Olson, Walter K. 1954–
Olson, Walter K. 1954–
PERSONAL: Born August 20, 1954, in Detroit, MI; son of Walter and Janet Adeline (Volker) Olson. Education: Yale University, New Haven, CT, B.A., 1975; graduate study at University of California, Los Angeles, 1976–77. Politics: Republican.
CAREER: Writer and editor. Education and Research Institute, Washington, DC, editor, 1978–80; U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC, analyst for Republican Research Committee, 1980; American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Washington, DC, associate editor, 1980–85; Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, New York City, founding director of Judicial Studies Program (now called Center for Legal Policy) and senior fellow.
(Editor) New Directions in Liability Law, Academy of Political Science (New York, NY), 1988.
The Litigation Explosion: What Happened When America Unleashed the Lawsuit, Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.
The Excuse Factory: How Employment Law Is Paralyzing the American Workplace, Free Press (New York, NY), 1997.
The Rule of Lawyers: How the New Litigation Elite Threatens America's Rule of Law, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Wall Street Journal, New York Times Book Review, and Reason. Associate editor, Regulation, 1980–85; founding member of editorial staff, City Journal; editor of Overlawyered.com and PointOfLaw.com.
SIDELIGHTS: Walter K. Olson is a renowned authority on litigation and has written extensively about "over-litigation" in the United States. In his book The Litigation Explosion: What Happened When America Unleashed the Lawsuit, the author takes a harsh look at litigation procedures in the United States and what he sees as the many abuses of lawyers, such as filing "shotgun" (wide-ranging) complaints against many defendants, even if some are peripheral to the dispute. Genevieve Stuttaford, writing in Publishers Weekly, called The Litigation Explosion "an important book." National Review contributor James H. Andrews noted: "I wish I'd had this book in law school." Andrews went on to write: "What's new in this book is the clearest explanation yet of why the legal system went haywire." Another reviewer, writing in the Economist, commented that "there is considerable apostasy in Mr. Olson's diagnosis of what has gone wrong with contemporary legal practice."
The Excuse Factory: How Employment Law Is Paralyzing the American Workplace focuses on the labyrinth of employment regulations that have led to an overabun-dance of suits for harassment, discrimination, and other work-place-related problems. "Olson believes that the new employment law will in time produce European-style rigidities in the labor market, with permanent high unemployment and a large measure of inefficiency and waste," wrote Franklin Hunt in Commentary. National Review contributor David Gordon noted the author's solution to the problem: "Employers should not be confined by arbitrary regulations telling them whom they may fire and hire; the traditional doctrine of 'employment at will' should be restored." Gordon went on to write: "Walter Olson has presented a devastating criticism of our employment law, based on thorough research and cogent argument."
In The Rule of Lawyers: How the New Litigation Elite Threatens America's Rule of Law, Olson continues his look at the glut of lawsuits in America, this time focusing on specialists in class-action and mass tort lawsuits. The author describes the beginning of the new approach to lawsuits in the 1980s stemming from a suit involving breast implants that, as Barton Aronson noted in Commentary, led to "a legal cottage industry" with lawyers seeking to make millions of dollars and putting the makers of the implants into bankruptcy. Olson follows the history of ever-widening class-action suits, which even involve states getting settlements from tobacco companies. Aronson wrote: "One just wishes that in describing so well the continuing threat of the 'Rule of Lawyers,' he had been more willing to credit his own success" in bringing to light this problem. Doug Bandow, writing in the National Review, commented that The Rule of Lawyers is "not a story for the faint of heart." Writing on the Townhall.com Web site, Sunni Maravillosa concluded that "Olson provides a clear, compelling analysis of class action litigation and the lawyers who press for it run amok."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1997, David Rouse, review of The Excuse Factory: How Employment Law Is Paralyzing the American Workplace, p. 1632; December 15, 2002, Vernon Ford, review of The Rule of Lawyers: How the New Litigation Elite Threatens America's Rule of Law, p. 713.
Commentary, August, 1997, Franklin Hunt, review of The Excuse Factory, p. 64; June, 2003, Barton Aronson, review of The Rule of Lawyers, p. 69.
Economist, August 31, 1991, review of The Litigation Explosion: What Happened When America Unleashed the Lawsuit, p. 72.
Forbes, March 18, 1991, Suzanne L. Oliver, "Let the Loser Pay," interview with author, p. 96.
Fortune, May 20, 1991, Walter Guzzardi, review of The Litigation Explosion, p. 151; June 23, 1997, David R. Henderson, review of The Excuse Factory, p. 35.
HRMagazine, December, 1997, Kathleen Menda, review of The Excuse Factory, p. 119.
Library Journal, February 15, 2003, Philip Y. Blue, review of The Rule of Lawyers.
National Review, June 10, 1991, James H. Andrews, review of The Litigation Explosion, p. 42; August 11, 1997, David Gordon, review of The Excuse Factory, p. 52; April 21, 2003, Doug Bandow, review of The Rule of Lawyers.
New York Times Book Review, May 12, 1991, Warren Burger, review of The Litigation Explosion, p. 12.
Publishers Weekly, February 8, 1991, review of The Litigation Explosion, p. 46; November 25, 2002, review of The Rule of Lawyers, p. 53.
Society, November-December, 1993, Ellen Frankel, review of The Litigation Explosion, p. 89.
Manhattan Institute Web site, http://www.manhattan-institute.org/ (January 12, 2006), faculty profile of author.
Overlawyered.com, http://www.overlawyered.com/ (February 4, 2006).
The Rule of Lawyers Web site, http://www.theruleoflawyers.com/ (January 12, 2006).
Townhall.com, http://www.townhall.com/ (March 3, 2006), Sunni Maravillosa, review of The Rule of Lawyers.
Walter Olson Home Page, http://www.walterolson.com (February 4, 2006).