The Law and Harry Potter: What does practicing law have in common with Harry Potter?
The Patterson Inn in Denver is the Second-Most Haunted Hotel in Colorado. Harry would be right at home.
For a spell to work for Harry Potter, he has to cast the proper spell in the proper way at the proper time. For lawyers, that spell might be a Latin word or phrase, or might be a word or phrase in English. Language and casting spells are two of the most fun and most important parts of being a lawyer. That is perhaps especially true in the criminal courts.
Many aspects of practicing law involve language. English is the most common language for law in our area (with Spanish being significant and growing in importance). All of it involves spells of one sort or another. Instead of “OBJECTION Your honor, that’s hearsay!” being an English language complaint about some evidence the prosecutor is trying to put in front of the jury. Isn’t that the same as casting a quick spell, and instead of a wand, we’re holding a fountain pen? A wand is a wand. It is what it is. Except that you can get a wand at Macy’s and you still can’t get a law degree there. Even on the 7th Floor!
A Lawyer’s Pen is a Sorcerer’s Wand
Incorporeal Hereditaments, petty fogging shyster, habeus corpus, and res ipsa loquitur. lf you have a lawyer bone in your body, that list of wonderful words and phrases should have your bones tingling! And just as our friend Mr. Potter must use the right incantation, so must we. I can chant habeus corpus for hours as a mantra. If I’m not trying to get the state to “free the body,” or to release the prisoner, then I’m using a perfectly good spell in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Oops. And clients hate it when their lawyer says “oops!”
I always loved res ipsa loquitur, known to lawyers as “res ipsa.” it means “the thing speaks for itself.” The occurrence of an accident implies negligence. The accident could not have happened but for negligence, so proving the accident happened at all is enough to imply negligence. Bear with me. I’m going somewhere far less dry! My oldest friend hates the expression ” it is what it is.” So I don’t use it in conversation with him anymore. Instead of “it is what it is,” I say “res ipsa loquitur.” What I really mean is “it is what it is.” The thing speaks for itself. Please don’t tell him.
These are a few of my favorite words.
Petty fogging shyster and incorporeal hereditaments were my lawyer-uncle’s favorites. He was a for-real big shot real estate lawyer in the Big Apple. He loaned me his Black’s Law Dictionary for law school, and shared these two word gems with me. Petty fogging shyster speaks for itself. If you’re a lawyer, you do NOT want to be called one of them. Sadly, petty fogging shyster is no longer in Black’s. At least it is not in the free on-line Black’s. When I went to law school, this seminal law dictionary was close to $100. If you happen to be older, and in the sciences, Black’s is like the CRC Chemical Rubber Handbook of the law. But not as comprehensive as the CRC. And about as expensive.
As to the incomprehensible mouthful, incorporeal hereditaments, that is honest legalese. It actually speaks for itself! A hereditament is something that can be inherited. Anything. An incorporeal hereditament is one that has no physical substance. So for example, if you left your haunted house to your daughter, including bequeathing the ghosts to her, the ghosts would be incorporeal hereditaments. For those of us not including ghosts in our wills, the phrase also includes rights of way, as well as other types of rights and more. More literally, Black’s Law Dictionary tells us it refers to “privileges and rights” which are subject to inheritance.
School’s out for today. My point is that law and magic have more in common than many realize. The right spell in court IS magic! I’ve done it, it works, and if it is not magic, don’t ask me what it is. The great lawyers are the ones that can call on the most spells at the right times. As long as they have the other skills a lawyer must have!
Lenny Lensworth Frieling
No legal advice is intended or offered. All statements are general in nature and not specific to any case.
No, I cannot leave well enough alone. From the good folks at Oprah Daily, here are 77 spells used by in Harry Potter. I’m not including all 77, but just the A’s and some B’s. The full list of Potter spells is of course quite necessary.
- Aberto – Opens locked doors
- Accio – Summons objects
- Aguamenti – Summons water
- Alohomora – Unlocks objects
- Anapneo – Clears someone’s airway
- Aparecium – Reveals secret, written messages
- Apparate – A non-verbal transportation spell that allows a witch or wizard to instantly travel on the spot and appear at another location (Disapparate is the opposite)
- Ascendio – Propels someone into the air
- *Avada Kedavra – Also known as The Killing Curse, the most evil spell in the Wizarding World; one of three Unforgivable Curses; Harry Potter is the only known witch or wizard to survive it
- Avis – Conjures a small flock of birds
- Bat-Bogey Hex – Turns the target’s boogers into bats
- Bombardo – Creates an explosion
- Brackium Emendo – Heals broken bones