Legal Law
Book Review: The Path of the Law

Book Review: The Path of the Law

Qualification: The way of the law

• Subtitle: Learn, understand and master the law

• Author: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

• Publication date: 2009

• ISBN: 978-1933230-08-5


The attentive reader of The way of the law You will enjoy the feeling of having a guide, a philosopher, and a teacher at your side, carefully guiding you to learn, understand, and master the law. Reading and rereading this book is experiencing how a great teacher has taught you some of the things that you have learned and getting excited about the subject as well.

The way of the law presents the conclusions drawn by Holmes after more than 30 years of legal observation, thought and practice of law. He probably wrote this essay to further discuss what he started in his most famous post, Common law. The way of the law It was not written as a manual on the practice of law, but as a manual to show students how to think like a lawyer; what it means to be a good lawyer; and what it means to have a successful law career.

What is this book about?

Obviously, there have been many changes and improvements in the legal profession and legal education since Holmes wrote this essay in 1897. But in this book, Holmes does not address the practical details of learning the law: “Theory is my own. subject, not practical details. Modes of teaching have been improved since my time, but skill and industry will dominate the raw material with any mode. Theory is the most important part of the dogma of the law, since the architect is the most important man involved in building a house. “

Who was Holmes?

Holmes was in a position to speak about American law with great authority. After graduating from Harvard with his law degree, he taught law there. He then served for 20 years on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. He was then appointed to the United States Supreme Court as an Associate Justice, where he served for 30 years. Despite his sophisticated titles and extensive experience, Holmes never speaks dismissively to the reader of this book. Holmes’s obvious love for the law and his desire to help others understand this attraction comes through in the reader loud and clear. Holmes uses many easy-to-understand examples throughout the essay to prove his point.

The “bad man theory” and “morality against the law”

The quality and simplicity of Holmes’s writing is reason enough to attract readers, especially law students. Obviously, his illustrations are chosen from vast experience and are like vivid images projected onto a miniature screen. Everyone’s favorite illustration is usually Holmes’s explanation of his “bad man theory.” Holmes explains “that a bad man has as much reason as a good one to wish to avoid an encounter with the public force and, therefore, the practical importance of the distinction between moral and law can be seen”. In other words, a bad man will only want to know what the material consequences of his behavior will be; it will not be motivated by morals or conscience. This example sets the stage for most of the book. Holmes goes to great lengths to give examples of the differences between morals and law.

History and Tradition

A large part of the book discusses the importance of history or tradition as an important part of the study of law. Holmes tells us that “The rational study of law is still to a great extent the study of history. History must be part of the study, because without it we cannot know the precise scope of the rules that it is incumbent upon us to know. rational study, because it is the first step towards enlightened skepticism, that is, towards a deliberate reconsideration of the value of those rules. “

Isn’t this book out of date?

The hasty reader might assume that this book was written too long ago to be of practical use to a modern law student or lawyer. But an attentive reader will immediately see that Holmes has a lot to offer us today. Holmes summarizes his entire book in two short paragraphs:

“I take it for granted that no listener of mine will misinterpret what I have to say as the language of cynicism. The law is the testimony and external deposit of our moral life. Its history is the history of the moral development of the race. Their practice, despite popular jokes, tends to make good citizens and good men. When I emphasize the difference between law and morality, I do so with reference to a single purpose, that of learning and understanding the law. dominate your specific brands, and that is why I ask you for the moment to imagine yourself indifferent to other and greater things. “

“If a man becomes a lawyer, it pays to be a teacher, and being a teacher means looking straight through all the dramatic incidents and discerning the true basis of the prophecy. Therefore, it is good to have accurate knowledge. notion of what is understood by law, by right, by duty, by malice, intention and negligence, by property, by possession, etc. “


Those of you who read this book before entering law school should endeavor to reread it several times during your studies in law school. It is then that you will begin to understand more of The way of the law every time you read it, and you really start to understand what Holmes was trying to tell us, on a deeper level, and you enjoy his message even more.

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