Too Many Lawyers, Too Little Wisdom
By Doug Patton
June 30, 2008
"When there are too many policemen, there can be no liberty.
In Henry VI, Shakespeare wrote, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." Anyone with "esquire" behind his or her name will rightly tell you that the bard's quote, when taken in context, is in praise of lawyers. Personally, I prefer it taken out of context, as do most who quote it. Like all lawyer jokes, it makes the point that no one likes them and that there are far too many of them.
Paradoxically, it is the law that separates us from the uncivilized; yet lawyers in excessive numbers create a barrier to progress that threatens the very civilization we enjoy. This is especially true when wisdom is divorced from the practice of the law, as is so often the case in America today.
Take, for instance, the ridiculous ruling of the California Supreme Court, which mandated that the people of that state must accept a redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples.
Or the recent United States Supreme Court decision that invented a constitutional right to habeas corpus and all the rights associated with citizenship for hostile combatants taken prisoner on foreign battlefields. Our ancestors would think us mad, indeed.
Thousands of years ago, King Solomon is reported to have been the wisest man in the world. When asked to judge between two women who claimed to be the mother of an infant, Solomon ordered that the child be cut in two and each woman be given half. One of the women immediately cried out that the king should give the baby to the other woman, which proved to Solomon that this woman was the child's mother, for she was willing to give her child to someone else rather than see it slain. Solomon's wisdom is not often in evidence in the legal profession today.
Recently, an Associated Press article was published concerning the number of American lawyers and law schools. It seems that the United States now has the dubious distinction of having 200 accredited law schools. Currently in this country we have one million lawyers, most of them hungry and anxious to sue someone. Anyone.
Contrast that with Japan, a nation with approximately half our population, which has 18,000 practicing lawyers. We have nearly ten times that many people in law school at this very moment!
"I think we have this fundamental disconnect between images of lawyers in the popular media, in the courtroom dispensing justice, where everyone seems prosperous and well paid," says William Henderson, an Indiana University-Bloomington law professor who studies the job market. "The reality is for a lot of people, law school is a route to trying to start your own private practice, and that's a very crowded business right now."
So we have one million lawyers, their ranks swollen annually by fifteen percent from 200 law schools around the country. Many who cannot make it in private practice join the ranks of advocacy law. These are the legal parasites who impede society's advancement in the name of a cause such as global warming or homosexual special rights. They specialize in attacking traditional values and institutions and generally wreaking havoc on society. They are the ACLU types and other radical fringe groups bent on destroying America. And many times, they become the judges who find themselves ascending the ladder to our federal courts - where they can do some real damage.
Ethical lawyers and wise judges are rare today, and they are not rewarded for their common sense. A judge who wants to see his career flourish will not rule in a manner that will invite scrutiny by a higher court. To have a decision overturned is not in the best interests of a jurist's long term career goals.
Do you suppose King Solomon would have concerned himself with such things?
Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at email@example.com/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.