Friend v. Friend
he Transformation of Friendship – and What the Law Has to Do With It
Ethan J. Leib
It is curious that while so many of our most important relationships are both promoted and protected by law and society—friendship is notably passed over. We go out of our way to accommodate the rights and privileges of the family, and special professional relationships, like the ones we have with our lawyers, doctors, and psychotherapists, are heavily structured and regulated by law. Even cohabitation and co-ownership have a set of rules that structure those relationships. But that’s not so for our friends.
We’re intimately connected to those friends—especially so given the explosion of social media. We often count them as family, or even closer than family. We may spend most of our waking hours with friends with whom we work, and research tells us that friendship keeps us healthy, sane, even more creative.
But, while laws that govern those other relationships go without saying, the notion of letting the law govern friendship can make us uncomfortable. Should it? In Friend v. Friend: The Transformation of Friendship – and What the Law Has to Do With It Ethan J. Leib proposes, provocatively, that not only should the law have something to say about friendship but that – in an era of changing notions about the role of friendship – the law may be the best way for friendship to thrive.
Ethan Leib is Professor of Law at Hastings College of the Law at the University of California at Berkeley. He has been interested in the intersection of friendship and the law for many years and has written and spoken about it widely.