Book Review: Life Without Lawyers

Book review of Life Without LawyersAndrew Jay McClurg, Book review: Philip K. Howard, Life Without Lawyers: Restoring Responsibility in America, 52 American Journal of Legal History 387 (2012).

Contrary to the title, Philip K. Howard’s Life Without Lawyers is not an anti-lawyer screed. It does not argue for a society without lawyers and suggests only in passing that America has too many lawyers. A more apt title would be “Life Without Rules” or maybe “Life Without Law.”

Howard argues that America’s enormous inventory of laws and bureaucratic rules is crippling society by making it impossible for people and institutions to do their jobs effectively. His opinion is that the primary reason is because they live in fear of potential legal consequences, making a case that the rights-explosion of the 1960s has led to a rights-obsessed, risk-averse culture that overvalues individual rights to the detriment of broader communitarian interests.

His principal solution is to grant judges and administrators more discretion to make decisions without the necessity of having a legally supportable record to back up their decisions.

This review contains some critique, but agrees with most of Howard’s general observations and concludes the book is a powerful one worth reading.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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