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lesser ones have from time to time gone before it for that purpose. They have been represented there by lawyers; and the tribunal which heard them was mainly composed of lawyers. There have been, also, since the close of the eighteenth century, many arbitration proceedings under special treaties. There will, in natural course, be many more. A League of Nations, if effectively organized, will have agencies of a character more or less judicial, either instituted by itself, or taken over by adoption from those created by the Hague Conventions, or by later treaties, or international covenants.
The great American lawyers of the last generation, such as William M. Evarts, Edward J. Phelps, and Benjamin Harrison, have appeared and won new distinction before such tribunals. The set of the tide is towards arbitration or judicial action rather than war, as the mode of settling differences between nations. This, in connection with the continual spread of the / English language, tends directly to widen the field of practice of the American bar, and make the world their clients.
An American lawyer is in no danger of getting into a rut. He is always dealing with novel situations. It has been said that the difference between a rut and a grave is that one is a little deeper than the other. The doctor, the minister, the business man, if he always keeps along the same track, unconscious or heedless of the constant changes in the environment of ideas and facts
which affect his relations to his work, will find himself gradually losing strength and heart. The lawyer can hardly follow such a course, if he would. Social progress soon takes the shape of law, and he must, at his peril, follow the development of that. Every new statute affects many interests which were, and many probably which were not, contemplated by its framers. How they are affected, and to what extent, are questions which in some degree it is the duty of every lawyer to study, and will be the duty of some to answer, if called on, to the extent of their knowledge and ability.
It would be by no means just to say that in the United States the highest rank in the profession belonged to the trial lawyer.
Few of the cases that might be brought are brought. Few of those that are brought are tried. Few of those tried involve any matter of difficulty, or offer occasion for any display of power except that of making a clear statement of the material facts, and their relation to each other.
A large part of every lawyer's business is to advise against bringing suits, or how to act so as to avoid a cause of litigation. Here he uses what is practically almost an absolute power, for his clients come to him because they trust in his judgment, rather than their
A Wisconsin lawyer said of one of his brethren who had passed away, that he was at his best "in his capacity of counsel, in his office, where every lawyer is a judge, and where in matters not litigated, vastly
exceeding those which are, he decides all questions.” 1
It was a main principle of Schopenhauer's philosophy that all pleasure is derived from the use and consciousness of power. This is a false generalization, but there is no doubt that much pleasure is attained in this way.
Every lawyer is in a position of power. His advice in a controversy that never goes to court will probably be controlling and, if it does become the subject of a law-suit, and he feels his power over judge and jury, it will be a great source of personal satisfaction.
His inclination, however, may lead him to a field where the best powers he has find no opportunity for display. He may seek to be a trial lawyer, when success for him lies in being an office lawyer. He may seek a line of practice, such as patent litigation, where scientific knowledge and aptitude are important, without having either. He may confine himself to criminal practice when his powers could better help him on in civil causes.
It is one of the attractions of the legal profession that so many doors to success, or at least to opportunity for success, are always open. If a lawyer enters one and finds nothing for him there, he has only to try the next.
1 Winslow, The Story of a Great Court, Chicago, 1912, p. 124.
OBJECTIONS TO CHOOSING THE LEGAL PROFESSION
1. The Charge That it Leads to Dishonesty and Defense of Guilt
Ancient prejudice against attorneys. Sir Walter Scott's opinion. The English attorney's work. Colonial prejudice here before the Revolution. Advancement since in standards of legal ethics. Sir Hiram Maxim's view. Macaulay's criticisms. Lord Campbell's statement. Professional pretenses. Statements as to the lawyer's own opinions. How he is to present his case. Baron Bramwell's views. Lord Halsbury's. Lord Erskine's. Mr. Justice Ellsworth's. Sir Matthew Hale's. Professional advice as to future conduct. Lord Brougham's characterization of a lawyer's duty. Lord Chief Justice Cockburn's. The defense of the guilty. Dr. Samuel Johnson's view. Cicero's. A lawyer's aid a necessity in conducting trials. Swinney's case. Plain cases seldom tried. A lawyer naturally takes his client's view. Any one safe in choosing any reputable profession.
LAWYERS have never been favorites of popular literature.
"Why,” says Hamlet, as a skull is dug up during his talk in the graveyard, “may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures and his tricks?
Boileau-Despreaux, (echoed by Pope), attacks the rapacity of both lawyers and judges in his story of the disputants over the right to an oyster:
There, take (says Justice), take ye each a shell:
Mandeville jeered at lawyers who
“To defend a wicked cause, Examined and surveyed the laws, As burglars shops and houses do,
To see where best they may break through.”
But gibes of this sort do not express the solid judgment of the community. Rogues may intrude into any profession, but their rascality is not to be imputed to the rest. A tricky or dishonest attorney condemns himself, and sinks to the very bottom of bad morals, but this ought not to sully the good name of the whole body to which he unhappily belonged.
Lord Bolingbroke once said that "the profession of law, in its nature the noblest and most beneficial to mankind, is in its abuse and basement the most sordid and pernicious." No fair-minded observer, however, will deny either that most lawyers are honest, or that the dishonest are quickly and effectively punished by the courts. The general verdict is none too favorably pronounced in these words, by Sir Walter Scott, long a close observer, by the requirements of an official position, of proceedings in court:
"In a profession where unbounded trust is necessarily reposed, there is nothing surprising that fools should neglect it in their idleness and tricksters abuse it in their knavery. But it is the more to the honor of those, (and I