Quotes on Law and Lawyers

Compiled by Jenkin Chan, Foo and Li

I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember any of the damn things.
– Dorothy Parker (1893–1967)
American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist

A lawyer must first get on, then get honour, and then get honest.
– Anonymous

“Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.”
– Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), Essay on the Faculties of the Mind
Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric

I use the rules to frustrate the law. But I didn’t set up the ground rules.
– F. Lee Bailey (1933 – )
American attorney

Here lies a lawyer, laugh if you will,
In mercy, kind Province let him lie still.
He lied for his living,
He lived while he lied.
When he couldn’t lie longer,
He lied down and died.
– Anonymous

In my youth … I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.
– Lewis Carroll (1832–1898)
English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer

Some sharp attorney must the captive hire,
Who knows each secret winding of the laws,
Some previous fees th’attorney will require,
Before he ventures to conduct his cause.
– referred to by E.B.V. Christian (1864–1938), A Short History of Solicitors (1896)
Legal writer

Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal.
– Anonymous

Barristers are like thoroughbreds – sleek, focused on winning and utterly selfish … Solicitor advocates – tired, dull and flat.
– BBC ‘Silk’, series 2, episodes 4 & 5

Law is born from despair of human nature.
– José Ortega Y. Gasset (1883–1955)
Spanish liberal philosopher and essayist

I know you lawyers can, with ease,
Twist words and meanings as you please;
That language, by your skill made pliant,
Will bend to favour ev’ry client.
– John Gay (1685–1732), The Dog and the Fox, Fable I: To a Lawyer
English poet and dramatist

There’s no better way of using the imagination than the study of law. No poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets truth.
– Jean Giraudoux (1882–1944)
French novelist, essayist, diplomat and playwright

The law is not the place for the artist or the poet. The law is the calling of thinkers.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841–1935)
American jurist, who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court

Due to lack of funds, there will be a shortage of justice this year.
– English Legal Aid Society advertisement 1975

Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice.
– H.L. Mencken (1880–1956)
German-American journalist, satirist, cultural critic and scholar of American English

They have no lawyers among them, for they consider them as a sort of people whose profession it is to disguise matters and to wrest the laws ...
– Thomas More (1478–1535), Utopia (1516)
English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman and Renaissance humanist

I don’t want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do; I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do.
– J.P. Morgan (1837–1913)
American financier, banker and art collector

The law … the great stone column of authority which has been dragged by an adulterous, careless, negligent and half criminal humanity down the ages.
– John Mortimer (1923–2009)
English barrister, dramatist, screenwriter and author

Lawyers can steal more money with a briefcase than a thousand men with guns and masks.
– Mario Puzo (1920–1999),The Godfather Papers (1969)
American author and screenwriter

Lost is our old simplicity of times. The world abounds with laws, and teems with crimes.
– Anonymous

Laws are generally found to be nets of such a texture, as the little creep through, the great break through, and the middle-sized are alone entangled in.
– William Shenstone (1714–1763), Works in Verse and Prose
English poet

It is the trade of lawyers to question everything, yield nothing, and to talk by the hour.
– Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)
American founding father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, 3rd President of the United States

I regret that I have but one law firm to give to my country.
– Adlai Stevenson (1900–1965)
American politician and diplomat

I was never ruined but twice; once when I lost a law-suit, and once when I won one.
– Voltaire (1694–1778)
French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher

Most good lawyers live well, work hard, and die poor.
– Daniel Webster (1782–1852)
American senator and statesman

The law and the stage, both are a form of exhibitionism.
– Orson Welles (1915–1985)
American actor and director

I used to be a lawyer, but now I am a reformed character.
– Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924)
28th President of the United States

Compiler’s disclaimer: “If an author alters a speaker’s words, but effects no material change in meaning, the speaker suffers no injury to reputation … We reject any special test of falsity for quotations, including one which would draw the line at connection of grammar or syntax.”
– Justice Anthony Kennedy (1936– ), Jeffrey Masson v New Yorker Magazine, Inc. (1991)
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States