Post Content

Representing yourself in court without a lawyer is not a new idea. Books designed to help self-represented litigants were published as early as the second quarter of the eighteenth century.

“Some earlier books were aimed partly at a non-legal audience, particularly readers dealing with the rights and duties of landlords and tenants. However, the credit for producing the first law book intended for a general audience goes to the prolific legal author Giles Jacob. His Every Man his Own Lawyer first appeared in 1736, with a further ten editions before the end of the 18th century. The book’s title page addresses ‘all manner of persons’, promising them enough knowledge of the civil and criminal law to enable them to defend themselves and the estates.”-The Oxford Companion to the Book, edited by Michael F. Suarez and H.R. Woudhuysen (2010).

In the preface to a 1764 edition of Every Man His Own Lawyer, Giles Jacob is quoted as saying: “In this treatise is contained the most useful and requisite learning in the law, for all degrees of persons to acquire and understand” and “the publick will here reap benefit and security to themselves, at the same time attornies and solicitors confess it affords a very just instruction.” Not so different from today’s legal self-help material.

A 19th century American title followed, intended for women to understand their “legal course and redress” in matters such as marriage, divorce, alimony, children, property, widowhood, abandonment and the state laws relative to these and other common concerns. This tome by George Bishop, Every Woman Her Own Lawyer (New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1858) is available at your local Mass. Trial Court Law Library.

Image credit: Rare Book Collection, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School



Written By:

Tags: , ,

Recent Posts

New Law Gives Added Protections for Persons with Disabilities posted on Feb 20

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a new law on February 13, 2020 which gives more protections to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.  Chapter 19 of the Acts of 2020 establishes a registry for caretakers in Massachusetts who have been found to have caused serious physical   …Continue Reading New Law Gives Added Protections for Persons with Disabilities

Real Estate Recording Fees to be Increased posted on Dec 10

Under Massachusetts General Laws chapter 44B section 8,  real property conveyance documents recorded at the Registry of Deeds are subject to a Community Preservation Act surcharge.  This law was amended by chapter 41 sections 29 and 30 of the Acts of 2019.  Effective December 31,   …Continue Reading Real Estate Recording Fees to be Increased

Portraits in Massachusetts Law: Lucy Stone posted on Nov 13

Portraits in Massachusetts Law: Lucy Stone

Portraits in Massachusetts Law is a regular feature of Massachusetts Law Updates. These pages provide links to biographical information abut people who have been particularly important in legal history in Massachusetts, as our government took shape in the cauldron of the American Revolution and grew and changed throughout   …Continue Reading Portraits in Massachusetts Law: Lucy Stone