Cover image for Order in the court : crafting a more just world in lawless times
Order in the court : crafting a more just world in lawless times
Sells, Benjamin.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Element, 1999.
Physical Description:
xvi, 208 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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K474.S45 O73 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This author & attorney strikes a balance between the morals that keep us grounded & the drives that push us to succeed.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Despite the growth industry in prison-building, the law, which is presumed to be the engine behind that building, is losing its meaning in the U.S., Sells maintains. Sells, an attorney turned psychologist, uses the law and lawyers to illustrate concerns about what is sorely lacking in American culture. Evidence abounds of a lack of meaning in the law and people's lives: proliferation of lawsuits to settle even the pettiest of grievances, individual attempts to anesthetize what may be justifiable feelings of fear and pain. In a series of essays, Sells identifies the real problem not as a need for more and stiffer legal strictures but a need to rectify distorted values. The current disharmony between what individuals need and what they get in society has produced a chronic, nagging feeling that something is missing in life. This is a thought-provoking book, aimed at getting the reader to look beyond the superficial notion that law can order civil behavior without some basic understanding of the kind of society we want to maintain. Vernon Ford

Publisher's Weekly Review

With the law so conspicuously and ignominiously in the news as lawyers argue over what does and does not constitute perjury, high crimes and misdemeanors, Sells (The Soul of the Law), a psychotherapist and former practicing attorney, offers an unorthodox look at the legal profession by drawing on his casework as a therapist. Taking a high-minded view, he believes that the lawyerly life should be "a life of service on behalf of soul," a calling dedicated to building a more just society. Several of the 52 short, conversational essays elaborate on that message and show how the reality of lawyering rarely lives up to the noble ideal. Many of Sells's patients are attorneys who suffer from depression, overwork, feelings of emptiness or an inability to sustain personal relationships. One cause underlying their misery, Sells suggests, may be lawyering itself, with its adversarial, truth-bending, competitive, guarded habits. In one marvelous piece, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," Sells forthrightly profiles "some of the lawyers I have known who should not be lawyers." Another essay mocks impersonal business-world jargon (which he calls "deadspeak"); other topics include the lost art of listening, judges' social and professional isolation, lawyer-client relationships, secretaries and the illusory wisdom of hindsight. Although he offers few concrete proposals on how to "ensoul" the legal world, Sells does give readers a refreshing‘and refreshingly nonlegalistic‘take on the legal profession. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

As an attorney and the author of numerous legal articles and the book The Soul of the Law (1994), Sells is well qualified to prepare this text on the role of law in modern American culture. The book is actually a collection of essays on the interaction between law and society in the US. Sells's statement that the book "urges us to consider that without Law civilization ends, and that without civilization the world will be lost to inhumane efficiencies no longer disciplined by the Gods' guiding hands" is typical of his style and thought process. Part 1 focuses on the role of lawyers in society and "how [they] seek to live with their calling." Part 2 explores the organizations and concepts that dominate the current legal culture, and part 3 presents some psychological reflections about the essence and future of the law. The book bears some resemblance to James Q. Wilson's Moral Judgment (CH, Oct'97) and to P.S. Atiyah's Law & Modern Society, 2nd ed. (CH, May'96). The text is colorfully written but contains neither footnotes nor index. General readers and practitioners. R. A. Carp; University of Houston