Philip Howard, “Life Without Lawyers”, cont’d

The popular author is in today’s WSJ with an op-ed summarizing his new book, which was also the subject of a nice piece in The Economist the other week (our earlier coverage). American Courthouse also comments, while Carter Wood at ShopFloor observes that George Will’s column at the Washington Post giving the book a rave was bedecked with ads for you-know-who.


  • I just finished reading this book. It’s got some nice ideas — a basic theme might be the need for “protection of discretion” in decisionmaking — but it’s short on concrete proposals for creating “life without lawyers.” I’m also sure that Howard, a Covington & Burling lawyer in New York, will get chiding from the plaintiff’s bar about how his clients must be thrilled with a book that uses highfalutin’ language to shame plaintiff’s lawyers into not suing. He really gets windbaggy at times, intoning like he’s a founding father or something. Still, nice effort, and his points need to get out there.

    A point he overlooks is this: the more trusting society he envisions harkening back to existed at a time when there about 100 million (or fewer) people in the United States, about 90 percent of whom were white. Today, the United States is on track for a population of half a BILLION, with dozens of scrapping racial and ethnic groups and probably 100 different languages. To me, that’s the real underlying problem, and a major cause of “overlawyering” — the Tower of Babel that is American society is bound to become lawsuit-saturated. Howard quotes “Bowling Alone” academic Robert Putnam, but omits Putnam’s findings on the destruction of trust, cooperation and discretion that arises in a multiracial society.

    I would be very surprised if any of Howard’s proposals go anywhere beyond the pages of his book . They essentially call for a Japanese level of societal cohesion and agreement, and we are far from that.

  • […] Maybe there’s hope for Dahlia Lithwick, she “shares concerns” about lame lawsuits and judgment-warping liability fears [Slate, on Philip Howard’s Life Without Lawyers] […]

  • I think that we in the USA, have evolved to believe that individual rights supercede the common good. Consider the destruction after a hurricane. The obvious is that one should not build where storms are probable, should take responsibility for self protection of life and assets and should understand that a massive storm is a uncontrolled act of nature. Ok so one has insurance. Storn comes to town. Time for lawyers – what does insurance say, I thought I was fully protected from everything, the free trailers made us ill, the government departments did not give timely help, …on and on but little personal responsibility to move – “Its always been my home and I will stay till I die.” Someone owes me for what happened has become the new mantra for everything, everywhere and all the time. I was negatively impacted so I should get $$$.