What are the booksellers saying?

Conservative Book Club/National Review Book Service

Laissez Faire Books

Franklin Electronic Publishers

Palm Digital Media


Contact: Paul Howard
Deputy Director,
Manhattan Institute, 212-599-7000

Walter Olson, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute

Author of
The Rule of Lawyers:
How the New Litigation Elite Threatens
America’s Rule of Law
(Truman Talley Books, January 2003)

Today’s trial lawyers, flush with cash from the $250 billion tobacco settlement, have carved out an unprecedented degree of influence for themselves within our legal system. Now, they have set their sights on industries ranging from fast food chains and HMO’s to former lead paint manufacturers.

The Rule of Lawyers asks how these developments came about, how they are affecting American society and government, and what can be done about it.

Author’s talking points:

  • Lawyers keep searching for the “next tobacco”. Who’s it going to be? Fast-food restaurants? Lead paint makers? Automakers with their S.U.V.s? Or someone else?
  • In 1998 the giant tobacco settlement promised a windfall of $246 billion for the state governments. There’s a widespread feeling that the deal didn’t really work out as we were told—in particular, the states aren’t using much of the money to reduce smoking. What went wrong, and who’s to blame?
  • The Rule of Lawyers argues that mass litigation often allows lawyers to do an end run around the process of representative democracy. The other side argues that litigation is needed in order to overcome legislative deadlock on vital issues such as gun control.
  • Most of us were surprised when lawyers recently filed suit against McDonald’s and other restaurants on behalf of obese clients who regret eating so many Super-Size meals. According to The Rule of Lawyers, the idea of such suits goes way back—in fact the blueprint goes back as far back as 1976.
  • In a famous scandal a few years ago “NBC Dateline” faked a “crash test” by using hidden rockets to blow up a GM truck. The Rule of Lawyers charges that this wasn’t an isolated instance and that deceptive TV coverage of safety issues neither began nor ended with the “Dateline” show. Walter Olson explains how professional journalists could let this happen.
  • We hear a lot about how Congress is supposedly going to fix the liability crisis, but The Rule of Lawyers isn’t very optimistic about that happening. Walter Olson shows how trial lawyers have used their enormous financial clout and political connections to throttle Congressional reform.
  • According to The Rule of Lawyers, Big Law behaves both like an extremely profitable industry and like a would-be co-equal branch of government—yet it manages to dodge the regulations and disclosure requirements that most big businesses and government agencies have to contend with. Walter Olson asks, “Who’s watching the watchdogs?”


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"Anyone in the market for a truly gripping read about tort lawyers should skip Grisham's novel and instead pick up Walter K. Olson's nonfiction book The Rule of Lawyers, a brilliant expose of the way courts are being overwhelmed by mass tort actions. "
—Robert Lenzner

"In just ten chapters,
Olson provides a clear,
compelling analysis
of class action litigation and the lawyers who press for it run
amok. As the subtitle implies, the situation has transformed the
justice system into a "just us" system, with the lawyers having
their way, and undermining the rule of law in the U.S. Olson does
a masterful job of presenting the complexities of the legal system
in straightforward, nontechnical language. The Rule of Lawyers is
a very important book: one to be read and shared with others."
—Sunni Maravillosa

"By taking on some the favorite cases cited by Nader and Smith— tobacco, gun, breast implant, lead paint and asbestos litigation—Olson demonstrates how trial lawyers are turning themselves into a Fourth, higher, Branch of government, without the constraints democracy imposes on the other branches."
—Duane Freese
Tech Central Station

“While the trial lawyers continue
to prowl for the next big score,
The Rule of Lawyers provides valuable ammunition for those
who march under the banner of legal reform. Perhaps more important, it serves as a wake-up call to those who have long turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the crisis of "jackpot justice" in our courts and the growing influence
of trial lawyers in public office.”
—Eric Shippers

“Mr. Olson's engaging prose,
for all its charm, is propelled
by a sense of outrage at the abuses he describes: He slams his opponents onto the mat,
lets them rise slightly in a daze and then slams them down
again, round after round.”
—David Price
Wall Street Journal

"Olson's wry, amusing, libertarian take on the increasingly preposterous role that mass tort lawyers have assumed in our society—and in the funding of the Democratic Party—man not only spur many Democrats to reshuffle their standard talking points on those issues, but may even afford them some guilty, cant-piercing pleasures along the way."
—Roger Parloff,
Legal Times

Praise for Walter Olson's first book, The Litigation Explosion:

“From malpractice suits to libel actions, from job discrimination to divorce, suing first and asking questions later has become a way of life in the United States. The Litigation Explosion is the first major exploration of this trend—why it developed, who profits and who loses, and how it can be contained.”
Former Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger,
New York Times
Book Review, 1991