In one facet or another, we have all encountered lawyers. Be it in a law office, a courtroom, on television, in a movie, or in a book, we have all had some kind of exposure to the profession. As such, I imagine we’ve all noticed that lawyers can be portrayed in many different lights. You may have, for example, the sulky, independent, the-world-is-against-me-and-I’m-the-only-one-I-can-trust kind of lawyer, usually, I find, portrayed in popular television shows, because the angst seems to intrigue the viewers or something. I don’t know. Maybe the emotionally-damaged professional thing gets the ratings up. On the other hand, and perhaps more classically, you have lawyers like Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is, admittedly, my favourite fictional lawyer. He chooses to use his influence and his intimate knowledge of the law for the good of humanity, and to teach people wheat it is (or what it should be) to be equal. Atticus is, I think, and excellent example of what it used to mean to be a barrister. In the Classical and Medieval periods, for example, you would have done well as a lawyer had you been proficient in Greek, Latin, philosophy, rhetoric, and had a working knowledge of Classical literature. I think the idea was that is you studied the human condition, and understood the thinking of those wise thinkers who came before you, you would be much better-equipped to deal with problems that focused largely on human failings. I haven’t read that anywhere, and I don’t have any scholarship to back it up, but it certainly makes sense to me.
I have in the past considered going into law myself. Admittedly, the thoughts have been quite fleeting, and I haven’t entertained the notion for long. I have other plans, myself, though that’s a topic for another post, perhaps. Thus far, as far as the study of law goes, I have found it sufficient to study prominent lawyers of the past, from different time periods, and look at what made them great. I think it’s very telling, the number of prominent and influential historical figures started out as lawyers. Prime Ministers, revolutionaries, great orators, so many of them were, at one point in their lives, called to the bar (or whatever the equivalent of being called to the bar was in their lifetime). It says a great deal about the amount of respect the profession has commanded in the past, and how much it should, surely, continue to command today. On this blog, you will find short summaries of the lives and times of some particularly famous lawyers. I have chosen people who were not necessarily known for their prowess in the courts, but who you would likely know for the parts they played in politics or in the forming or rebuilding of nations. I find it fascinating that such different men from such different periods in history all achieved greatness in part to the skills they acquired in the same profession. It is my hope that you find it just as intriguing, and that you learn something about the human condition as you make your way through the posts.