|Names||Attorney, advocate, barrister, counsel, judge, justice, solicitor, legal executive|
|Competencies|| Analytical skills |
|Courts, government, law firms, NGOs, legal aid, corporations|
|Barrister, Solicitor, Judge, Jurist, Advocate, Attorney, Legal executive, Prosecutor, Law clerk, Law professor, Civil law notary, Magistrate, Politician|
A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, counselor at law, solicitor, chartered legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary.Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.
In its most general sense, the practice of law involves giving legal advice to clients, drafting legal documents for clients, and representing clients in legal negotiations and court proceedings such as lawsuits, and is applied to the professional services of a lawyer or attorney at law, barrister, solicitor, or civil law notary. However, there is a substantial amount of overlap between the practice of law and various other professions where clients are represented by agents. These professions include real estate, banking, accounting, and insurance. Moreover, a growing number of legal document assistants (LDAs) are offering services which have traditionally been offered only by lawyers and their employee paralegals. Many documents may now be created by computer-assisted drafting libraries, where the clients are asked a series of questions that are posed by the software in order to construct the legal documents.
An advocate is a professional or non-Professional in the field of law. Different countries' legal systems use the term with somewhat differing meanings. The broad equivalent in many English law-based jurisdictions could be a barrister or a solicitor. However, in Scottish, South African, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Scandinavian, Polish, South Asian and South American jurisdictions, "advocate" indicates a lawyer of superior classification.
Attorney at law or attorney-at-law, usually abbreviated in everyday speech to attorney, is the preferred term for a practising lawyer in certain jurisdictions, including South Africa, Sri Lanka, and the United States. In Canada, it is used only in Quebec. The term has its roots in the verb to attorn, meaning to transfer one's rights and obligations to another.
The role of the lawyer varies greatly across legal jurisdictions, and so it can be treated here in only the most general terms.
In practice, legal jurisdictions exercise their right to determine who is recognized as being a lawyer. As a result, the meaning of the term "lawyer" may vary from place to place. Some jurisdictions have two types of lawyers, barristers and solicitors. Whilst others fuse the two. A barrister is a lawyer who specialises in higher court appearances. A solicitor is a lawyer who is trained to prepare cases and give advice on legal subjects and can represent people in lower courts. Both barristers and solicitors have gone through law school, completed the requisite practical training. However, in jurisdictions where there is a split-profession, only barristers are admitted as members of their respective bar association.
A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, researching the philosophy, hypothesis and history of law, and giving expert legal opinions. Often, barristers are also recognised as legal scholars.
A solicitor is a legal practitioner who traditionally deals with most of the legal matters in some jurisdictions. A person must have legally-defined qualifications, which vary from one jurisdiction to another, to be described as a solicitor and enabled to practise there as such. For example, in England and Wales a solicitor is admitted to practise under the provisions of the Solicitors Act 1974. With some exceptions, practising solicitors must possess a practising certificate. There are many more solicitors than barristers in England; they undertake the general aspects of giving legal advice and conducting legal proceedings.
Quebec is one of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada. It is bordered to the west by the province of Ontario and the bodies of water James Bay and Hudson Bay; to the north by Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay; to the east by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador; and to the south by the province of New Brunswick and the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. It also shares maritime borders with Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. Quebec is Canada's largest province by area and its second-largest administrative division; only the territory of Nunavut is larger. It is historically and politically considered to be part of Central Canada.
In most countries, particularly civil law countries, there has been a tradition of giving many legal tasks to a variety of civil law notaries, clerks, and scriveners.These countries do not have "lawyers" in the American sense, insofar as that term refers to a single type of general-purpose legal services provider; rather, their legal professions consist of a large number of different kinds of law-trained persons, known as jurists, some of whom are advocates who are licensed to practice in the courts. It is difficult to formulate accurate generalizations that cover all the countries with multiple legal professions, because each country has traditionally had its own peculiar method of dividing up legal work among all its different types of legal professionals.
Civil law, or civilian law, is a legal system originating in Europe, intellectualized within the framework of Roman law, the main feature of which is that its core principles are codified into a referable system which serves as the primary source of law. This can be contrasted with common law systems, the intellectual framework of which comes from judge-made decisional law, and gives precedential authority to prior court decisions, on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different occasions.
Civil-law notaries, or Latin notaries, are agents of noncontentious private civil law who draft, take, and record instruments for private parties and are vested as public officers with the authentication power of the State. As opposed to most notaries public, their common-law counterparts, civil-law notaries are highly trained, licensed practitioners providing a range of regulated services, and whereas they hold a public office, they nonetheless operate usually—but not always—in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis. They often receive the same education as attorneys at civil law but without qualifications in advocacy, procedural law, or the law of evidence, somewhat comparable to solicitor training in certain common-law countries.
A jurist is someone who researches and studies jurisprudence. Such a person can work as an academic, legal writer or law lecturer. In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and in many other Commonwealth countries, the word jurist sometimes refers to a barrister, whereas in the United States of America and Canada it often refers to a judge.
Notably, England, the mother of the common law jurisdictions, emerged from the Dark Ages with similar complexity in its legal professions, but then evolved by the 19th century to a single dichotomy between barristers and solicitors. An equivalent dichotomy developed between advocates and procurators in some civil law countries; these two types did not always monopolize the practice of law, in that they coexisted with civil law notaries.
In law, common law is that body of law derived from judicial decisions of courts and similar tribunals. The defining characteristic of “common law” is that it arises as precedent. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts, and synthesizes the principles of those past cases as applicable to the current facts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is usually bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision. If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases, and legislative statutes are either silent or ambiguous on the question, judges have the authority and duty to resolve the issue. The court states an opinion that gives reasons for the decision, and those reasons agglomerate with past decisions as precedent to bind future judges and litigants. Common law, as the body of law made by judges, stands in contrast to and on equal footing with statutes which are adopted through the legislative process, and regulations which are promulgated by the executive branch. Stare decisis, the principle that cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems.
The "Dark Ages" is a historical periodization traditionally referring to the Middle Ages, that asserts that a demographic, cultural, and economic deterioration occurred in Western Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire.
Several countries that originally had two or more legal professions have since fused or united their professions into a single type of lawyer.Most countries in this category are common law countries, though France, a civil law country, merged its jurists in 1990 and 1991 in response to Anglo-American competition. In countries with fused professions, a lawyer is usually permitted to carry out all or nearly all the responsibilities listed below.
Fused profession is a term relating to jurisdictions where the legal profession is not divided between barristers and solicitors. Generally, the term is used in the context of Commonwealth countries, where the single profession of "barrister and solicitor" is provided by statute.
Arguing a client's case before a judge or jury in a court of law is the traditional province of the barrister in England, and of advocates in some civil law jurisdictions.However, the boundary between barristers and solicitors has evolved. In England today, the barrister monopoly covers only appellate courts, and barristers must compete directly with solicitors in many trial courts. In countries like the United States, that have fused legal professions, there are trial lawyers who specialize in trying cases in court, but trial lawyers do not have a de jure monopoly like barristers. In some countries, litigants have the option of arguing pro se , or on their own behalf. It is common for litigants to appear unrepresented before certain courts like small claims courts; indeed, many such courts do not allow lawyers to speak for their clients, in an effort to save money for all participants in a small case. In other countries, like Venezuela, no one may appear before a judge unless represented by a lawyer. The advantage of the latter regime is that lawyers are familiar with the court's customs and procedures, and make the legal system more efficient for all involved. Unrepresented parties often damage their own credibility or slow the court down as a result of their inexperience.
Often, lawyers brief a court in writing on the issues in a case before the issues can be orally argued. They may have to perform extensive research into relevant facts and law while drafting legal papers and preparing for oral argument.
In England, the usual division of labor is that a solicitor will obtain the facts of the case from the client and then brief a barrister (usually in writing).The barrister then researches and drafts the necessary court pleadings (which will be filed and served by the solicitor) and orally argues the case.
In Spain, the procurator merely signs and presents the papers to the court, but it is the advocate who drafts the papers and argues the case.
In some countries, like Japan, a scrivener or clerk may fill out court forms and draft simple papers for lay persons who cannot afford or do not need attorneys, and advise them on how to manage and argue their own cases.
In most developed countries, the legislature has granted original jurisdiction over highly technical matters to executive branch administrative agencies which oversee such things. As a result, some lawyers have become specialists in administrative law. In a few countries, there is a special category of jurists with a monopoly over this form of advocacy; for example, France formerly had conseils juridiques (who were merged into the main legal profession in 1991).In other countries, like the United States, lawyers have been effectively barred by statute from certain types of administrative hearings in order to preserve their informality.
An important aspect of a lawyer's job is developing and managing relationships with clients (or the client's employees, if the lawyer works in-house for a government or corporation). The client-lawyer relationship often begins with an intake interview where the lawyer gets to know the client personally, discovers the facts of the client's case, clarifies what the client wants to accomplish, shapes the client's expectations as to what actually can be accomplished, begins to develop various claims or defenses, and explains her or his fees to the client.
In England, only solicitors were traditionally in direct contact with the client.The solicitor retained a barrister if one was necessary and acted as an intermediary between the barrister and the client. In most cases barristers were obliged, under what is known as the "cab rank rule", to accept instructions for a case in an area in which they held themselves out as practicing, at a court at which they normally appeared and at their usual rates.
Legal advice is the application of abstract principles of law to the concrete facts of the client's case in order to advise the client about what they should do next. In many countries, only a properly licensed lawyer may provide legal advice to clients for good consideration, even if no lawsuit is contemplated or is in progress.Therefore, even conveyancers and corporate in-house counsel must first get a license to practice, though they may actually spend very little of their careers in court. Failure to obey such a rule is the crime of unauthorized practice of law.
In other countries, jurists who hold law degrees are allowed to provide legal advice to individuals or to corporations, and it is irrelevant if they lack a license and cannot appear in court.Some countries go further; in England and Wales, there is no general prohibition on the giving of legal advice. Sometimes civil law notaries are allowed to give legal advice, as in Belgium. In many countries, non-jurist accountants may provide what is technically legal advice in tax and accounting matters.
In virtually all countries, patents, trademarks, industrial designs and other forms of intellectual property must be formally registered with a government agency in order to receive maximum protection under the law. The division of such work among lawyers, licensed non-lawyer jurists/agents, and ordinary clerks or scriveners varies greatly from one country to the next.
In some countries, the negotiating and drafting of contracts is considered to be similar to the provision of legal advice, so that it is subject to the licensing requirement explained above.In others, jurists or notaries may negotiate or draft contracts.
Lawyers in some civil law countries traditionally deprecated "transactional law" or "business law" as beneath them. French law firms developed transactional departments only in the 1990s when they started to lose business to international firms based in the United States and the United Kingdom (where solicitors have always done transactional work).
Conveyancing is the drafting of the documents necessary for the transfer of real property, such as deeds and mortgages. In some jurisdictions, all real estate transactions must be carried out by a lawyer (or a solicitor where that distinction still exists).Such a monopoly is quite valuable from the lawyer's point of view; historically, conveyancing accounted for about half of English solicitors' income (though this has since changed), and a 1978 study showed that conveyancing "accounts for as much as 80 percent of solicitor-client contact in New South Wales." In most common law jurisdictions outside of the United States, this monopoly arose from an 1804 law that was introduced by William Pitt the Younger as a quid pro quo for the raising of fees on the certification of legal professionals such as barristers, solicitors, attorneys and notaries.
In others, the use of a lawyer is optional and banks, title companies, or realtors may be used instead.In some civil law jurisdictions, real estate transactions are handled by civil law notaries. In England and Wales a special class of legal professional–the licensed conveyancer–is also allowed to carry out conveyancing services for reward.
In many countries, only lawyers have the legal authority to draft wills, trusts, and any other documents that ensure the efficient disposition of a person's property after death. In some civil law countries this responsibility is handled by civil law notaries.
In the United States, the estates of the deceased must generally be administered by a court through probate. American lawyers have a profitable monopoly on dispensing advice about probate law (which has been heavily criticized).
In many civil law countries, prosecutors are trained and employed as part of the judiciary; they are law-trained jurists, but may not necessarily be lawyers in the sense that the word is used in the common law world.In common law countries, prosecutors are usually lawyers holding regular licenses who simply happen to work for the government office that files criminal charges against suspects. Criminal defense lawyers specialize in the defense of those charged with any crimes.
The educational prerequisites for becoming a lawyer vary greatly from country to country. In some countries, law is taught by a faculty of law, which is a department of a university's general undergraduate college.Law students in those countries pursue a Master or Bachelor of Laws degree. In some countries it is common or even required for students to earn another bachelor's degree at the same time. Nor is the LL.B the sole obstacle; it is often followed by a series of advanced examinations, apprenticeships, and additional coursework at special government institutes.
In other countries, particularly the UK and U.S.A., law is primarily taught at law schools.In America, the American Bar Association decides which law schools to approve and thereby which ones are deemed most respectable. In England and Wales, the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) must be taken to have the right to work and be named as a barrister. Students who decide to pursue a non-law subject at degree level can instead study the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) after their degrees, before beginning the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or BPTC. In the United States and countries following the American model, (such as Canada with the exception of the province of Quebec) law schools are graduate/professional schools where a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for admission. Most law schools are part of universities but a few are independent institutions. Law schools in the United States and Canada (with the exception of McGill University) award graduating students a J.D. (Juris Doctor/Doctor of Jurisprudence) (as opposed to the Bachelor of Laws) as the practitioner's law degree. Many schools also offer post-doctoral law degrees such as the LL.M (Legum Magister/Master of Laws), or the S.J.D. (Scientiae Juridicae Doctor/Doctor of Juridical Science) for students interested in advancing their research knowledge and credentials in a specific area of law.
The methods and quality of legal education vary widely. Some countries require extensive clinical training in the form of apprenticeships or special clinical courses.Others, like Venezuela, do not. A few countries prefer to teach through assigned readings of judicial opinions (the casebook method) followed by intense in-class cross-examination by the professor (the Socratic method). Many others have only lectures on highly abstract legal doctrines, which forces young lawyers to figure out how to actually think and write like a lawyer at their first apprenticeship (or job). Depending upon the country, a typical class size could range from five students in a seminar to five hundred in a giant lecture room. In the United States, law schools maintain small class sizes, and as such, grant admissions on a more limited and competitive basis.
Some countries, particularly industrialized ones, have a traditional preference for full-time law programs,while in developing countries, students often work full- or part-time to pay the tuition and fees of their part-time law programs.
Law schools in developing countries share several common problems, such as an over reliance on practicing judges and lawyers who treat teaching as a part-time hobby (and a concomitant scarcity of full-time law professors);incompetent faculty with questionable credentials; and textbooks that lag behind the current state of the law by two or three decades.
Some jurisdictions grant a "diploma privilege" to certain institutions, so that merely earning a degree or credential from those institutions is the primary qualification for practicing law.Mexico allows anyone with a law degree to practice law. However, in a large number of countries, a law student must pass a bar examination (or a series of such examinations) before receiving a license to practice. In a handful of U.S. states, one may become an attorney (a so-called country lawyer) by simply "reading law" and passing the bar examination, without having to attend law school first (although very few people actually become lawyers that way).
Some countries require a formal apprenticeship with an experienced practitioner, while others do not.For example, a few jurisdictions still allow an apprenticeship in place of any kind of formal legal education (though the number of persons who actually become lawyers that way is increasingly rare).
The career structure of lawyers varies widely from one country to the next.
In most common law countries, especially those with fused professions, lawyers have many options over the course of their careers. Besides private practice, they can become a prosecutor, government counsel, corporate in-house counsel, administrative law judge, judge, arbitrator, or law professor.There are also many non-legal jobs for which legal training is good preparation, such as politician, corporate executive, government administrator, investment banker, entrepreneur, or journalist. In developing countries like India, a large majority of law students never actually practice, but simply use their law degree as a foundation for careers in other fields.
In most civil law countries, lawyers generally structure their legal education around their chosen specialty; the boundaries between different types of lawyers are carefully defined and hard to cross.After one earns a law degree, career mobility may be severely constrained. For example, unlike their American counterparts, it is difficult for German judges to leave the bench and become advocates in private practice. Another interesting example is France, where for much of the 20th century, all judiciary officials were graduates of an elite professional school for judges. Although the French judiciary has begun experimenting with the Anglo-American model of appointing judges from accomplished advocates, the few advocates who have actually joined the bench this way are looked down upon by their colleagues who have taken the traditional route to judicial office.
In a few civil law countries, such as Sweden,the legal profession is not rigorously bifurcated and everyone within it can easily change roles and arenas.
In many countries, lawyers are general practitioners who represent clients in a broad field of legal matters.In others, there has been a tendency since the start of the 20th century for lawyers to specialize early in their careers.
In countries where specialization is prevalent, many lawyers specialize in representing one side in one particular area of the law; thus, it is common in the United States to hear of plaintiffs' personal injury attorneys.Texas offers attorneys the opportunity to receive a board certification through the state's Texas Board of Legal Specialization. To be board certified, attorney applicants undergo a rigorous examination in one of 24 areas of practice offered by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Only those attorneys who are "board certified" are permitted to use the word "specialize" in any publicly accessible materials such as a website or television commercial. See Texas Rule 7.02(a)(6).
Lawyers in private practice generally work in specialized businesses known as law firms,with the exception of English barristers. The vast majority of law firms worldwide are small businesses that range in size from 1 to 10 lawyers. The United States, with its large number of firms with more than 50 lawyers, is an exception. The United Kingdom and Australia are also exceptions, as the UK, Australia and the U.S. are now home to several firms with more than 1,000 lawyers after a wave of mergers in the late 1990s.
Notably, barristers in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and some states in Australia do not work in "law firms". Those who offer their services to members of the general public—as opposed to those working "in-house" — are required to be self-employed.Most work in groupings known as "sets" or "chambers", where some administrative and marketing costs are shared. An important effect of this different organizational structure is that there is no conflict of interest where barristers in the same chambers work for opposing sides in a case, and in some specialized chambers this is commonplace.
In some jurisdictions, either the judiciaryor the Ministry of Justice directly supervises the admission, licensing, and regulation of lawyers.
Other jurisdictions, by statute, tradition, or court order, have granted such powers to a professional association which all lawyers must belong to.In the U.S., such associations are known as mandatory, integrated, or unified bar associations. In the Commonwealth of Nations, similar organizations are known as Inns of Court, bar councils or law societies. In civil law countries, comparable organizations are known as Orders of Advocates, Chambers of Advocates, Colleges of Advocates, Faculties of Advocates, or similar names. Generally, a nonmember caught practicing law may be liable for the crime of unauthorized practice of law.
In common law countries with divided legal professions, barristers traditionally belong to the bar council (or an Inn of Court) and solicitors belong to the law society. In the English-speaking world, the largest mandatory professional association of lawyers is the State Bar of California, with 230,000 members.
Some countries admit and regulate lawyers at the national level, so that a lawyer, once licensed, can argue cases in any court in the land. This is common in small countries like New Zealand, Japan, and Belgium.Others, especially those with federal governments, tend to regulate lawyers at the state or provincial level; this is the case in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Switzerland, to name a few. Brazil is the most well-known federal government that regulates lawyers at the national level.
Some countries, like Italy, regulate lawyers at the regional level,and a few, like Belgium, even regulate them at the local level (that is, they are licensed and regulated by the local equivalent of bar associations but can advocate in courts nationwide). In Germany, lawyers are admitted to regional bars and may appear for clients before all courts nationwide with the exception of the Federal Court of Justice of Germany (Bundesgerichtshof or BGH); oddly, securing admission to the BGH's bar limits a lawyer's practice solely to the supreme federal courts and the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany.
Generally, geographic limitations can be troublesome for a lawyer who discovers that his client's cause requires him to litigate in a court beyond the normal geographic scope of his license. Although most courts have special pro hac vice rules for such occasions, the lawyer will still have to deal with a different set of professional responsibility rules, as well as the possibility of other differences in substantive and procedural law.
Some countries grant licenses to non-resident lawyers, who may then appear regularly on behalf of foreign clients. Others require all lawyers to live in the jurisdiction or to even hold national citizenship as a prerequisite for receiving a license to practice. But the trend in industrialized countries since the 1970s has been to abolish citizenship and residency restrictions. For example, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down a citizenship requirement on equality rights grounds in 1989,and similarly, American citizenship and residency requirements were struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 and 1985, respectively. The European Court of Justice made similar decisions in 1974 and 1977 striking down citizenship restrictions in Belgium and France.
A key difference among countries is whether lawyers should be regulated solely by an independent judiciary and its subordinate institutions (a self-regulating legal profession),or whether lawyers should be subject to supervision by the Ministry of Justice in the executive branch.
In most civil law countries, the government has traditionally exercised tight control over the legal profession in order to ensure a steady supply of loyal judges and bureaucrats. That is, lawyers were expected first and foremost to serve the state, and the availability of counsel for private litigants was an afterthought.Even in civil law countries like Norway which have partially self-regulating professions, the Ministry of Justice is the sole issuer of licenses, and makes its own independent re-evaluation of a lawyer's fitness to practice after a lawyer has been expelled from the Advocates' Association. Brazil is an unusual exception in that its national Order of Advocates has become a fully self-regulating institution (with direct control over licensing) and has successfully resisted government attempts to place it under the control of the Ministry of Labor.
Of all the civil law countries, Communist countries historically went the farthest towards total state control, with all Communist lawyers forced to practice in collectives by the mid-1950s.China is a prime example: technically, the People's Republic of China did not have lawyers, and instead had only poorly trained, state-employed "legal workers," prior to the enactment of a comprehensive reform package in 1996 by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress.
In contrast, common law lawyers have traditionally regulated themselves through institutions where the influence of non-lawyers, if any, was weak and indirect (despite nominal state control).Such institutions have been traditionally dominated by private practitioners who opposed strong state control of the profession on the grounds that it would endanger the ability of lawyers to zealously and competently advocate their clients' causes in the adversarial system of justice.
However, the concept of the self-regulating profession has been criticized as a sham which serves to legitimize the professional monopoly while protecting the profession from public scrutiny.Disciplinary mechanisms have been astonishingly ineffective, and penalties have been light or nonexistent.
Lawyers are always free to form voluntary associations of their own, apart from any licensing or mandatory membership that may be required by the laws of their jurisdiction. Like their mandatory counterparts, such organizations may exist at all geographic levels.In American English, such associations are known as voluntary bar associations. The largest voluntary professional association of lawyers in the English-speaking world is the American Bar Association.
In some countries, like France and Italy, lawyers have also formed trade unions.
Hostility towards the legal profession is a widespread phenomenon. The legal profession was abolished in Prussia in 1780 and in France in 1789, though both countries eventually realized that their judicial systems could not function efficiently without lawyers.Complaints about too many lawyers were common in both England and the United States in the 1840s, Germany in the 1910s, and in Australia, Canada, the United States, and Scotland in the 1980s.
Public distrust of lawyers reached record heights in the United States after the Watergate scandal.In the aftermath of Watergate, legal self-help books became popular among those who wished to solve their legal problems without having to deal with lawyers. Lawyer jokes (already a perennial favorite) also soared in popularity in English-speaking North America as a result of Watergate. In 1989, American legal self-help publisher Nolo Press published a 171-page compilation of negative anecdotes about lawyers from throughout human history.
In Adventures in Law and Justice (2003), legal researcher Bryan Horrigan dedicated a chapter to "Myths, Fictions, and Realities" about law and illustrated the perennial criticism of lawyers as "amoral [...] guns for hire"with a quote from Ambrose Bierce's satirical The Devil's Dictionary (1911) that summarized the noun as: "LAWYER, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law."
More generally, in Legal Ethics: A Comparative Study (2004), law professor Geoffrey C. Hazard, Jr. with Angelo Dondi briefly examined the "regulations attempting to suppress lawyer misconduct" and noted that their similarity around the world was paralleled by a "remarkable consistency" in certain "persistent grievances" about lawyers that transcends both time and locale, from the Bible to medieval England to dynastic China.The authors then generalized these common complaints about lawyers as being classified into five "general categories" as follows:
Some studies have shown that suicide rates among lawyers may be as much as six times higher than the average population, and commentators suggest that the low opinion the public has of lawyers, combined with their own high ideals of justice, which in practice they may see denied, increase the depression rates of those in this profession.Additionally, lawyers are twice as likely to suffer from addiction to alcohol and other drugs.
In the United States, lawyers typically earn between $45,000 and $160,000 per year, although earnings vary by age and experience, practice setting, sex, and race.Solo practitioners typically earn less than lawyers in corporate law firms but more than those working for state or local government.
Lawyers are paid for their work in a variety of ways. In private practice, they may work for an hourly fee according to a billable hour structure,a contingency fee (usually in cases involving personal injury), or a lump sum payment if the matter is straightforward. Normally, most lawyers negotiate a written fee agreement up front and may require a non-refundable retainer in advance. Recent studies suggest that when lawyers charge a fixed-fee rather than billing by the hour, they work less hard on behalf of clients and client get worse outcomes. In many countries there are fee-shifting arrangements by which the loser must pay the winner's fees and costs; the United States is the major exception, although in turn, its legislators have carved out many exceptions to the so-called "American Rule" of no fee shifting.
Lawyers working directly on the payroll of governments, nonprofits, and corporations usually earn a regular annual salary.In many countries, with the notable exception of Germany, lawyers can also volunteer their labor in the service of worthy causes through an arrangement called pro bono (short for pro bono publico, "for the common good"). Traditionally such work was performed on behalf of the poor, but in some countries it has now expanded to many other causes such as the environment.
In some countries, there are legal aid lawyers who specialize in providing legal services to the indigent.France and Spain even have formal fee structures by which lawyers are compensated by the government for legal aid cases on a per-case basis. A similar system, though not as extensive or generous, operates in Australia, Canada, and South Africa.
In other countries, legal aid specialists are practically nonexistent. This may be because non-lawyers are allowed to provide such services; in both Italy and Belgium, trade unions and political parties provide what can be characterized as legal aid services.Some legal aid in Belgium is also provided by young lawyer apprentices subsidized by local bar associations (known as the pro deo system), as well as consumer protection nonprofit organizations and Public Assistance Agencies subsidized by local governments. In Germany, mandatory fee structures have enabled widespread implementation of affordable legal expense insurance.
The earliest people who could be described as "lawyers" were probably the orators of ancient Athens (see History of Athens). However, Athenian orators faced serious structural obstacles. First, there was a rule that individuals were supposed to plead their own cases, which was soon bypassed by the increasing tendency of individuals to ask a "friend" for assistance.However, around the middle of the fourth century, the Athenians disposed of the perfunctory request for a friend. Second, a more serious obstacle, which the Athenian orators never completely overcame, was the rule that no one could take a fee to plead the cause of another. This law was widely disregarded in practice, but was never abolished, which meant that orators could never present themselves as legal professionals or experts. They had to uphold the legal fiction that they were merely an ordinary citizen generously helping out a friend for free, and thus they could never organize into a real profession—with professional associations and titles and all the other pomp and circumstance—like their modern counterparts. Therefore, if one narrows the definition to those men who could practice the legal profession openly and legally, then the first lawyers would have to be the orators of ancient Rome.
A law enacted in 204 BC barred Roman advocates from taking fees, but the law was widely ignored.The ban on fees was abolished by Emperor Claudius, who legalized advocacy as a profession and allowed the Roman advocates to become the first lawyers who could practice openly—but he also imposed a fee ceiling of 10,000 sesterces. This was apparently not much money; the Satires of Juvenal complained that there was no money in working as an advocate.
Like their Greek contemporaries, early Roman advocates were trained in rhetoric, not law, and the judges before whom they argued were also not law-trained.But very early on, unlike Athens, Rome developed a class of specialists who were learned in the law, known as jurisconsults (iuris consulti). Jurisconsults were wealthy amateurs who dabbled in law as an intellectual hobby; they did not make their primary living from it. They gave legal opinions (responsa) on legal issues to all comers (a practice known as publice respondere). Roman judges and governors would routinely consult with an advisory panel of jurisconsults before rendering a decision, and advocates and ordinary people also went to jurisconsults for legal opinions. Thus, the Romans were the first to have a class of people who spent their days thinking about legal problems, and this is why their law became so "precise, detailed, and technical."
During the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire, jurisconsults and advocates were unregulated, since the former were amateurs and the latter were technically illegal.Any citizen could call himself an advocate or a legal expert, though whether people believed him would depend upon his personal reputation. This changed once Claudius legalized the legal profession. By the start of the Byzantine Empire, the legal profession had become well-established, heavily regulated, and highly stratified. The centralization and bureaucratization of the profession was apparently gradual at first, but accelerated during the reign of Emperor Hadrian. At the same time, the jurisconsults went into decline during the imperial period.
In the words of Fritz Schulz, "by the fourth century things had changed in the eastern Empire: advocates now were really lawyers."For example, by the fourth century, advocates had to be enrolled on the bar of a court to argue before it, they could only be attached to one court at a time, and there were restrictions (which came and went depending upon who was emperor) on how many advocates could be enrolled at a particular court. By the 380s, advocates were studying law in addition to rhetoric (thus reducing the need for a separate class of jurisconsults); in 460, Emperor Leo imposed a requirement that new advocates seeking admission had to produce testimonials from their teachers; and by the sixth century, a regular course of legal study lasting about four years was required for admission. Claudius's fee ceiling lasted all the way into the Byzantine period, though by then it was measured at 100 solidi. It was widely evaded, either through demands for maintenance and expenses or a sub rosa barter transaction. The latter was cause for disbarment.
The notaries (tabelliones) appeared in the late Roman Empire. Like their modern-day descendants, the civil law notaries, they were responsible for drafting wills, conveyances, and contracts.They were ubiquitous and most villages had one. In Roman times, notaries were widely considered to be inferior to advocates and jury consults.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the onset of the Early Middle Ages, the legal profession of Western Europe collapsed. As James Brundage has explained: "[by 1140], no one in Western Europe could properly be described as a professional lawyer or a professional canonist in anything like the modern sense of the term 'professional.' "However, from 1150 onward, a small but increasing number of men became experts in canon law but only in furtherance of other occupational goals, such as serving the Roman Catholic Church as priests. From 1190 to 1230, however, there was a crucial shift in which some men began to practice canon law as a lifelong profession in itself.
The legal profession's return was marked by the renewed efforts of church and state to regulate it. In 1231 two French councils mandated that lawyers had to swear an oath of admission before practicing before the bishop's courts in their regions, and a similar oath was promulgated by the papal legate in London in 1237.During the same decade, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Frederick II, the king of the Kingdom of Sicily, imposed a similar oath in his civil courts. By 1250 the nucleus of a new legal profession had clearly formed. The new trend towards professionalization culminated in a controversial proposal at the Second Council of Lyon in 1275 that all ecclesiastical courts should require an oath of admission. Although not adopted by the council, it was highly influential in many such courts throughout Europe. The civil courts in England also joined the trend towards professionalization; in 1275 a statute was enacted that prescribed punishment for professional lawyers guilty of deceit, and in 1280 the mayor's court of the city of London promulgated regulations concerning admission procedures, including the administering of an oath. And in 1345, the French crown promulgated a royal ordinance which set forth 24 rules governing advocates, of which 12 were integrated into the oath to be taken by them.
The French medieval oaths were widely influential and of enduring importance; for example, they directly influenced the structure of the advocates' oath adopted by the Canton of Geneva in 1816.In turn, the 1816 Geneva oath served as the inspiration for the attorney's oath drafted by David Dudley Field as Section 511 of the proposed New York Code of Civil Procedure of 1848, which was the first attempt in the United States at a comprehensive statement of a lawyer's professional duties.
Generally speaking, the modern practice is for lawyers to avoid use of any title, although formal practice varies across the world.
Historically lawyers in most European countries were addressed with the title of doctor, and countries outside of Europe have generally followed the practice of the European country which had policy influence through colonization. The first university degrees, starting with the law school of the University of Bologna (or glossators) in the 11th century, were all law degrees and doctorates.Degrees in other fields did not start until the 13th century, but the doctor continued to be the only degree offered at many of the old universities until the 20th century. Therefore, in many of the southern European countries, including Portugal and Italy, lawyers have traditionally been addressed as “doctor,” a practice, which was transferred to many countries in South America and Macau. The term "doctor" has since fallen into disuse, although it is still a legal title in Italy and in use in many countries outside of Europe.
In French- (France, Quebec, Belgium, Luxembourg) and Dutch-speaking countries (Netherlands, Belgium), legal professionals are addressed as Maître ..., abbreviated to Me ... (in French) or Meester ..., abbreviated to mr. ... (in Dutch).
The title of doctor has never been used to address lawyers in England or other common law countries (with the exception of the United States). This is because until 1846 lawyers in England were not required to have a university degree and were trained by other attorneys by apprenticeship or in the Inns of Court.Since law degrees started to become a requirement for lawyers in England, the degree awarded has been the undergraduate LL.B. In South Africa holders of a law degree who have completed a year of pupillage and have been admitted to the bar may use the title "Advocate", abbreviated to "Adv" in written correspondence. Likewise, Italian law graduates who have qualified for the bar use the title "Avvocato", abbreviated in "Avv."
Even though most lawyers in the United States do not use any titles, the law degree in that country is the Juris Doctor, a professional doctorate degree,and some J.D. holders in the United States use the title of "Doctor" in professional and academic situations.
In countries where holders of the first law degree traditionally use the title of doctor (e.g. Peru, Brazil, Macau, Portugal, Argentina), J.D. holders who are attorneys will often use the title of doctor as well.It is common for English-language male lawyers to use the honorific suffix "Esq." (for "Esquire"). In the United States the style is also used by female lawyers.
In many Asian countries, holders of the Juris Doctor degree are also called "博士" (doctor).
In the Philippines and Filipino communities overseas, lawyers who are either Filipino or naturalized-citizen expatriates at work there, especially those who also profess other jobs at the same time, are addressed and introduced as either Attorney or Counselor (especially in courts), rather than Sir/Madam in speech or Mr./Mrs./Ms. (G./Gng./Bb. in Filipino) before surnames. That word is used either in itself or before the given name or surname.
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A Queen's Counsel, or King's Counsel during the reign of a king, is an eminent lawyer who is appointed by the monarch to be one of "Her Majesty's Counsel learned in the law." The term is recognised as an honorific. The position exists in some Commonwealth jurisdictions around the world, but other Commonwealth countries have either abolished the position, or re-named it to eliminate monarchical connotations, such as "Senior Counsel" or "Senior Advocate". Queen's Counsel is an office, conferred by the Crown, that is recognised by courts. Members have the privilege of sitting within the bar of court.
A bar association is a professional association of lawyers. Some bar associations are responsible for the regulation of the legal profession in their jurisdiction; others are professional organizations dedicated to serving their members; in many cases, they are both. In many Commonwealth jurisdictions, the bar association comprises lawyers who are qualified as barristers or advocates in particular, versus solicitors. Membership in bar associations may be mandatory or optional for practicing attorneys, depending on jurisdiction.
Legal education is the education of individuals in the principles, practices, and theory of law. It may be undertaken for several reasons, including to provide the knowledge and skills necessary for admission to legal practice in a particular jurisdiction, to provide a greater breadth of knowledge to those working in other professions such as politics or business, to provide current lawyers with advanced training or greater specialisation, or to update lawyers on recent developments in the law.
The call to the bar is a legal term of art in most common law jurisdictions where persons must be qualified to be allowed to argue in court on behalf of another party and are then said to have been "called to the bar" or to have received a "call to the bar". "The bar" is now used as a collective noun for barristers, but literally referred to the wooden barrier in old courtrooms, which separated the often crowded public area at the rear from the space near the judges reserved for those having business with the Court. Barristers would sit or stand immediately behind it, facing the judge, and could use it as a table for their briefs.
A paralegal is an individual who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency, or other entity and who performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. Paralegals perform tasks requiring knowledge of the law and legal procedures, but the exact nature of their work and limitations that the law places on the tasks they are allowed to undertake vary between nations and jurisdictions. A paralegal is not a lawyer but is typically employed by a law office or internal legal department of a company; paralegals are typically not allowed to offer legal services independently in most jurisdictions. Paralegals operate under a form of independent legal ethics, but with few exceptions must also typically conduct their work under the formal supervision of an attorney. In some jurisdictions, paralegals can conduct their own business and are called Law Agents, providing services such as settlements, court filings, legal research and other auxiliary legal services; these tasks often have instructions from a solicitor attached.
In law, the bar is the legal profession as an institution. The term is a metonym for the line that separates the parts of a courtroom reserved for spectators and those reserved for participants in a trial such as lawyers.
The Bachelor of Laws is an undergraduate degree in law originating in England and offered in Japan and most common law jurisdictions—except the United States and Canada—as the degree which allows a person to become a lawyer. It historically served this purpose in the U.S. as well, but was phased out in the mid-1960s in favor of the Juris Doctor degree, and Canada followed suit.
Legal ethics, principles of conduct that members of the legal profession are expected to observe in their practice. They are an outgrowth of the development of the legal profession itself.
A bar examination is an examination administered by a jurisdiction's bar association a lawyer needs to pass before being admitted to the bar of that jurisdiction.
Professional responsibility is the area of legal practice that encompasses the duties of attorneys to act in a professional manner, obey the law, avoid conflicts of interest, and put the interests of clients ahead of their own interests.
Legal profession is a profession, and legal professionals study, develop and apply law. Usually, there is a requirement for someone choosing a career in law to first obtain a law degree or some other form of legal education.
In Poland any person holding a Magister's degree in law is called "jurist" or "lawyer". The licensed legal professions are as follows:
Barristers in England and Wales are one of the two main categories of lawyer in England and Wales, the other being solicitors. Barristers have traditionally had the role of handling cases for representation in court, both defence and prosecution.
An admission to practice law is acquired when a lawyer receives a license to practice law. In jurisdictions with two types of lawyer, as with barristers and solicitors, barristers must gain admission to the bar whereas for solicitors there are distinct practising certificates.
The legal profession has its origins in ancient Greece and Rome. Although in Greece it was forbidden to take payment for pleading the cause of another, the rule was widely flouted. After the time of Claudius, lawyers could practise openly, although their remuneration was limited. A skilled and regulated profession developed gradually during the late Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire: advocates acquired more status, and a separate class of notaries (tabelliones) appeared.
Legal professions in England and Wales are divided between two distinct branches under the legal system, those of solicitors and barristers. Other legal professions in England and Wales include being judges, as well as the roles of Attorney-General, Solicitor-General, and Director of Public Prosecutions.