A blupete Essay

On Learning the Law, Part 2 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay On Lawyers"

"If you become a lawyer, you must remember that the science of law is not fixed like geometry, but is a growth which keeps pace with the progress of society."
This quote I found, I think, somewhere in the OED. It is an understanding, that I finally came to, long after my studies at the law school were completed. I had arrived at the law school thinking that the mysteries of the law were all to be revealed, in neat paragraphs, one after the other, all under numbered headings. Not so! The law, at least English law, is found (and never all found) spread, primarily, throughout millions of decisions of judicial pronouncements; each, made on a set of facts peculiar to the case which resulted in that pronouncement. These decisions depend on the past decisions of other judges who had heard like cases, and -- ain't none of them the same. Grasping a piece of law was like trying to grab a piece of mercury. It takes awhile before one comes to the understanding that the law, the common law, is a multifaceted thing, always on the change depending on the circumstances and the times; but, only ever working through the weighty fly wheel of stare decisis (a judge must decide on the established rules and to abide by former precedents where the same points come again into litigation).

On coming out of law school, the graduate knows little or nothing about the practice of law. The typical school does run courses whereby the student might learn something about actual practice; it could be a credit course in "clinical law" or "civil procedure." The law school professors are the first to admit that they are not in any position to go much beyond the theory of the law. The school does bring in "downtown lawyers" to assist in the business of introducing students into practical matters. These courses, supplemented by bar admission courses, are, however, but a start. It would be rare to find a newly graduated lawyer, who, could draft even a simple deed to transfer real property, or, if he did, to feel any confidence in his drafting efforts. The drafting of basic legal documents is something the budding lawyer learns from an experienced legal secretary to whom some wise lawyer at that budding lawyer's first legal firm gave access. One learns to carry out practical legal jobs for which people pay good money -- yes, by going to law school; but, by necessity, of spending many more years practicing law.4

However they may come by it, legal training renders men "acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defence, full of resources ..."5 and it is for this reason powerful men have always considered lawyers to be dangerous, and, are, as Edmund Burke was to observe, "to be won over to the service of the state with great honors and emoluments."


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Peter Landry

2011 (2019)