A Man Who Is His Own Lawyer Has A Fool for a Client

Meanings of “A Man Who Is His Own Lawyer Has A Fool for a Client”

This is an English proverb, which means if the person has not studied law and is trying to defend himself is foolish. This proverb expresses its meaning literally and is easy to interpret. In other words, it means that a wise person, if blamed, should have others to defend him, such as lawyers. It also means that if a person represents himself in the court, he ends up having himself trapped as he cannot properly defend himself.

Origin of “A Man Who Is His Own Lawyer Has A Fool for a Client”

This proverb is stated to have appeared in print in the book of Henry Kett, The Flowers of Wit which was first published in 1814. It states that “I hesitate not to pronounce, that every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.”

However, Bryan A Garner, a prominent legal writer, states that its earliest use has been tranced to 1809 in Philadelphia as “He who is always his own counsellor will often have a fool for his client.”

It is very interesting to note, he states, that the Alabama Bar Association considered it a rule for its members that they should not represent themselves in the cases they are involved. However, it was later deleted on account of constitutional requirements as Walter P. Armstrong has quoted in A Century of Legal Ethics.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Every Man his own Lawyer; or, a practical and popular exposition of the laws of England, etc. by James Shaw

James Shaw has penned down this book as a guide for the common man to understand the English laws. They are very complicated and require hard work to understand properly. However, James Shaw has considered it important to create a book that could be easy to understand and use. He has specifically created it for the common man to use in everyday life and understand the laws of the land so that he could abide by them. The book is a good compilation to read and understand common laws. Its “Address” states that this has been created for “professional readers, especially trading community, and those engaged in principal occupations of social life, with a correct, luminous, and succinct view of the civil, criminal, and constitutional law.” In other words, it means that “every man knew as much law as would enable him to keep himself out of it.”

Example #2

Introduction by Aviez Tucker from Panarchy: Political Theories of Non-Territorial States by Aviezer Tucker and Gian Piero de Bellis

Edited by Aviezer Tucker and Gian Piero de Bellis, this book is a collection of articles about different political concepts among which panarchy is of particular interest. The special about this concept is that it the proverb in question. It has been attributed to a judge, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who is stated to have said that “who acts as one’s own lawyer, has a fool for a client.” Therefore, when, this quotation is applied to panarchy, it means that the formation of a state by any ethnic group on some social contract having an exit. Tucker states that exactly like the judge, the people forming such a state are a fool if they do not consider the good traits of a leader such as competence, honesty, integrity, and wisdom.

Example #3

“The Fool’s Fool” by William Saletan from SLATE Magazine

“If there’s a strategy in these interviews, it’s buried under layers of ineptitude. Giuliani got this job because he knew Trump, because he was willing to work for free, and because he flatters and mirrors his client. He talks too much. He disregards evidence. He hurls wild accusations. He gets lost in his own incoherence. There’s a saying among lawyers that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client. The same is true of a man who chooses to be represented by a friend who shares his defects. Trump has a fool for a lawyer, because Giuliani has a fool for a client.”

In this passage, William Saletan has used this phrase after twisting it to suit the context. He has turned it rather into a modern proverb. The statement and the usage of the proverb here are self-explanatory.

Examples in Sentences as Literary Devices

Example #1: When Justin decided to fight his own case refusing the defense attorney, I recalled the saying ‘A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client’. This proverb is a complete sentence. The meaning doesn’t require an explanation

Example #2: “Like a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client, he thinks that he cannot succeed in life if he continues defending himself.” In this sentence, the proverb has been used as a simile for the person who thinks that he cannot defend himself.

Example #3: “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client seems to be as a lawyer who is his own man for a client which impacts the readers.” This phrase has a chiasmus as a literary device used in it as the words in the first part of this proverb have been reversed for the impact.

Example #4: “He is working as a lawyer without having attended any law college in the city. It seems rather funny about him to act like a man who is his own lawyer as he will have a fool for a client.” It shows both the men have been compared with each other with a varying degree of difference.

Example #5: “A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client shows that a person cannot represent himself in the court and he is like a special person standing silent in the court.” This phrase has been used literally, but the professional lawyer has been compared to a disabled person or dumb person, which is a simile as the word “like” suggests.