Thursday, April 12, 2007

"The one great principle of law is to make business for itself."

I read Cactus' over-enthusiastic encomium to headbanger Paul Grimshaw (a lawyer of the old school finding fortune in a new one, and lauded for it by another lawyer of a stripe sometimes less sinister) and my thoughts turned immediately to the case in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, and to Charles Dickens' telling descriptions in Bleak House of the ongoing enervation of that interminable case, of the lawyers who peck away at their clients in Jarndyce -- Grimshaw himself seems to me a 'Vholes,' a lawyer whom Dickens describes "always looking at the client as if he were making a lingering meal of him with his eyes as well as his professional appetite" -- and of English law itelf. The most telling is this:
The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.
Spot on. Mencken would have approved. Selling the bones of people like this to a mah-jong factory would almost be too good for them.

RELATED: Law, Quotes

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Justin Raine said...

This is almost certainly true for civil litigation, but in defence of the criminal Bar I have to say that our work is generated not by ourselves, but by all the stupid buggers out there who seem to be incapable of going through life without constantly breaking the law.

4/12/2007 07:17:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

Damn, only one bite. :-)

4/12/2007 10:34:00 pm  
Blogger Cactus Kate said...

Rather like arguing architects create work for themselves by designing better houses for people who have knocked down old houses to build new ones.

Then having a non-architect complain that architects make too much money for helping people make their lives better.

4/13/2007 03:26:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Yeah, most architects are no less venal, but architects don't write the laws, administer the laws, make money off the laws, call for even more laws, and then bury people under a welter of all this law -- at least not in their professional capacity (although many would like too).

That's what makes lawyers different (present company excepted, of course :-) ). Most other professions you have a choice about dealing with, but law just shows up on your doorstep at three in the morning. It's not something you can easily sidestep. Perhaps it's worth quoting Mencken in full to make the full point:

All the extravagance and incompetence of our present Government is due, in the main, to lawyers, and, in part at least, to good ones. They are responsible for nine-tenths of the useless and vicious laws that now clutter the statute-books, and for all the evils that go with the vain attempt to enforce them. Every Federal judge is a lawyer. So are most Congressmen. Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizens has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we'd be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.

He's right, you know. ;^)

4/13/2007 09:52:00 am  
Anonymous Cactus Kate said...

Rather like arguing architects create work for themselves by designing better houses for people who have knocked down old houses to build new ones.

Then having a non-architect complain that architects make too much money for helping people make their lives better.

--
Posted by Cactus Kate to Not PC at 4/13/2007 03:26:53 AM

4/15/2007 09:53:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

eah, most architects are no less venal, but architects don't write the laws, administer the laws, make money off the laws, call for even more laws, and then bury people under a welter of all this law -- at least not in their professional capacity (although many would like too).

That's what makes lawyers different (present company excepted, of course :-) ). Most other professions you have a choice about dealing with, but law just shows up on your doorstep at three in the morning. It's not something you can easily sidestep. Perhaps it's worth quoting Mencken in full to make the full point:

All the extravagance and incompetence of our present Government is due, in the main, to lawyers, and, in part at least, to good ones. They are responsible for nine-tenths of the useless and vicious laws that now clutter the statute-books, and for all the evils that go with the vain attempt to enforce them. Every Federal judge is a lawyer. So are most Congressmen. Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizens has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we'd be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.

He's right, you know. ;^)

--
Posted by PC to Not PC at 4/13/2007 09:52:57 AM

4/15/2007 09:53:00 pm  

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