers of this book. And though all of them would doubtless strenuously disown their godchild, I think I owe it to them to name them.
Listed alphabetically, they are:. Clark, now Judge of the U. Circuit Court of Appeals; William O. Douglas, now Justice of the U. By the time I got through law school, I had decided that I never wanted to practice law. I am not a member of any bar. If anyone should want, not unreasonably, to know what on earth I am doing — or trying to do — teaching law, he may find a hint of the answer toward the end of Chapter IX.
When I was mulling over the notion of writing this book, I outlined my ideas about the book, and about the law, to a lawyer who is not only able but also extraordinarily frank and hou about his profession. In the Middle Ages, there were the priests. Today there are the lawyers. For every age, a group of bright boys, laweyrs in their trade and jealous of their learning, who blend technical competence with plain and fancy hocus-pocus to make themselves masters of their fellow men.
For every age, a pseudo-intellectual autocracy, guarding the tricks of its trade from the uninitiated, and running, after its own pattern, the civilization of its day. It is the lawyers who run our civilization for us — our governments, our business, our private lives.
Most legislators are lawyers; they make our laws. Most presidents, governors, commissioners, along with their advisers and brain-trusters are lawyers; they administer our laws.
Woe Unto You, Lawyers!
All the judges are lawyers; they interpret and enforce our laws. There is no separation of powers where the lawyers are concerned.
There is only a concentration of all government power — in the lawyers. It is not the businessmen, no matter how big, who run our economic world. The whole elaborate structure of industry and finance is a lawyer-made house.
We all live in it, but the lawyers run it. And in our private lives, we cannot buy a home or rent an apartment, we cannot get married or try to get divorced, we cannot die and leave our property to our children without calling on the lawyers to guide us. To guide us, incidentally, through a maze of confusing gestures and formalities that lawyers have created. Objection may be raised immediately that there is nothing strange or wrong about this.
True — but beside the point. The point is that it is the lawyers who make our rules and a whole civilization that follows them, or disregards them at its peril.
Jerome Hall, Book Review:Woe Unto You, Lawyers! Fred Rodell – PhilPapers
Yet the tremendous yoi of the men rodell make up that civilization, are not lawyers, pay little heed to how and why the rules are made. They do not ask, they scarcely seem to care, which rules are good and which are bad, which are a help and which a nuisance, which are useful unot society unti which are useful only to the lawyers. They shut their eyes and leave to the lawyers the running wod a large part of their lives.
Of all the specialized skills abroad in the world today, the average man knows least about the one that affects him most — about the thing that lawyers call The Law. A man who will discourse at length about the latest cure for streptococci infection or describe in detail his allergic symptoms cannot begin to tell you what happened to him legally — and plenty did — when he got married. A man who would not dream of buying a car without an intricate and illustrated description of its mechanical workings will sign a lease without knowing what more than four of its forty-four clauses mean or why they are there.
A man who will not hesitate to criticize or disagree with a trained economist or an expert in any one of a dozen fields of learning will follow, unquestioning and meek, whatever advice his lawyer gives him.
Normal human skepticism and curiosity seem to vanish entirely whenever the layman encounters The Law. The law combines the threat of both. A non-lawyer confronted by The Law is like a child faced by a pitch-dark room. Merciless judges lurk there, ready kawyers jump out at him. He does not dare display laywers skepticism or disrespect when doe feels that the solemn voice of the lawyer, telling him what he must or may not do, is backed by all the mighty and mysterious forces of law-and-order from the Supreme Court on down on the cop on the corner.
Then, too, every lawyer is just about the same as every other lawyer. At least he has the same thing to sell, even though it comes in slightly different models and at varying prices. The thing he has to sell is The Law. And it is as useless to run from one lawyer rodell another in the hope of finding something better or something different or something that makes more common sense as it would be useless to run from one Ford dealer to another if there were no Chevrolets or Plymouths or even bicycles on the market.
The customer has to take The Law or nothing. Yet lawyers can and often do talk about their product without telling anything about it at all.
Briefly, The Law is carried on in a foreign language. Not that it deals, as do medicine and mechanical engineering, with physical phenomena and instruments which need special words to describe them simply because there are no other words. On the rodeol, law deals almost exclusively with the ordinary facts and occurrences of everyday business and government and living. But it deals with them in a jargon which completely baffles and befoozles the ordinary literate man, who has no legal training to serve him as a trot.
Some of the language of the law is built out of Latin or French words, or out of old English words which, but for the law, would long ago have fallen into disuse. Much of the language of the law is built out of perfectly respectable English words which have been given a queer and different and exclusively legal meaning. All of the language of the law is such, as Mr.
Dooley once put it, that lawyer statute which reads like a stone wall to the lawman becomes, for the corporation lawyer, a triumphal arch. It is, in short, a language that nobody but a lawyer understands. A doctor can and will tell you what a metatarsus is and where it lzwyers and why it is there and, if necessary, what is wrong with it. A patient electrician can explain, to the satisfaction of a medium-grade mentality, how a dynamo works.
And so long as the lawyers carefully keep to themselves the key to what those words mean, the only way the average man can find out what is going on is to become a lawyer, or at least to study law, himself.
All of which makes it very nice — and very secure — for the doe. Of course any lawyer will bristle, or snort with derision, at the idea that what he deals in is words. He deals, he will tell you, in propositions, concepts, fundamental principles — in short, in ideas. Lawyfrs the lawyer can leap lightly and logically from one abstraction soe another, or narrow down a general proposition to apply to a particular case, with an agility that leaves the non-lawyer bewildered and behind.
It is a pretty little picture. Yet it is not necessary to go into semantics to show that it is a very silly little picture. No matter what lawyers deal inthe thing they deal with is exclusively the stuff of living. And the only thing that matters about the law is the way it handles these facts and a million others. The point is that legal abstractions mean nothing at all until they are brought down to earth.
Once brought down to earth, once applied to physical facts, the abstractions become nothing but words — words by which lawyers describe, and justify, the things that lawyers do. Lawyers would always like to believe that the principles they say they work with are something more than a complicated way of talking about simple, tangible, non-legal matters; but they are not.
To dismiss the abstract principles of The Law as being no more, in reality, than hig-sounding combinations of words may, in one sense, be a trifle confusing. Law in action does, after all, amount to the application of rules to human conduct; and rules may be said to be, inevitably, abstractions themselves. But there is a difference and a big one.
The non-lawyer wants the whole business brought down to earth. The lawyer cannot bring it down to earth without, in so doing, leaving The Law entirely out of it.
To fres that Wagner Labor Act was held valid because five out of the nine judges on the Supreme Court approved of it personally, or because they thought it wiser policy to uphold it than to risk further presidential agitation for a change in the membership of the Court jou to say this is certainly not to explain The Law of the case. You can probe the words of that legal explanation to their depths and bolster them with other legal propositions dating back one hundred unfo fifty years and they will still mean, for all lawyeds purposes, exactly nothing.
There is no more pointed demonstration of the chasm between ordinary human thinking and the mental processes of the lawyer than in the almost universal reaction of law students when they first encounter The Law.
They come to law school a normally intelligent, normally curious, normally receptive group. Day in and day out they are subjected to the legal lingo of judges, textbook writers, professors — those learned in The Law. But for months none of it clicks; there seems to be nothing to take hold of.
Long and involved explanations in lectures and lawbooks only make ypu all more confusing. The students know that law eventually deals with extremely practical matters like buying land and selling stock and putting thieves in jail. But all that they read and hear seems to stem not only from a foreign language but from a strange and foreign way of thinking. Eventually their confusion founded though yoi is in stubborn and healthy skepticism is worn down.
Eventually they succumb to the barrage of principles and concepts and all the metaphysical refinements that go with them. And once they have learned to talk the jargon, once they have forgotten their recent insistence on dodell, once they have begun to glory in their own agility at that mental hocus-pocus that had them befuddled a short while ago, then they have become, in the most important sense, lawyers.
Now they, too, have joined the select circle of those who can weave a complicated intellectual rkdell out of something so mundane as a strike or an automobile accident. Now it will be hard if not impossible ever to bring them back tot hat disarmingly direct way of thinking about the problems of people and society which they used to share with the average man before they rkdell in with the lawyers and swallowed The Law.
It requires concentration and memory and some analytic ability, and for those who become proficient it can be a stimulating intellectual game.
Yet those who work cryptograms or play bridge never pretend that their mental efforts, however difficult and involved, have any significance beyond the game they are playing.