Imagining Life without Lawyers

By Lithwick, Dahlia | Newsweek, February 9, 2009 | Go to article overview

Imagining Life without Lawyers


Lithwick, Dahlia, Newsweek


In many cases, fear of liability can impede good judgment. But the cure for too much law shouldn't be too little.

So what are we to do about all these lawyers? Philip K. Howard, founder of Common Good and author of "The Death of CommonSense," is right--the very last thing we want to be doing right now is watching as not one but two attorneys fill up all the sock drawers at the White House. In his new book, "Life Without Lawyers," Howard argues that we are being choked to death by Law. We churn out more than 70,000 pages of new rules in the Federal Register each year, and the proportion of lawyers in the workforce has nearly doubled between 1970 and 2000. In Howard's view, our reliance on law, lawyers and lawsuits has turned Americans into neurotic cowards who "go through the day looking over their shoulder instead of where they want to go."

"Life Without Lawyers" is knit together with the kinds of stories that make law-school graduates want to weep in shame: The D.C. judge who sued his drycleaner for $54 million for losing his pants; the teacher sued for repositioning a student's hands on a flute; schools that now ban running at recess; and the five-inch fishing lure with the three-pronged hook with a label cautioning "Harmful if swallowed." Howard paints a bleak picture of an America that is all "gray powerlessness;" a nation of citizens shuffling around in fear of litigation while municipalities tear down "dangerous" climbing structures and children comfort themselves with Double Stuf Oreos.

Howard's depiction of America as an ever-expanding nest of laws and regulations actually echoes criticism recently leveled by former Bush administration lawyer Jack Goldsmith. Goldsmith, who ran the Office of Legal Counsel for a time, warned in his 2007 book, "The Terror Presidency," of a post-Watergate government culture in which warfare was smothered by overregulation; and the Bush administration found itself "strangled by law." His dismay over a pre-9/11 culture in which officials were too terrified of legal liability to act quickly or boldly, echoes Howard's picture of an America too scared of lawsuits to create, dream or build.

Oddly, Howard's book does not address the Bush administration's legal response to 9/11 at all. And that's too bad, because the "war on terror" provides a perfect natural experiment in loosening the chokehold of law and allowing lawyers to take risks and think big.

In the wake of 9/11, the decision was made to be more "forward leaning," more imaginative and less risk averse, in the face of legal constraints on interrogation and eavesdropping. And with a series of memos declaring that the laws of war did not constrain the president, followed by more memos setting out new guidelines, a bold, if secret, new legal regime was born. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Imagining Life without Lawyers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.