With thirty-five years of legal practice, over twenty years of mediation experience, well over a decade of experience teaching law students, and time in the State Legislature I still often encounter a simple question: why do we need all these lawyers?
If all people were reasonable, law would be unnecessary. But all people are NOT reasonable and law IS necessary, we respond, with the impatience and emphasis characteristic of our times. Yet, before we rush into the embrace of that hasty conclusion, let us consider another time and another place. In Sir Thomas More’s “Utopia” (which translates as “No place”) there were no lawyers. Or, to be more precise, every citizen was ”cunning lawyer.” Who would have guessed? Everyone in Utopia is a lawyer! The explanation? In Utopia, all the laws were so clear that no lawyers were needed. What are we to do in the modern world though? In modern complex society, we need lawyers not only as advocates, but as advisors.
As Sir Thomas More, himself an esteemed member of the legal profession, wrote: ”[I]n Utopia, every man is a cunning lawyer; for , as I said, they have very few laws and the plainer …that any interpretation is …they allow as most just.” So, in Utopia, laws were simple and everybody could represent themselves. But, interestingly, in the twin nightmare visions presented by Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World lawyers are conspicuous by their absence.
We have no reasonable hope in our society of laws of so far clarifying and simplifying the law that it becomes accessible to all those requiring representation without assistance. As Alexis de Tocqueville said of America: “Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question.” Our society, made up of folks from all over the world: different cultures, different ethnicities, different languages, is bound together by our Constitution (the Law of the Land) and all the other lesser laws, federal, state, and local. So, given the way our world is, we have loads of laws. We can simplify, clarify, and eliminate some of them for sure. My time in the Washington State Senate persuades me of that much. But, in the end, I say it is so much better, to be here in America where, although we have lots of laws, we also have lawyers to explain them.
In my next blog, I will try to talk a bit about when you may need a lawyer and how you can go about finding one.