Let’s kill all the lawyers? (Posted on September 23, 2005 by )

Why did Shakespeare say, “Let’s kill all the lawyers”? And what is the relevance for employee benefits law?

Here is the context:

CADE: Be brave, for your captain is brave and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny, the three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops, and I will make it felony to drink small beer. All the realm shall be in common, and in Cheapside shall my palfrey go to grass. And when I am king—as king I will be—

ALL CADE’S FOLLOWERS: God save your majesty!

CADE: I thank you good people!—there shall be no money. All shall eat and drink on my score, and I will apparel them all in one livery that they may agree like brothers and worship me their lord.

DICK THE BUTCHER: The first thing we do let’s kill all the lawyers.

CADE: Nay, that I mean to do. Is this not a lamentable thing that the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? That parchment, being scribbled o’er, should undo a man? Some say the bee stings, but I say ’tis the bee’s wax. For I did but seal once to a thing, and I was never mine own man since.

Henry VI, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2

The moral of this for employee benefits professionals? If you are going to make the kind of promises Cade did in your plan documentation, you’re going to have trouble with lawyers. The only difference is that now, this will happen whether or not you bother with the sheep and the bees’ wax.