Oklahoma Bar Journal

The Back Page | Lawyering Up with Will Rogers

By Tom Hird

Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

            Will Rogers’ most famous saying is, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” I can hear someone say, “Yes, but Will Rogers never worked in the legal profession.” It is true – his father was a Cherokee attorney and judge, but Will did not follow in his father’s footsteps. I submit to you, however, that even if he had, he still would have been able to say that he never met anyone he didn’t like. One reason why is the experience and wisdom he acquired from his Cherokee heritage while growing up in Indian Territory.

            Another reason is his gentle, aw-shucks humility. For example, when he said, “Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects,” or, “I have never been a non-believer, but I can honestly tell you I don’t think that any one religion is the religion,” he invoked a humility and lack of certitude we would all do well to model. Certitude where certitude is unwarranted runs rampant these days, both in and outside legal circles. We are the ones who are ignorant more often than we think. In this life, we all see through a glass, darkly.

            If Will Rogers had been a lawyer, he would have exhibited humility rather than arrogance, and he would have tried to follow the golden rule in his dealings with other lawyers, even the difficult ones. If you think about it, liking everyone you meet could even be considered an encapsulation of the radical principles of loving your enemies and treating others as you would like to be treated.

            Will Rogers felt strongly about “I never met a man I didn’t like,” even directing that it should go on his tombstone. Liking everyone you meet is about developing a strong sense of empathy, not just for some, but for all. While it undoubtedly would have been hard at times, Will Rogers would have found a way to like all the lawyers and litigants he dealt with, and I believe we can do it today. In the process, we can raise the level of legal discourse and the stature of the legal profession.


Mr. Hird practices in Oklahoma City.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 94 Vol 5 (May 2023)

Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.