Argument: Lawyers are part of important advocacy system, rule of law

Issue Report: Law school


Michael Lee Hanks of Law Office of Michael L. Hanks. “In Defense of Lawyers.”: “Our legal system was designed as an advocacy system for a simple reason: No other system of law delivers true justice on a consistent basis. An advocacy system requires, by definition, advocates. The only things that prevent a party in a legal dispute from being an effective advocate for his or her position are greed, self interest, lack of objectivity, and ignorance of the law. Thus, lawyers were born.

Most societies, both in the past and present, failed to give private citizens effective access to the courts and to lawyers. In each of those societies, some other institution has existed to attempt to solve private disputes. In most societies it was (or is) the strong and arbitrary hand of either the church or state dictating to the citizens. In utopian societies (none of which have survived in their pristine form) it is inflexible and rigid social conventions. Iran and China are examples, but I don’t see boatloads of disaffected Americans trying to sneak into either nation.

However, such societies not only lack social freedoms, they are also completely unable to function as democracies having complex commercial structures. For instance, in order for modern commerce to function, private contracts must be enforceable. In order for that condition to exist, there must be both enforceable and commonly understood and respected laws, and a mechanism for enforcement in the event of breach. One of the primary reasons Russia is struggling to modernize and enter the modern community of nations as a full partner is because, under communism, the ordinary citizen was taught very little respect for the law. Further, he or she had no real access to the courts to redress private grievances. As a result, the Russian citizens are having to unlearn the old, autocratic ways and learn the modern methods of free enterprise democracy.

One of the more common modern myths is that, if only lawyers went away, all people would live in some sort of glorious harmony with their brothers, and all would willingly share the fruits of production on an as-needed basis. To test this hypothesis, we can look to the towns of the American frontier before the rule of law came to them. In those societies, although most citizens dealt each other firly, or at least civilly, many did not, and eventually, a strongman came along to take advantage of the weak and powerless. Justice came from a gun, and the person with the biggest or fastest gun set the rules, at least until a bigger or faster gun came along. Hardly a model for a civil society.”