Lawyers born only 30 or 40 years ago may not realize that the legal profession as it exists today has not always existed. In fact, at one time there were no lawyers and even after the birth of the legal profession, before lawyer time tracking software or the legal calendar existed, it was subjected to booms and busts repeatedly.
Nobody really knows who the first lawyer in history was, but we do know that there were ancient lawyers who paved the way for today’s modern lawyers. Let’s take a look at the history of lawyers and the legal profession.
Ancient Greece and Rome
The origins of lawyers and the first founders of law appear in ancient Greece and Rome. In ancient Athens, “speakers” often pleaded the cause of a “friend” because, in those days, an individual had to plead his own cause or ask an ordinary citizen or friend to do so on his behalf.
Furthermore, these former lawyers were not allowed to charge fees for their services. However, the law on fees was often violated, but it was never abolished so it was impossible for these early lawyers to establish an official profession. But in ancient Rome, Emperor Claudius legalized the legal profession and even allowed lawyers to collect limited fees.
However, the fees that Roman lawyers could charge were simply not sufficient for the services provided, making it difficult to earn a living. Also, early lawyers were stratified, with some lawyers specializing in law and others in rhetoric, which meant that clients might have to consult two different lawyers to handle their cases.
But this specialization also meant that Roman laws became more precise since there was an entire class of people who focused solely on the study and understanding of the law.
The first rung
As the legal profession evolved and became more formal in ancient Rome, it also became highly regulated. Many rules governed the legal profession, including how much to charge, where lawyers could argue a case, and how they could register with the court or bar.
Previously, any ordinary citizen could call themselves a lawyer, but once the profession became more regulated, very strict standards had to be met before being allowed to work as a lawyer, and the profession no was more accessible than to the upper classes.
In fact, Rome developed a class of scholars known as jurisconsults who were wealthy amateurs who took up law as an intellectual pastime. Lawyers and ordinary people turned to jurisconsults for legal advice.
Interesting side notes: In ancient Rome, notaries had no skills in managing legal documents – in fact, they had no legal training and barely knew how to read and write. But they could write wills, deeds, and contracts inexpensively.
They were also known to draw simple transactions in convoluted legalese in order to make more money since they were paid per line.
The legal profession in the Middle Ages
In medieval times, lawyers struggled to make a living as the profession collapsed in the Western world. However, the profession eventually revived, but mostly in a form that served the Church and its laws. Between 1190 and 1230, the State and the Church redoubled their efforts to control and regulate the profession. There has been a strong push to professionalize the legal profession and swear lawyers before they are allowed to practice law.
It is interesting to note that the old lawyers of the Middle Ages acquired a rather negative reputation due to the excess of litigation at that time, caused by a large number of lawyers who created additional litigation due to their incompetence or of their misconduct. Frankly speaking, lawyers were not trusted and their strict regulation was pushed by various sectors of society.
American History of Lawyers
When did lawyers start practicing in the United States? It is important to understand that the history of lawyers is filled with changes and fluctuations. For a society to need lawyers, there must be a certain level of development.
This means that the first lawyers did not immediately appear in the Americas when the British colonies were established. And many people in the colonies were hostile to lawyers, even more, hostile than people in Europe.
Some colonies banned lawyers, and where lawyers were allowed to practice, they were tightly regulated and could charge only minimal fees.
When the settlements began to prosper financially, the need for lawyers increased, but most lawyers were untrained and a client was simply taking a risk on the quality of the lawyer he hired.
In Massachusetts, no special training was required to become a lawyer until 1761, when the bar formed an association and required lawyers to complete seven years of training before they could practice law. The bar also established professional ethics that all lawyers were expected to adhere to.
Eventually, prejudice against lawyers began to fall and the legal profession began to gain respect and power. Twenty-five of the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence were lawyers.
Lawyers were trained in the courts and eventually, after the American Revolution, bar associations were established across the country and the training of lawyers was formalized. Long before the advent of law practice management software, the first law degree awarded in the United States was a Bachelor of Law, awarded in 1793 by the College of William & Mary.
The degree was called L.B. and eventually became LLB. In the 1850s, many small law schools were started by lawyers in the United States, paving the way for aspiring lawyers to get the education they needed to practice.
Today, lawyers must complete an undergraduate degree before earning their J.D. Some aspiring lawyers choose an LB or LLB as their undergraduate degree, while others choose something else.
In any case, it is important to connect to the history of the legal profession, how it has developed over time, and the impact of this history on accepted rules and customs. in today’s legal profession.