old law books

"Every lawyer knows that the law is the result of a great deal of learning."

English Judge William Erle (1793-1880), writing in The Queen v Dowling, in 1848.

Truer words could hardly be spoken.

To become a lawyer, the law student has to read hundreds of cases - about 300, at least, over a three year period - and about thirty-five $200 textbooks.

These are minimal figures - the good students will read every case they can. I was like that but I'm a different bird: I adore the law. Again, the good law student will buy and read more textbooks than the minimum.

And it doesn't end at graduation.

Every lawyer worth his salt embarks upon a life-long experience of law books, from the latest Halsbury's Laws of England, the weekly judgments from the Supreme Court, to the monthly trash magazine from the local bar association.

Law, law and more law.

It's not for the faint of heart.

If the above gives the average reader a headache, you'll get a migraine knowing that what Justice Erle was actually referring to: the institution of the law itself, as if it could be encapsulated. A Great Library of Alexandria would be required to house all the law books, past and present, which form the historical background to the law.

It never was handed to us at Mount Sinai; we've had to make it up as we go.

As for the amazing jurists who did that, the biographies of many of them are in the Law's Hall of Fame.