9 Then came “Woe Unto You,. Lawyers!”. Rodell knew that it would make every lawyer bristle or snort. ‘By FRED RODELL, Professor of Law, Yale University. Here’s a book you don’t have to buy; the entire text is here, in glorious HTML. It’s Fred Rodell’s “lusty, gusty attack on ‘The Law’ as a curious. This Book Reviews is brought to you for free and open access by the College of Law at Via Sapientiae. It has been accepted for Leo Herzel, Rodell: Woe unto You, Lawyers!, 7 DePaul L. Rev. () You, Lawyers! By FRED RODELL.

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Woe Unto You, Lawyers!

It is the lawyers who run our civilization for us — our governments, our business, our private lives. Most legislators are lawyers; they make our laws. Most presidents, governors, commissioners, along with their advisers and brain-trusters are lawyers; they administer our laws. All the judges are lawyers; they interpret and enforce our laws.

Jerome Hall, Book Review:Woe Unto You, Lawyers! Fred Rodell – PhilPapers

There is no separation of powers where the lawyers are concerned. There is only a concentration of all government power — in the lawyers. The Lawyers’ trade is a trade built entirely on words. And so long as the lawyers carefully keep to themselves the key to what those words mean, the only way the average man can find out what is going on is to become a lawyer, or at least to study law, himself.

All of which makes it very nice — and very secure — for the lawyers. Long sentences, awkward constructions, and fuzzy-wuzzy words that seem to apologize for daring to lawgers an opinion are part of the price the law reviews pay for their precious dignity.


In tribal times, there were the medicine men. In the Middle Ages, there were the priests. Today, there are the lawyers. For every age, a group of bright boys, learned in their trades and jealous of their learning, who blend technical competence with plain and fancy hocus-pocus to make themselves masters of their fellow men. For every age, a pseudo-intellectual autocracy, guarding the tricks of the trade from the todell, and running, after its own pattern, the civilization of its day.

The centripetal absorption in the home-made mysteries and sleight-of-hand of the law would be a perfectly harmless occupation if it did not consume so much time and energy that might better be spent otherwise.

And if it did not, incidentally, consume so much space in the law libraries. It seems never to have occurred to most of the studious gents who diddle around in the law reviews with the intricacies of contributory negligence, consideration, or covenants running with the land that neither life nor law can be confined within the forty-four corners of some cozy concept.

It seems never to have occurred to them that they might be diddling while Rome burned. Some people today have a strange notion.

They think lawyegs all the Wooe Court ever does or has to do, in order to tell if a law is unconstitutional, is just to look for the answer, written down in black and white, somewhere in the untp of wle Constitution. The notion persists in spite of the fact that often and often again the nine judges themselves cannot agree.

Fred Rodell, Woe Unto You, Lawyers,

It persists in spite of the famous remark of the man whi is now the Court’s chief justice–and few have put the truth so plainly as did Charles Evan Hughes–“We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.


There are two things wrong with almost all legal writing. One is its style. The other is its content. Exceptions to the traditions of dumpy dignity and fake roeell in law review writing are as rare as they are beautiful. Once in a while a Thurman Arnold forgets his footnotes as though to say that if people do not believe or understand him that is their worry and not his.

It is a mistake to think of these men as visionary dreamers, playing around at Philadelphia with abstract conceptions of political theory, pulling a whole scheme of government out of the air like a rabbit out of a hat. True, many of them had read and studied enough about the science of politics to put the average statesman of today to shame. But political science was to them an extremely practical topic of discussion, dealing with the extremely practical business of running a government–not, as today, a branch of higher learning reserved for the use of graduate students.

The reason the lawyers lead the line to the guillotine or the firing squad is that, while law is supposed to be a device to serve society, a civilized way of helping the wheels go round without too much friction, it is pretty hard to find a group less concerned with serving society and more concerned with serving themselves than the lawyers.

Browse quotes by subject Browse quotes by author. The Constitution is what the judges say it is, every time.

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