Lawyer-Bashing in the Western Tradition: 350 BC to 1992 AD

Gaudet, Jr., Robert

"Heard any good lawyer jokes, lately? If so, you're not alone. Contemporary Americans hear law-related humor frequently, but usually don't realize that such jokes are exceedingly unoriginal. Complaints about too many lawyers did not begin with Vice-President Dan Quayle's 1991 remarks to the American Bar Association, nor did legal satire originate on MTV Comedy Hour. Legal criticisms thread through Western tradition. Many criticisms against lawyers are justified or explicable because of high costs, lengthy procedures, immoral behavior, greedy motivations, and legal monopolization. At the same time, lawyers provide necessary services and leadership to American society.
Many reforms under consideration could reshape the Bar's image, but never completely. Lawyers are not societal aberrations. They simply reflect the culture which both forms and ridicules them. Centuries before Christ was born, ancient Greek literature satirized lawyers and their New Logic. The Bible portrays Christ's antagonists as conspiring lawyers, or Pharisees, who try to extract self-incriminating statements from Him. At the height of the Roman Empire, the legal profession thrived. As Rome waned, the profession crumbled with it. Saint Augustine's Confessions (400AD) decries legal contentiousness and rhetoric. Legal satire frequents Medieval and Renaissance Literature. In the late sixteenth century, Montaigne and Shakespeare criticized lawyers. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Goethe take parting shots in their prominent eighteenth century works, Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts and Faust, respectively."--from page 21


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The Journal of Politics and Society

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Helvidius Group of Columbia University
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February 14, 2014