Dealing with the 800 pound gorilla


A large part of our legal or constitutional history has been imported from England. Not much seems to happen down here. As you look back, you see power flowing down as people who have reduced the powers of those above them are in turn tapped on the shoulder to be a bit more generous and to hand on a bit more to those further down the ladder. So, the barons or magnates took a slice out of the crown with Magna Carta. The landed squires and some high powered landed lawyers then shifted power first toward parliament, and then away from the aristocracy. Then it was the turn for the big commercial interests – people in business in the City of London and elsewhere – to show that capital now carried more clout than landed property. Then the workers and women demanded to be admitted to the club – and there, or thereabouts, we are.

History shows that when someone kicks the door down, the first thing that they want to do is to slam it shut on those who might come after them and spoil their fun – or share their spoils. You see this all the time in business. That is why we have anti-trust or competition laws. But we are not so good at controlling big corporations who just seem to live in a universe of their own, one that has very many unclear laws and very few clear morals, and to be able to roll over us as shareholders, investors, or customers at will. Are we doing enough as lawyers to contain what the Americans call the 800 pound gorilla as litigants?


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