First Kill All the Lawyers?

“Leah D. Frank is inaccurate when she states that when Shakespeare had one of his characters state ‘Let’s kill all the lawyers,’ it was the corrupt, unethical lawyers he was referring to. 
“Shakespeare’s exact line ‘The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,’ was stated by Dick the Butcher in ”Henry VI,” Part II, act IV, Scene II, Line 73. Dick the Butcher was a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who thought that if he disturbed law and order, he could become king. Shakespeare meant it as a compliment to attorneys and judges who instill justice in society.”

This still gets to me, in a way that maybe Paris or Brussels resonates to more Americans.

Maybe it’s because even as an American born in Jersey, I spent 3rd grade through high school attending American schools abroad, and growing up in a multicultural environment, the common ways people self-identify here in the US is less relevant to me – whether that *tribal self-identification is primarily ethnic (Italian American?), regional (Bostonian?), religious (Baptist?), socio-economic, etc.

Instead, my self-identification has always seemed a bit more fluid, and settled on things that are trans-national, trans-racial, trans-ethnic, etc., and goes more directly to values which all the aforementioned identities may in some cases simply be assumed proxies for.

So as a lawyer who has spent brief but significant chunks of my life on Rule of Law issues, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan or more tangentially even in the United States, and who believes in the role of Law in maintaining civil society, I see the attack on these lawyers, of a different nationality, of a different religion, from a different culture, as an attack on my “tribe.”


Baluchistan is a place that desperately needs lawyers.

Pakistan’s largest province by area, it is the home of a decades-old separatist insurgency, fueled by real grievances over neglect and lack of political representation. It is also increasingly the target of Sunni extremists, who bomb and kill its Shiite minorities. What leaders the province has are widely considered corrupt. Dozens of local journalists have been kidnapped in the past few years. It is nearly impossible for foreign reporters to enter Baluchistan. Lawyers are almost all that give the province a semblance of justice.

About 60 of them were killed in one attack on Monday in Baluchistan’s capital, Quetta. They were packed into an emergency room where the body of a slain colleague lay, riddled with gunshot wounds. A widely circulated video showed lawyers milling about the hospital before an enormous explosion. A Pakistani Taliban offshoot claimed the attack, as did the Islamic State, though analysts say the latter’s claim is dubious.

A week earlier, another lawyer was fatally shot. In June, the principal of the province’s law college was, too.

A generation of lawyers has been wiped out in Quetta, and it will leave Baluchistan, in more ways than one, lawless.

On Tuesday, the Pakistani bar association called for an indefinite boycott of the courts. But so few lawyers are left in Baluchistan that it will be years, probably, until its legal community recovers.


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