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The Gilded Guild

by Robert VerBruggen

Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America, by Walter Olson (Encounter, 296 pp., $25.95)

Walter Olson is one of the nation’s leading critics of the litigation explosion. Through his blog, Overlawyered, as well as his books and his work as a think-tank fellow, he has made the case that lawsuits have become a first resort for resolving many types of conflicts, to the detriment of the economy, the government, and liberty. In his latest work, Schools for Misrule, he takes a look at how law schools have contributed to this trend.

If the book has a flaw, it’s that it lacks focus; it covers everything from politics in the classroom, to torts, to slavery reparations, to international human-rights law. But if Schools for Misrule is seen as a loose collection of essays about what’s wrong with the modern legal world, with an emphasis on academia, it works well. An important theme here is that in law, careerism is a powerful force. As a result, the worst left-wing impulses of the legal academy tend to stumble when they come into conflict with lawyers’ self-interest, and to succeed when they advance it.

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