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Lawyer Lessons From The Bard or 'Guess Who Just Turned 450'

By Cristina Yu, Esq. on April 23, 2014 2:55 PM

Since it is Shakespeare's birthday, we wanted to talk about lessons from the Bard. He was, at least in one play, a great supporter of lawyers. The famous quote "first, let's kill all the lawyers" actually praises lawyers. It comes from Henry VI and is spoken by a bad guy, Dick the Butcher, who says that the first step in creating tyranny is to kill all the lawyers.

See? Lawyers are good guys and the Bard liked us. At least some of the time. He even had a few words specifically for lawyers. In The Taming of the Shrew, one character says, "And do as adversaries do in law/Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends." In other words, be collegial and leave the fighting where it belongs.

More Lessons: We Come to Praise Lawyers

A character in Measure for Measure offers this bit of advice: "Good counselors lack no clients." Okay, we're taking it out of context, but it's still valid. Let's call this a marketing lesson. The best form of advertizing is word of mouth (and the Internet). A happy client will be eager to refer you.

Shakespeare's works are filled with other lessons as well. Titus Andronicus shows how the legal system is a necessity for an ordered society: if individuals are not protected by the law, they take revenge on their own, and that leads to chaos.

A few more: Macbeth, for instance, illustrates the folly of stabbing people (literally or figuratively) in the back to get to the top. And we like to think that Portia's inspiring rhetoric in The Merchant of Venice is one of great examples of the old saying "if the law is on your side, cite the law. If the facts are on your side, cite the facts. If neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound the podium."

All's Well That Ends Well

A final thought. In Julius Caesar, Antony says, "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." These days thanks to Google, the bad men do also lives on in perpetuity and in search. So at least act with care, if not goodness.

Good lessons, bad lessons, right or even wrong lessons, let us end this tale from Shakespeare here and say, "Happy four-hundred-fiftieth birthday!"

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