On Respectability, Part 6 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay On Lawyers"
"Mr. Vholes is a very respectable man. He has not a large business, but he is a very respectable man. He is allowed by the greater attorneys who have made good fortunes, to be a most respectable man. He never misses a chance in his practice; which is a mark of respectability. He never takes any pleasure; which is another mark of respectability. He is reserved and serious; which is another mark of respectability. His digestion is impaired, which is highly respectable." (Bleak House.)And to Adam Smith:
"The counsellor-at-law who, perhaps, at near forty years of age, begins to make something by his profession, ought to receive the retribution, not only of his own so tedious and expensive education, but that of more than twenty others who are never likely to make anything by it."No matter, Smith continues, "how extravagant soever the fees of counsellors-at-law may sometimes appear," as a group they make no more than any other group. In other words, the market is bound to pay enough to the successful few which will encourge sufficient numbers needed to develop those successuful few. Looked at as a group, and given that only one out of 20 lawyers are "successful" at the law, it is likely that no more is paid, in total, to the group (a group consisting of one successful and the 19 unsuccessful lawyers) as compared to another group of 20 such as, we will say, carpenters, where all have a high probability of some success in making a living out of carpentry. Indeed, as a group, Adam Smith thinks, lawyers may well be paid less than other groups.
"The lottery of the law, therefore, is very far from being a perfectly fair lottery; and that, as well as many other liberal and honourable professions, are, in point of pecuniary gain, evidently under-recompensed. Those professions keep their level, however, with other occupations, and, notwithstanding these discouragements, all the most generous and liberal spirits are eager to crowd into them. Two different causes contribute to recommend them. First, the desire of the reputation which attends upon superior excellence in any of them; and, secondly, the natural confidence which every man has more or less, not only in his own abilities, but in his own good fortune. To excel in any profession, in which but few arrive at mediocrity, is the most decisive mark of what is called genius or superior talents. The public admiration which attends upon such distinguished abilities makes always a part of their reward; a greater or smaller in proportion as it is higher or lower in degree. It makes a considerable part of that reward in the profession of physic; a still greater perhaps in that of law; in poetry and philosophy it makes almost the whole."9
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