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Book Review: Kill All the Lawyers by Michael Bradley

Kill All the Lawyers book cover

“We are an inevitable creation, like the prostitute and the priest.” Such is lawyer Michael Bradley’s amusing conclusion on the origins of lawyers in his book, Kill All the Lawyers.

Bradley has long been an outspoken critic of many of the legal profession’s practices, and his book – akin to an extended opinion piece – expands on some of the articles he has published in the past. In it, he argues that the profession is no longer trusted or respected by the public and that the industry’s PR woes spells trouble for its future.

Bradley covers a lot of ground in this short book, delving into a range of aspects of legal practice, including the experiences of young lawyers, law firm management, and firm size and culture. After discussing the origins of lawyers (“We came into being because we were needed to respond to a simple and central aspect of human nature – the inability to get along”), he moves on to meatier subjects like the emergence of lawyering for profit, which Bradley says can be difficult to balance with legal ethics.

A well-known critic of time-based billing, Bradley makes the case that the amount of time a lawyer spends on a task isn’t necessarily reflective of the complexity of the work or its value to a client’s matter. His prediction for the future is that alternative pricing models will become more common, and that boutique firms, perhaps not unlike Bradley’s firm, Marque Lawyers, will be in vogue.

Bradley says the legal industry’s denial about the way it is currently viewed by the public will mean big problems for the profession’s future. According to Bradley, “the legal profession has become corporatised, mercenary and money-driven”, but “lawyers are still pretending that it hasn’t.” He suggests that the likely outcome of this continued denial will be a slide into irrelevance. The argument goes that if society does not trust its lawgivers, it necessarily loses faith in the law.

Legalese and the use of Latin are also up for discussion:

“While it is unquestionably satisfying to end an argument with res ipsa loquitur or discredit a judge’s findings by dismissing them as obiter dicta, it’s also ridiculous when Latin has been a dead language for over a thousand years.

Verbosity in the legal profession is also critiqued:

“I used to wonder why junior lawyers wrote such long and turgid advices, until I remembered why I did that too when I was one of them. It wasn’t a particular desire to use a hundred words when three would do; it was just a manifestation of insecurity. Lawyers are trained to be risk-averse. We don’t feel comfortable giving unequivocal advice on anything. So we hide our doubt in long sentences and many, many words.”

At 51 pages, this short e-book is comfortably read in an afternoon and can be downloaded from Hampress for $4.50.

Kill All the Lawyers flags many of the challenges that law students may inherit as they join the legal industry, and is a thought-provoking summer read for any future lawyer.

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