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THE EMERGENCE OF ATTORNEYS

The emergence and history of attorneys and the legal profession have long fascinated scholars in history, law, and sociology (Grillo et al., 2009). In preliterate societies, as noted in Chapter 2, custom and law coincided, and these societies had no lawyers as we think of lawyers today. Although some such societies had the equivalent ofjudicial trials, defendants were not typically represented by a “lawyer.” Instead, each individual was her or his own “lawyer,” and everyone more or less knew the law, because they knew the society’s customs. Although some individuals were probably wiser than others and more skilled in social affairs, these attributes were not considered as legal attributes per se.

As societies became larger and more complex, formal legal systems developed, and so did the legal profession. This profession’s origins go back to ancient Rome (Brundage, 2010). Initially, Roman law allowed individuals to argue cases on behalf of others; however, those persons were trained not in law but in rhetoric. They were called orators and were not allowed to take legal fees. Later on, by Cicero’s time, there were jurists as well—individuals who were knowledgeable about the law and to whom people went for legal opinions.

They were called juris prudentes, but these men learned in the law did not yet constitute a profession. Only during the Imperial Period, which began about 27 B.C., did lawyers begin to practice law for a living and schools of law emerge. By this time, the law had become exceedingly complex in Rome, and this complexity made the Roman lawyer indispensable.

By the Middle Ages, the lawyer had three functions—agent, advocate, and jurisconsult (Jeffery, 1962). The word attorney originally meant an agent, a person who acts or appears on behalf of someone else. In this role of agent, the lawyer appeared in court to handle legal matters in place of the client. In ancient Athens and Rome, an agent was allowed to appear in the place of another person. In France, however, clients had to appear in court themselves, and in England, they needed special permission from the king to be represented in court by an agent. In France, by 1356, there were 105 legistes (men of law) representing clients in court (Jacoby, 1973:14).

 
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