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Lawyers and Lying

  • March 06, 2020

Origins of the Legal Profession

‘Lawyers’ and ‘lying’ - closely connected, and often inseparable.

And, when I say ‘lying’, I mean ‘assuming a prostrate position’. I would never have meant anything else, of course.

The word ‘law’ and the verb ‘to lie’ actually share an etymological route, as Laws are, at their most basic level, a set of rules that are laid out. Even today this relationship can still be seen when we ‘lay down the law’ on rule-breakers.

The legal profession itself seems to be even older than the word itself. In Ancient Greece and Rome, during the period that is known academically as ‘way back when’, a person who found themselves in trouble with the law lex had to defend themselves – or get a friend to do it.

At the time it was against the ‘law’ to charge for these services but, of course, these proto-Lawyers paid little attention to the rules (Lawyers breaking the rules? Unimaginable today!). Then, with the reign of Claudius, the Legal profession was… Legalised.

With the fall of the Roman Empire came, too, the fall of the Legal profession. Not for too long, though. After c. 600 years it began to return as a recognisable profession – in the 13th Century we can see, in the increasingly common use of ‘oaths of admission’ across Europe, evidence of a professionalisation of Legal practitioners.

Despite the Black Death (thank goodness nothing like that is happening now), and many other obstacles along the way, the Legal profession has survived and became an inescapable reality of modern life – to the relief of many and, no doubt, the chagrin of others.

Looking back can often serve to remind us not only how things came about, but why. It’s interesting to see that, in the early days, pro bono was the modus operandi and that fee-earning was the unusual (and illegal) way of doing things.

What does that say about the development of the Legal Profession? Do we reflect enough on the morality making profit in Law?

Tune in next time as we move from History to Economics and explore the meaning behind the money – in an article that would make Adam Smith pull this face - *blog artwork*.

Written by Recruitment Consultant - Olly Rogers (