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THE YOUNG MAN AND
Choosing the profession that suits one's tastes. Roger Minott Sherman's comparison of the law and the ministry. Field of law constantly enlarging. The object of this book, and its order of arrangement.
THE choice of any vocation, for entering which a long period of careful preparation is requisite, is generally irrevocable. The law is a profession of that character. It ought not to be adopted, therefore, without full consideration. Personal preferences and disposition should be given full weight. That is done best which is done gladly and with feelings of pleasure in the doing. For one to follow a calling which is distasteful, because unsuited to his powers and inclination, is to court failure from the start.
Many years ago a theological student at Yale found himself with misgivings as to whether he had been wise in choosing the ministry for his profession. He had some leaning to the law, and wrote to Roger Minott Sherman, one of the leaders of the New England bar,
asking whether he could not "be an active and useful Christian and be a lawyer." The reply was that the good of man required that all useful departments of human employment should be occupied; that the legal profession in modern society was necessary and useful; and that the main question for any one in choosing his life work was, What shall I love most to do?
"I am aware," Sherman added, "of the force of habit, and of the deference paid to the maxim, 'choose the employment which is the most useful, and habit will make it the most agreeable.' This maxim is sophistical and erroneous. The enquiry is not, what employment is in itself most useful; but in what can the individual be most usefully employed? Habit may mitigate the pains of crossed inclination; but can never supply that energy which is derived from the current of the soul.
"In this 'tis God directs; in that 'tis man.' 1
Sherman's counsel was asked at about the same time by a successful lawyer of ten years' standing, who was thinking, from conscientious motives, of studying for the ministry. He replied to him thus:
One of the best schools for a practical divine is the bar. The amount of good which a person can perform as a minister if he attains the age of seventy, will be greater if he follows the practice of law for ten years than if his whole life were devoted to the clerical profession. Man must be drawn by the cords of a man: by those principles
1 Beers, Biographical Sketch of Roger Minott Sherman, Bridgeport, 1882, p. 38,
of influence and action which are in his nature and can be thoroughly known from no book sacred or profane, but are discovered and understood by means of experience alone: he will be a poor practitioner in any fine or mechanic art whose accomplishments are derived wholly from books or theories. Men who go directly from the divinity school to the pulpit are necessarily deficient, for many years at least, in this indispensable qualification for their office.
Were you now, sir, to enter upon the profession of divinity, the time you have devoted to the civil law will have been well spent. . You would be peculiarly able to render great service to the Christian cause.' ought to follow the dictates of your own heart: your inclination should be your rule of duty: you would be most useful in the employment with which you are most delighted." 1
A man must look into his own heart, before he chooses his profession. "Know thyself" is the first and great commandment, at such a time. As Ruskin has said:
'We are not sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts. We have certain work to do for our bread, and that is to be done strenuously; other work to do for our delight, and that is to be done heartily; neither is to be done by halves or shifts, but with a will; and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all."
The law is not an easy profession. Its field is constantly enlarging. If any one can feel that he has mastered it as it stands to-day, he is far from having mastered what it will be ten years from to-day. The period of legal education never ends. The frontier recedes before each new step in advance.
1 Beers, Biographical Sketch of Roger Minott Sherman, p. 32,
Hard work is the condition of all real success. eminently it is so to both the student, and the practitioner of law. It is not the object of this book either to induce any man to take it up as his life calling, or to dissuade him from it. It is its object to state fully and plainly both the advantages and disadvantages of the legal profession in the United States, the opportunities which it offers and the risks which it involves, the conditions of success, and the chances of failure. The general scheme of arrangement which has been followed is to consider first the attractions of the profession; then the main objections to engaging in it; then the personal qualities requisite for success in it; then the proper education for it; and finally its great ideals.
ATTRACTIONS OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION
1. The Majesty of the Law, and the Lawyer as its Minister
Relation of law to morals. Natural Law, as defined by Cicero. Custom the source of most law. Functions of Courts and lawyers, respectively, in determining the law. Law reports. The right of parties to suits to employ lawyers. Lawyers are officers of the court. Lawyers prevent many law suits. To bring suit, sometimes a duty. Spinoza's view. Law, our best inheritance. The lawyer as an amicus curia.
THE Word Law is sometimes used to denote both that law which organized society enforces, and those rules of morals which find their support only in what we call the conscience of the individual or the conventions of unorganized society.
Cicero, in a lofty passage, describes law in this last aspect. "It is," he says, "not only older than peoples and commonwealths, but of equal age with that God who guards and rules heaven and earth. No law was ever written down that one man should contend with a great hostile force upon a bridge, and bid it to be destroyed behind him, yet none the less shall we judge that Cocles acted in that noble way under the law and empire of fortitude; nor if, in the reign of Tarquin,