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Although Jews were noted advocates at Brighegua near Toledo, Spain, as early as 1436, and though converted Jews were prominent lawyers in South America in the 17th century, Jews were generally prevented from practicing law in most of the countries in which they settled until early in the 19th century. In some countries their exclusion was based on the belief that law was largely ecclesiastical law and hence unsuitable for non-Christians, as was argued in Austria, while in many other countries it was believed that membership of the legal profession was a mark of distinction not to be conferred on an alien race to whom citizenship and political rights had not been granted. The very reasons that caused their exclusion acted as a spur to Jews to seek admission to the legal profession. On the one hand the study of law had been a tradition among Jews, while the very fact that membership of the legal profession, like the medical profession, was a mark of distinction, and encouraged Jews who wished to integrate to become lawyers. But many young Jews, who would otherwise have been refused admission to university, converted to Christianity in order to study law, and others converted later so as to be allowed to practice. The result was that many of the Jews who set out to become lawyers in order to become accepted to Christian society found it necessary to become Christians before they could be accepted as lawyers. Nevertheless, the attraction of the profession remained considerable. As a lawyer the Jew was able to earn enough money to haul himself out of the ghetto environment which had become anachronistic in the age of Enlightenment. At the same time he was given an independent means of livelihood, not reliant upon a non-Jewish employer.

In most countries Jews were permitted to practice law at about the time they were granted civil rights. The first Jewish lawyer in the Hapsburg dominions, Raphael *Joel, was granted a doctorate of law a few years after the Edict of Toleration was issued in 1782. Jews became lawyers in Holland and Italy when the French conquest of those countries brought with it the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity, and in Russia Jews were finally admitted to the bar in 1904 as a sop to the liberal elements. Only in the United States and in the British colonies, where Jews always enjoyed civil rights, were they able to practice law without hindrance.

Not surprisingly, the legal work in which Jewish lawyers engaged varied according to the circumstances of the Jews in the countries in which they lived. In Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution and in Poland until World War ii, a number of Jewish lawyers were engaged in cases arising out of the persecution of Jews, such as the Odessa pogrom of 1871, in which Alexander *Passover was one of several Jewish lawyers to represent the victims in compensation claims and when Leib Landau represented Jewish victims in the Polish city of Przedecz after antisemitic excesses there. In the United States, where the Jews as a minority had an interest in the protection of the individual by the maintenance of civil liberties, Jewish lawyers were prominent in civil rights cases, among them Louis *Marshall and Arthur Garfield *Hays, each of whom was prominent in the defense of Jews and non-Jews alike.

In Germany and Austria, on the other hand, where assimilation into Christian society was a sine qua non of success in the legal profession, virtually no Jewish lawyers, apart from Gabriel *Riesser, could be said to have professionally concerned themselves with the interests of Jews nor, particularly, with questions of civil liberties. In these countries Jewish lawyers were involved in developing the philosophy of law by the writing of learned texts. Thus Paul *Laband and Georg Jellinek in Germany, and Julius *Ofner and Emil *Steinbach and others in Austria, were pioneers of social legislation. Their work was directed not toward the benefit of individuals but to the improvement of the political system, for they admired the legal institutions of the countries in which they lived and were anxious to develop and improve them.

In the British Empire, where discrimination against Jewish lawyers was considerably less than in most European countries, Jews advanced easily in all branches of the profession and a relatively large number held judicial posts. In South Africa alone, 11 Jews were appointed judges between 1945 and 1970, while in Australia two Jews served as chief justices of the High Court of Western Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria. In addition, Sir Sidney *Abrahams was chief justice of Uganda (1933–34), Tanganyika (1934–36), and Ceylon (1936–39) and Sir Victor Elyan (1909– ) was chief justice of Swaziland (1965–70).

Yet, though they were denied the right to practice law in most states until the 19th century and though they suffered from legal and social discrimination thereafter, Jews turned to the legal profession in large numbers in Western countries. After World War ii, Jews in the United States, France, and England constituted a very high proportion of all the lawyers in the respective capital cities. In Eastern countries, however, they were not generally prominent, because the Muslim countries never granted Jews the civil equality which they eventually won in the West. Nevertheless, Salomon Bensabat was appointed High Court judge in Morocco, Mison Ventura (1883–?) became professor of Roman law at the University of Istanbul, and Alfred Chatzner was a High Court judge in India. Ezekiel Ezekiel was a leading advocate at the Bombay bar. Another outstanding Jewish lawyer was Naim *Zilkha who was deputy president of the Beirut Court of Appeals and later president of the civil court in Diyala Province, Iraq.

One other notable feature of the Jewish involvement in law was the large number of Jews prominent in the field of international law. Sir Hersch *Lauterpacht became judge of the International Court of Justice at The Hague and edited the standard textbook on international law written by a German Jew, Lassa *Oppenheim. Among other Jews who influenced the development of international law were Tobias *Asser, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the legal theorists Hans *Kelsen and Julius *Stone. Jews also served as legal advisers to the foreign ministries of various states, notably the United States, Britain, Holland, and Poland and held chairs in international law at most of the European universities. Various theories have been postulated for their prominence in this branch of the law. One influential factor would seem to be that Jews wandered from land to land and were rarely attached to any particular system of law for long periods of time.


There were no restrictions on Jews practicing law in Australia and a number of Jews held high positions in the legal profession in the 19th century. Among the first Jewish lawyers in Australia was Sir Julian *Salomons, one of many to study law in England. He was admitted to the Sydney bar in 1861, rose to become solicitor-general of New South Wales, and in 1886 was appointed chief justice. Three other Jewish lawyers from New South Wales attained prominence: Henry Cohen (1840–1912), who was a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 1896 to 1911, Sir Daniel *Levy, who became speaker of the New South Wales Parliament in 1919, and Alroy Cohen, qc. In Victoria, Samuel Leon, qc became crown prosecutor and Pharez Phillips and Theodore *Fink were lawyers who became prominent figures in Australian politics.

After World War i, the number of Jewish lawyers in Australia decreased, despite an increase in the Jewish population. Nevertheless, several Jews held important legal posts, among them Judge J.J. Cohen of the New South Wales bench, Henry I. Cohen, attorney-general of Victoria, and Louis Braham, president of the Law Institute of Australia. Most illustrious of all was Sir Isaac *Isaacs who was made acting chief justice of the High Court of Australia in 1927 and chief justice from 1930 until 1931 when he became governor-general of Australia. Following World War ii there was a marked increase in the number of Jews in the legal profession and some achieved considerable distinction, among them Sir Albert Wolff (1899–1977), chief justice of Western Australia from 1959 to 1969; Elias Coppel (1896–?), acting chief justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria and the author of a standard work on the law of sale; and three judges of the Supreme Court of New South Wales – Bernard Sugerman, David Selby, and Simon Isaacs. In addition several Jews were made queen's counsel, their number including Sir Phillip Phillips, chairman of the Royal Commission on Liquor in Victoria, Joan Rosanove, an eminent woman lawyer, Senator Sam *Cohen, deputy leader of the Australian Labour Party, and Maurice *Ashkanasy.

In the early part of the 21st century, five Jews sat on Australia's Appeals Courts, but none on the High Court of Australia, the country's supreme court.

Three Jews achieved distinction as professors of law. Julius Stone was professor of jurisprudence at the University of Sydney and an internationally renowned authority on jurisprudence and international law, Zelman *Cowen was dean of the faculty of law at the University of Melbourne, and later served as Australia's governor-general, and Louis Waller (1935– ) was professor of law at Monash University.

[Isidor Solomon]


Until the Edict of Toleration was issued in 1782 by Emperor Joseph ii, Jews were unable to enter university and, therefore, to practice law or any other learned profession. Following promulgation of the edict, Raphael Joel, a native of western Bohemia, entered Prague University and after considerable debate was permitted to take a doctorate of civil law. Previously, only Jews who had already converted to Christianity were allowed to become lawyers, the most prominent of them being Joseph von Sonnenfels (1732–1817), who worked for the abolition of torture and the limitation of capital punishment. The outstanding Jewish lawyer in Austria of the 19th century was Wolfgang *Wessely, who was the first Jew to become a full university professor in Austria and was responsible for the introduction of the jury system. However, the right of Jews to hold legal posts remained in doubt until the constitution of 1867 granted the Jews legal civic equality with the rest of the population. The benefits granted to the Jews by the 1867 constitution were largely the result of the work of Heinrich Jacques (1831–1894), a Viennese lawyer and politician, who campaigned for the removal of restrictions against the Jews in his book Denkschrift ueber die Stellung der Juden in Oesterreich (18594), which attracted considerable attention. Although Jews were given legal equality by the 1867 constitution, they were deprived of practical equality because of widespread social and professional discrimination which could not be removed simply by a change in the law. Many Jews converted to Christianity, believing that conversion was a small price to pay for a major part in the development of the united Hapsburg Empire which they regarded as the model open society in Europe. Among the converts were Julius *Glaser, regarded as the father of Austrian criminal procedure, who became minister of justice, and Joseph Unger, who was later president of the Reichsgericht. Glaser and Unger were responsible for an outstanding collection of judgments of the Austrian Supreme Court and were recognized as the foremost figures in 19th-century Austrian law. Their conversion to Christianity estranged them no more from Judaism than other prominent Austrian-Jewish lawyers, such as Julius Ofner, who worked for the enactment of social legislation in parliament, Emil Steinbach, another pioneer of social legislation, who became president of the Supreme Court after converting to Christianity, and Franz Klein who twice served as minister of justice.

Jewish lawyers in Austria-Hungary won a reputation during the 19th century as a force for unity and stability in the Empire, coupled with a passion for social and legislative reform. In the 20th century Jews were responsible for major treatises on Austrian civil law. Armin Ehrenzweig (1864–1935) was the author of System des Oesterreichischen Allgemeinen Privatrechts (1925), Horace Krasnopolski (1842–1908) produced a complete textbook of Austrian civil law which was published after his death by Bruno *Kafka, and Joseph Schey von Koromla, who was a member of the Commission for the Revision of the Civil Code, was largely responsible for additions to the Code. An outstanding textbook on Austrian civil law was Heinrich *Klang's Kommentar zum Allgemeinen Buergerlichen Gesetzbuch (1931–35), edited jointly with nine leading Jewish lawyers. In addition, several Austrian Jews also achieved distinction as commercial lawyers, among them Karl Samuel Grunhut (1844–1929) and Oskar Pisko (1876–1939), while Walther *Rode, Ernst Lohsing (1874–1942), and Hugo Sperber were prominent campaigners for criminal law reform. Nevertheless, dissatisfaction with the federal order of Austrian society led Austro-Jewish lawyers toward separatism, nationalism, and Jewish minority protection. Eventually, a group of international lawyers joined Hans *Kelsen to form the Vienna School of Jurisprudence, which rejected the dualist legal system of the Hapsburg Empire and advocated a pluralistic legal system subject to supraordinated international law. However, it was the advent of Fascism and the Nazi invasion of the various territories that formed the Austro-Hungarian Empire that finally brought to an end the Jewish legal activity in Austria. No less than the Austrian aristocracy, Austrian Jewry was a belated victim of the disappearance of the Hapsburg monarchy.

[Josef J. Lador-Lederer]


Jews were not prominent in the legal profession in Canada in the 19th century and no Jews served as judges until 1914 when Samuel *Shultz was appointed county court judge in British Columbia. No other Jew held a judicial position in Canada before 1929, with the exception of Jacob Cohen, a Toronto magistrate from 1918 to 1930. While a disproportionate number of Jews were drawn to study law, for much of the first half of the 20th century Jewish lawyers felt the sting of prejudice and the possibility of advancement within the profession was severely limited. Often denied admission to mainstream law firms, Jewish lawyers were forced to practice on their own or join largely Jewish law firms that formed in centers of Jewish population concentration. In 1931 there were 351 Jewish lawyers in Canada, most in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg.

After World War ii, there was a steady increase in the number of Jews who were given judicial posts, among them the first Jew to be appointed to a superior court when Harry Bradshaw was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court in 1950. Benjamin Robinson and Harry Blumenstein also served on the Quebec Superior Court. A number of Jews were appointed to provincial Supreme Courts since the 1960s. Abraham Lieff was made judge of the Ontario Supreme Court, Nathan *Nemetz was raised to the British Columbia Supreme Court, and Justin Louis Dubinsky was appointed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in 1967. Samuel *Freedman was named chief justice of the province of Manitoba in 1971, and in 1970 Bora *Laskin, who was previously a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, was appointed the first Jewish justice of the Supreme Court of Canada by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and in 1973 he was made chief justice of Canada.

The appointment of a Jew as chief justice of Canada signaled the unequivocal acceptance of Jews in the Canadian legal establishment. As barriers to Jews in the legal profession crumbled, and Jewish lawyers became partners in the large firms, Jewish appointments to the Bench no longer raised eyebrows. Jews, men and women, are to be found on the faculty of every major law school in Canada and a number have served as deans. By 2004, there were two Jewish judges among the nine judges on the Supreme Court of Canada, Morris Fish of Montreal (appointed in 2003) and Rosalie Silberman *Abella (appointed in 2004), and a Jew, Irwin *Cotler, was Canada's minister of justice.

[Stuart E. Rosenberg /

Richard Menkis and

Harold Troper (2nd ed.)]


The first Jew known to have been a lawyer in England was Francis *Goldsmid, who was called to the bar in 1883 and who, when swearing the oath, omitted the words on "the true faith of a Christian" which at the time were required for all public offices. Subsequently, a steadily increasing number of Jews were admitted as lawyers, though discrimination against them remained for many years afterwards. Indeed, until World War ii, only a small number of Jews entered law, commensurate with the low percentage of Jews in the total population. Nevertheless, several Jewish lawyers acquired great distinction. Sir George *Jessel was the first Jew in England to be made a judge. He later held the title of Master of the Rolls and was later recognized as one of the chief architects of the modern law of equity. Other prominent Jewish lawyers of the 19th century were Jacob *Waley, Judah P. *Benjamin, Arthur *Cohen, and Sir George *Lewis (1833–1911). The greatest Jewish advocate at the English bar was Rufus Isaacs, later Lord *Reading, who became successively attorney general and lord chief justice, the only Jew to hold these coveted offices.

Nevertheless, the influence of Jews in English law remained slight until after World War ii, when the legal profession (especially the solicitorial branch) attracted a disproportionately high percentage of Jews. By 1970 there were six Jewish High Court judges (Lord Cohen of *Walmer, Sir Cyril *Salmon, Sir Seymour *Karminski, Sir Alan *Mocatta, Sir Sebag Shaw (1906–1982), and Sir Philip Wien (1913–1981)) and more than one solicitor in ten in the major cities was a Jew. The sharp increase in the number of Jewish lawyers was largely the result of a general liberalization of a profession which had previously been socially exclusive. Nevertheless, few of the large or most prominent legal firms had Jewish members and the fear that the profession would be swamped by Jews proved unfounded. Among distinguished Jewish advocates were Bertram B. *Benas, who practiced at the bar for over 60 years, Rose *Heilbron, the first woman in Britain to become a queen's counsel, Neville *Laski, Bernard Gillis (1905–1996), and Joseph Jackson (1924–1987), editor of the standard textbook on divorce. Two Jews, Arthur *Diamond and Sir Jack Jacob (1908–2000), became well-known as masters of the Supreme Court. In recent years many Jews have served on the British Bench, including two lord chief justices, Lord *Taylor and Lord *Woolf. John Cooper's Pride vs. Prejudice: Jewish Doctors and Lawyers in England, 18901990 (2003), is a detailed and deeply researched account of Jews in these two professions and the obstacles they faced, which concludes that, in general, Jews faced little significant antisemitism.

[George Julius Webber /

William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]

university teachers

Jews were not prominent as law lecturers in Britain before World War ii but after 1945 their number increased rapidly. Some of the outstanding Jewish professors of law were immigrants from Germany, many of whom specialized in the field of international law. Among those who achieved distinction as professors of public international law were Lassa Oppenheim and Sir Hersch *Lauterpacht at Cambridge and Georg Schwarzenberger of University College, London. Professors of private international law included Otto Kahn-Freund (d. 1979), who later became professor of comparative law at Oxford, Martin Wolff, Frederick Mann, E.J. Cohn, and Josef *Unger. Two Jews were reputed professors of Roman law – H.F. Jolowicz who was professor of Roman law for 30 years, first in London and then at Oxford, and Raphael Powell. Other Jewish academic lawyers of distinction included A.L. *Goodhart, the first Jewish master of an Oxford college, David *Daube, professor of civil law at Oxford, and Clare Palley who in 1970 was the first woman to be made professor of law.

[George Julius Webber]


Jews were not allowed to practice law in France until 1791. In that year they were given the right to French citizenship and a large measure of civil equality. Nevertheless, it was not until late in the 19th century that Jews became prominent in the three branches of the legal profession, the bar, the bench, and the universities. One of the first Jewish lawyers in France was Adolphe *Crémieux who was admitted to the bar in 1817 and successfully refused to take the humiliating more judaico oath which had previously been obligatory for all Jews. He was minister of justice on three occasions and the first Jew in France to hold this post. Other prominent lawyers were Louis Loew (1828–1917), who became an imperial public prosecutor in 1861 and later president of the criminal division of the Cour de Cassation, Leonce Lehman (1836–1892), secretary-general of the ministry of justice under Crémieux, and Frederick Reitlinger (1836–1910), a German advocate who immigrated to France and was the author of a standard work on cooperative societies. Other Jews achieved distinction as jurists including Charles *Lyon-Caen, professor of law at the University of Paris for nearly half a century and the leading authority on commercial law, Emile Worms (1838–1912), professor of law at the University of Rennes and the author of numerous works on constitutional and fiscal law, and André Weiss (1858–1928), professor of international and civil law at Dijon University and the legal adviser to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There was a sharp increase in the number of Jewish lawyers at the beginning of the 20th century and several were appointed judges, among them Jules Valabrègue (1843–1925), president of the Paris Court of Appeals from 1906 to 1913. Valabrègue was one of the four Jews appointed to the Conseil d'Etat during this period; the others were André *Spire, Paul Grunebaum-Ballin, and Léon *Blum. Nevertheless, Jews were not generally appointed to top positions in the legal profession and only a few won fame as advocates, such as Henry *Torrès through his successful defense of Shalom *Schwarzbard, or held top university posts, as René *Cassin and Henri Lévi-Ullman. After World War ii the number of Jewish lawyers continued to increase and by 1970 it was estimated that 25% of the lawyers at the Paris bar and more than 10% of the law lecturers at Paris University were Jews. In 1945, Cassin was president of the Conseil d'Etat, the first Jew to hold this position. Charles Eisenmann and Prosper Weil, professors of public law, and Lyon-Caen and Sinay, professors of labor law, were noted jurists.

[Claude Klein]


Although Jews were permitted to study medicine at German universities from the beginning of the 18th century, they were prevented from studying law until early in the 19th century. They were not allowed to practice law in some German states, such as Prussia, until after the Revolution of 1848. Thereafter, Jews found considerable obstacles in the way of their holding senior legal posts as judges, advocates, or university professors, and while many attempted to overcome discrimination by converting to Christianity, some Jewish lawyers of Germany achieved distinction by their writings on commercial, public, and international law without holding any formal legal position.

One of the first Jewish lawyers in Germany was Eduard *Gans, who was appointed lecturer in jurisprudence at Berlin University in 1820. He was made full professor in 1828, shortly after his conversion to Christianity. Gans was succeeded at Berlin by Friedrich Julius *Stahl, another converted Jew, and the first professing Jew to become professor of law at a German university was Heinrich *Dernburg, who was appointed to the chair of law at the University of Halle in 1862 and later became professor of Roman and Prussian law in Berlin.

The first Jewish judge in Germany was Hermann Makower, who was made an assistant judge of the Berlin Municipal Court in 1857. Three years later Gabriel Riesser became the first Jewish High Court judge when he was appointed to the Hamburg bench. Riesser's judgeship was particularly significant since he had at one time been refused a license to practice law because he was Jewish and had subsequently conducted a campaign for Jewish emancipation. Levin *Goldschmidt, professor of commercial law at the University of Heidelberg, became a judge of the commercial court and in 1887 Jacob *Behrend became the first Jewish judge of the German Supreme Court. In addition, Hermann *Staub and Theodor Loewenfeld (1848–1919) were among the first Jews to become prominent at the German bar, Siegfried Sommer and Albert Mosse (1846–1925) were the first Jewish Superior Court judges in Prussia, and Nathan Stein (1859–1927) was made president of the Mannheim district court in 1914, the first Jewish president of a court in Germany.

Nevertheless, few Jews were successful in obtaining senior judicial appointments in the German Empire and many sought professorial positions at German universities. Even toward the latter part of the century, however, discrimination still existed against Jews. Thus Hugo *Preuss, an authority on constitutional law, waited 36 years before the University of Berlin granted him a professorship. Preuss became chairman of the committee which drafted the Weimar constitution after 1918 and was one of four Jewish constitutional lawyers whose writings were to influence the form of the Weimar constitution, the others being Paul *Laband, author of the standard text Das Staatsrecht des Deutschen Reiches (3 vols., 1876–82), Georg Jellinek, and Adolphe *Arndt. Other notable Jewish professors, all of whom converted to Christianity, included Ferdinand Frensdorf (1833–1931), an authority on legal history, Edgar Loening (1843–1919), professor of constitutional and international law, and his brother, Richard Loening (1848–1903), who was professor of criminal law at the University of Jena for more than 20 years.

The end of the German Empire and the formation of the Weimar Republic brought about the end of all restrictions on Jews holding legal posts in the legal profession in Germany. Jewish lawyers found the profession highly lucrative in the period of rampant inflation during the early 1920s. The percentage of Jewish lawyers in practice was well in excess of the proportion of Jews to the general population (by 1932 the number was estimated at 20% of the total number of lawyers) and some became prominent advocates. Otto *Landsberg was minister of justice. Max Hachenburg was president of the Mannheim bar association. Albert Pinner (1857–1933) and Albrecht Mendelssohn-Bartholdy were German counsel at the Permanent Court of International Justice. After 1918 there was a sharp increase in the number of Jewish judges in Germany. Cohn and Citron were made Supreme Court judges and Alfred Orgler was a member of the Prussian Supreme Court. There was an even larger increase in the number of Jewish jurists. Hermann *Kantorowicz, Arthur *Nussbaum, professor of law at the University of Berlin, and Hans *Kelsen, professor of international law at the University of Cologne, were among many Jews to hold university chairs in law. They were obliged to leave their posts after 1933 and later held professorial posts at universities in the United States.

The Nazi rise to power led to the gradual elimination of Jewish lawyers from the legal profession. All judges and law professors were removed from their posts in 1933 but it was not until December 1935 that Jews were forbidden to practice law. After World War ii there was a small number of Jewish lawyers in Germany, most of whom were involved in reparations cases. Josef Neuberger (1902–1977) was minister of justice in North-Rhineland and Westphalia but few other Jews held senior posts on the bench or in the universities. By 1970 it was estimated that there were fewer than 50 Jews in private practice in Germany.

[Robert M.W. Kempner]


Restrictions on Jews practicing law in Hungary were removed by legislation at the end of the 1850s allowing Jews to engage in all professions. Nevertheless, as in Austria, the advancement of Jews in the legal profession was beset by religious prejudices and many converted to Christianity to further their careers. One of the first Jewish lawyers in Hungary was Izidor Baumgarten (1850–1914) who became a judge in Budapest in 1886 and was made district attorney for Budapest in 1896. His brother Károly Baumgarten (1853–1913), the first Jewish Supreme Court judge, was appointed in 1892. Several other Jews held judicial posts during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, among them Hugo Beck (1843–1928), Dezső Márkus (1862–1912), and Béla Gallia (1870–1954), who were appointed to the Supreme Court, and Sigismund Decsey, who was made a judge of the Royal Court in Budapest in 1895. On the other hand, Jews did not generally hold professorships at Hungarian universities; an exception was Gustave Schwarz (1858–1920), who became professor of Roman law at the University of Budapest.

During World War iVilmos *Vázsonyi became minister of justice. He was one of three Jewish lawyers whose career at the bar paved the way for his political advancement – the others being Lipót *Vadász and Soma Visontai. Following Hungary's defeat in war and the failure of the Communist revolution, the Jews underwent organized persecution and Jewish judges and law professors were demoted. Tibor Lőw (1873–1942) was unique in his appointment as chief judge of the Court of Appeals and even he was obliged to retire following the nazification of Hungarian society in the late 1930s. Eventually, Jews were debarred from practicing law altogether and during World War ii Jewish lawyers were removed from the judiciary and government service. After the war all restrictions on Jews practicing law were once again removed but only a small number could practice under the Communist regime, and none held top posts as judges or professors.


The emancipation of the Jews in Italy was completed in 1870 with the emancipation of the Jews of Rome in that year. Jews rapidly acquired prominence as jurists and professors of law but very few achieved fame as advocates or judges despite the fact that there was no legal barrier to their doing so. A notable exception was Lodovico *Mortara, who became successively attorney general, public prosecutor, president of the Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione), and minister of justice.

One of the first Jews in Italy to hold a chair in law was Cesare *Vivante, who became professor of commercial law at the University of Parma in 1882 at the age of 27. Vivante was the founder of the modern Italian school for the study of commercial law and the author of a standard work on commercial law, Istituzioni di diritto (1891, 1935). Other prominent professors of commercial law included Leone Bolaffio (1848–1940), who helped Vivante prepare Annuario critico della Giurisprudenza commerciale, a yearbook on commercial law, D. Subino (1850–1937), who founded and edited the review Diritto Commerciale, and A. Graziani, who wrote a manual of commercial law. A number of Italian Jews became prominent as legal historians, including Vittorio *Colorni, who, in his major work, Legge Ebraica e Leggi Locali (1945), traced the application of Jewish law in Italy from Roman times; Gino *Segre, who for 20 years was professor of Roman law at the University of Turin; Edoardo *Volterra, who was professor of Roman law at four Italian universities; and A. Lattes (1858–1940), who was an authority on maritime law.

After World War i Jews held law chairs at almost every Italian university at a time when in other European countries a Jewish professor of law was unusual. Some of them were active in Jewish affairs, such as Mario *Falco, professor of ecclesiastical law at the University of Milan and a strong Zionist, Cino *Vitta, professor of administrative law in Florence and president of the Florence Jewish community, and Guido *Tedeschi, who immigrated to Israel and became professor of civil law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1938 antisemitic laws were promulgated which prohibited Jews from holding university posts and within a year all the Jewish law professors were removed, among them Vitta, Volterra, Segre, *Ascarelli, Frederico *Cammeo, Colorni, and Mario Falco. After 1945, however, many of them returned to their posts: Volterra became rector of the University of Bologna in 1947, Ascarelli was appointed professor of commercial law at the University of Rome, and Angelo Pierre Sereni returned to the chair of international law at the University of Ferrara.

In the assimilated milieu of Italian Jewish society there was no typically Jewish contribution to Italian law. Nevertheless, it has been said that "every Jewish lawyer (in Italy) had his personal note, original and strong, that never was lost, but on the contrary, sometimes caused an innovation or modification in old rooted concepts" (G. Bedarida, Ebrei d'Italia (1950), 171ff.).

[Alfredo Mordechai Rabello]


Although Jews were permitted to study and practice medicine from the 17th century, they were not allowed to become lawyers until after the conquest of Holland by France in 1795 and the formation of the Batavian Republic. The first Jew to be formally admitted into the legal profession was Jonas *Meyer, who later became a court magistrate in Amsterdam and secretary of the government committee to draft a new Dutch constitution. Two other prominent Jewish lawyers of this period were Moses *Asser and his son Carel, the former being procurator in Amsterdam and one of the draftsmen of the first Dutch commercial code, and the latter secretary-general of the Ministry of Justice from 1815 to 1836. During the course of the 19th century several other Jews achieved prominence as lawyers in Holland. Joel Emanuel *Goudsmit, appointed to the chair of Roman law at Leyden in 1858, was the first Jewish professor of law in Holland; Michael *Godefroi was made minister of justice in 1860, the first of four Jews in Dutch history to hold this post. Two other Jewish lawyers became judges: Carel Asser (1843–1908) was a judge of the Hague District Court and later professor of civil law at Leyden and Aaron Adolf de *Pinto, who was largely responsible for the Netherlands Penal Code of 1886, was vice president of the Supreme Court. Most distinguished of all was Tobias *Asser who was successively professor of international law, legal advisor to the foreign ministry, and a chairman of the government committee for international law. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1911. Tobias Asser was one of two distinguished Dutch Jewish international lawyers, the other being Jacques *Oppenheim who held the chair of international law at Leyden.

At the end of the 19th century the number of prominent Jewish lawyers in Holland was disproportionately large in relation to the total number of Jews. The trend was continued into the 20th century when Jewish judges in Holland included Lodewijk *Visser and Moritz *Polak, both of whom were appointed to the Supreme Court, and two of Polak's sons, Nico and Jacques, who were District Court judges. Eduard van *Raalte was appointed minister of justice in 1905. Daniel Jitta, professor of law at the University of Amsterdam, and Eduard *Meyers, professor of law at Leyden for 40 years, were two outstanding jurists. Few Jewish lawyers survived the Holocaust to practice after World War ii, yet two Jews rose to become ministers of justice during this period – Ivo *Samkalden was appointed twice, in 1956 and in 1965, and Carel Polak, a third son of Moritz Polak, served from 1968.


Before Polish independence in 1918 there were very few Jewish lawyers in those parts of Austria, Prussia, and Russia which now form the territory of modern Poland. Jews in Russian Poland were generally refused permission to practice as lawyers until 1904, when restrictions on Jewish lawyers were annulled, while in Austrian and Prussian Poland, Jews tended to move to the large cities, such as Vienna and Berlin, where they had better facilities to study and practice. A curious exception was Edward Rittner (b. 1845) who became professor of ecclesiastical law at the University of Lemberg, and after converting to Christianity became secretary of state for Galicia.

Following Polish independence in 1918 Jews were granted equal rights to practice law, but severe discrimination existed both as regards the status of Jews in the profession generally and in their appointment to higher legal posts at the bar or in the judiciary. By 1931 nearly half of all Poland's lawyers were Jews and in areas where there was a large Jewish concentration, the figure was much higher. As legal costs rose lawyers' earnings dropped steadily and the Polish bar saw the persecution of Jewish lawyers as a way of recouping their losses. Restrictions on the right of Jews to hold certain legal posts were introduced and measures were taken to reduce the number of Jews who could enter the profession. Nevertheless, a few Jews did succeed: Grzegerz Glass (1864–1929) became a district court judge from 1918 until his death; Mauryey Allerhand (1863–1942) represented Poland in disputes before the Permanent Court of International Justice in The Hague; and Jan Jakub Litauer became a judge of the Supreme Court. A number of Jewish lawyers such as Waclaw Brokman (1879–1943), Leib *Landau, and Leon *Berenson, acquired prominence as defense counsel in political trials and defended Jews who were the victims of antisemitic attacks. The formation of the Communist Polish People's Republic at the end of World War ii brought about the end of discriminatory practices against Jewish lawyers, whose number had fallen steeply as a result of the Holocaust. Several became university professors, among them Jan Jakub Litauer, who was professor of civil procedure at the University of Lodz, Jerzy *Sawicky, professor of criminal law at Warsaw University, Marion *Muszkat, professor of international law at Warsaw University, and Manfred *Lachs, who was professor of law at the Polish Academy in Warsaw. Two other outstanding lawyers were Stefan Kurowski (1898–1959), chief representative of Poland at the *Nuremberg tribunal for Nazi war crimes, and Leon Chajn, deputy minister of justice from 1945 to 1949. In 1967 Manfred Lachs was appointed Polish judge to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.


Before 1864 there were no lawyers in Russia within the modern meaning of the word. Parties were represented by pleaders, of whom a few, such as Osip *Rabinovitch, were Jewish, but there were no Jews among the judges who were drawn exclusively from the aristocracy. The 1864 reform of the legal system brought about the institution of lawyers and did not exclude Jews from being either advocates or judges. There were various limitations, however, on their right to hold senior legal posts. One of the first Jewish lawyers in Russia was Alexander Passover, who graduated from Moscow University in 1861 shortly after the lifting of restrictions on Jews studying in Russian universities. Denied a professorship because of his refusal to renounce Judaism, he was nevertheless admitted to the Odessa bar in 1871, and represented Jewish victims of the Odessa pogroms of that year. Mark Dillon (1843–1903), also a graduate of Moscow University, was one of the first Jewish judges in czarist Russia, but was refused promotion to a post in the higher courts. However, he was given a special permit to practice at the bar and became a leading advocate. Another Jewish judge was Jacob *Teitel, who served as judge of the district court of Saratov. A number of Jewish lawyers entered the government service where for many years prejudice had been less marked. Thus Arnold Dumashevsky (1836–1887) became a senior official in the Ministry of Justice as a result of his work on a committee for reforming the legislation of Poland and he was made first secretary of the third department of the Senate. Jacob Halperin (1840–1914) was an official in the Ministry of Justice for more than 40 years, Herman Trachtenberg (1839–1895) was rewarded for his work as a lawyer in government service by being appointed an honorary justice of the peace for the St. Petersburg district, and Gregori Verblovski (c. 1840–1900) was a first secretary of the St. Petersburg and Moscow circuit courts. An outstanding figure was Karl Bernstein (1842–1894), who immigrated to Germany, became professor of Roman law at Berlin University in 1887, and was responsible for teaching Russian students sent to Berlin to study law by the czarist government.

In 1889 the minister of justice presented a request to the czar that Jewish applicants for a license to practice law obtain a special permit from the minister. He justified the request on the grounds that there were so many Jewish lawyers that there was a danger that they might "contaminate the purity of the profession." The czar agreed to the request, with the result that for 15 years no Jews were given licenses to practice. At the same time many established lawyers were prevented from appearing in court even though in some cases they were already accepted as distinguished jurists. Thus Maxim *Vinaver, editor of the important law review Vestnik Prava, Henry Sliosberg, an adviser on administrative law to the minister of the interior, and Alexander *Goldenweiser, the author of several works on criminal responsibility, all had the status of lawyers' clerks. In 1904 the restrictions on Jews practicing law were eased and a large number took up practice in the large cities – Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Odessa – though many were granted the rank of assistant attorneys only. An outstanding figure of this period was Oscar *Grusenberg who was defense counsel at a number of celebrated political trials. In 1917, following the February Revolution, all remaining restrictions were removed and four Jews, Maxim Vinaver, Herman *Blumenfeld, Grusenberg, and B. Gurevich, became judges of the Supreme Court.

Immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution Isaac Nachman *Steinberg, a leader of the left Socialist Revolutionaries, became people's commissar for justice in Lenin's first coalition government which comprised left Socialist Revolutionaries. No formal restrictions were placed in the way of Jewish lawyers in the Soviet Union and many held high academic posts in Soviet universities in the 1920s; among them were Magaziner, Goykhbarb, and Nahum Osipovich Lagovier. One of the best-known Jewish lawyers was I.D. Braude who appeared on behalf of many accused persons in political trials. Most Jewish lawyers were prominent in the major cities, particularly Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev, and many specialized in constitutional and criminal law. Law became one of the most popular professions among Russian Jewry, yet few held senior judicial appointments although there was no legal ban on their right to do so. In particular, there was a decline in the number of Jewish judges and assessors after World War ii though not in the number of academic lawyers. Among the outstanding Soviet lawyers were Aron Naumovitch Trainin, a prominent figure at the Nuremberg trials, Mikhail Solomonovich Strogovich (1894–?), head of the criminal law and litigation section at the U.S.S.R. Institute of State and Law, Aleksey Adolfovich Herzensohn (1902–?), one of the draftsmen of the Soviet criminal code, and Nahum Pavlovich Farberov, the author of numerous works on constitutional law and senior associate at the Institute of State and Law.

South Africa

The first Jewish lawyer in South Africa was Simeon *Jacobs who went to Cape Colony from England in 1860. He was made attorney general of British Kaffraria in the following year and subsequently served as attorney general of Cape Colony and a judge of the Eastern Districts court. M. de *Vries, a Dutch Jew, was the first Jewish lawyer in the Transvaal, where in 1868 he was made state attorney. There were few other Jewish lawyers in South Africa in the 19th century but the number of Jewish advocates rapidly increased after World War i as a result of the immigration of large numbers of Jews at the turn of the century. Louis Benjamin (1865–1935) was appointed to the Cape bench in 1920, Manfred *Nathan was made a judge of the Natal Supreme Court in 1928, and Leopold *Greenberg became a judge of the Transvaal Provincial Division and president of the court in 1938. From 1943 until his retirement in 1955, Greenberg was a judge of the Transvaal Appellate Division, the first Jewish appeal court judge in South Africa. A number of Jews also became well-known advocates, among them Morris *Alexander, Henry *Morris, B.A. Ettlinger (1900–1960), Norman Rosenberg (1889–1963), Maurice Isaacs, who began in private practice after retiring as a Johannesburg magistrate, and Percy Yutar, who became attorney-general of the Orange Free State in 1969. Following World War ii, the number of Jewish advocates in South Africa continued to increase and in 1965 there were 21 Jewish queen's counsel, more than one-third of the total number of queen's counsel in the whole of South Africa. Eleven Jews served as judges after World War ii. Among the 56 Jews who served as judges after 1955 was Philip *Millin, who was originally appointed to the Transvaal Provincial Division in 1937 and was the chief author of the Millin Report (1949) on company law reform. Others included Godfrey Lewis (1879–1955) who was appointed to the Eastern Districts bench in 1945, Joseph *Herbstein, who served on the Cape Supreme Court from 1947 to 1962, Israel Louis Horwitz (1896–1955), the first Jewish judge in the Orange Free State, H.M. Bloch (1905–1963), of the Cape bench, Edgar *Henochsberg, Samuel Miller, and J.J. Friedman, who were judges of the Natal Provincial Division and Simon *Kuper, Oscar Galgut, and George Colman, judges of the Transvaal Provincial Division; Godfrey Lewis (Eastern Districts bench), Simon *Kuper, Oscar Galgut, George Colman, Cecil Margo, Ralph Zulman (later a judge of Appeal), Ezra Goldstein (father of South African Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein), Ramon Leon (whose son, Tony *Leon, was leader of the Opposition in Parliament), and Basil Wunsh were judges of the Transvaal Provincial Division. Four Jews have held the position of Attorney-General, Percy Yutar (Orange Free State and later Transvaal), Edward Heller (Eastern Cape Division), Michael Imber (Natal Provincial Division), and Frank Kahn (Cape Provincial Division). Arthur *Chaskalson was the first president of the Constitutional Court and was appointed chief justice in 2001. Other Jewish Constitutional Court judges were Richard *Goldstone and Albie Sachs.

South America

In the 17th century a converted Jew, Diego Leon Pinelo (1605–1671), was professor of law and rector of the San Marcos University in Lima and his brother Antonio Pinelo (1591–1658) was an attorney in Buenos Aires. When the Jews immigrated to South America in increasing numbers toward the end of the 19th century, they were permitted to study law at most South American universities but were generally excluded from becoming judges or professors of law. Thus, although many Jews practiced law in South America and some achieved prominence in commerce and government service, there were virtually no jurists among them, although a prominent exception in Chile was Abraham Koenig, the author of several works on Chilean constitutional law.

The gradual liberalization of the legal profession after World War i enabled Jews to become judges and professors in Argentina, and in 1934 Mateo Goldstein (1908–1962) was made a judge of the San Juan Provincial Court. Marcos *Satanowski was one of the first Jewish professors of law and held the chair of commercial law at the University of Buenos Aires from 1935 to 1946 and from 1955 until his death. David Kraigelburd was professor of law at Buenos Aires, and Mariano Tissenbaum (1898–?) lectured on labor law at the University of Santa Fe from 1930 until 1966. After World War ii a number of Jews held judicial posts in South America. Abraham Meersohn (1914– ) was made a judge in Curacautin, Chile, and was promoted to the Court of Appeals in Santiago in 1964, Isaac Halperin (1907–?) was made a judge of the Argentine National Court of Appeals in 1955, and Marcus Melzer in Brazil and Moises de Castro (1918– ) in Panama served as magistrates. Two Jews also served as Juvenile Court judges in South America: Fannie Leibovich (1908–?) was the first woman Juvenile Court judge in Chile and Simon Mizrahi (1934– ) was a member of the Venezuela Superior Juvenile Court.

After World War ii an increasing number of Jews held chairs of law in South American universities. In Argentina Remo Entelman (1923– ) was professor of jurisprudence at the universities of La Plata and Buenos Aires and was special assistant to President Arturo Frondizi. Several other Jews held chairs of law at the University of Buenos Aires, among them Bernardo Beiderman (1919– ), professor of criminal law, Mario Bendersky (1923– ), professor of civil law, Ignacio Winizky (1910–?), professor of comparative law, and Marco Kaufmann (1924– ) and Elias Neuman (1932– ), professors of law at the University of La Plata. Other Jewish jurists who held law chairs at South American universities included Miguel *Schweitzer and Jacobo Schaulson *Numhauser, professors of law at the University of Chile; Arnold *Wald, professor of civil law at the University of Guanabara in Brazil; Alfredo Eisenberg, professor of international law at the Uruguay National University; and Sara Bialoslowsky de Chazan, professor of Roman law at the National University of Mexico.

[Paul Link]

United States

There is no mention in the records of any Jews practicing law until late in the 18th century, although Asser *Levy, who fought for Jewish civil rights, was frequently involved in a variety of law suits. That no Jews practiced law was largely due to the fact that lawyers were unpopular in the colonies until the period of the Revolutionary War. They were generally held in disrepute and were subject to suspicion as enforcers of inequitable and corrupt laws.

The first Jew to study law professionally was Moses *Levy, who was admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1778. He become one of the most distinguished and successful lawyers in Philadelphia, as did his brother Samson Levy, Jr., and later became judge of the District Court for the City of Philadelphia. Although he was the first Jewish lawyer in the United States, Levy was not the first Jew to be made a judge. Isaac Miranda, a layman, was appointed deputy judge of the Vice Admiralty of the Province of Pennsylvania in 1727 and David Emanuel and James Lucena, also laymen, became justices of the peace in Georgia in 1766 and 1773, respectively. By the beginning of the 19th century a growing number of Jews made their mark in the legal profession. Among those to gain prominence at the bar were Joseph Simon Cohen, Benjamin Gratz, Elijah Gratz Etting, Nathan Nathans, and Jonas B. Phillips. Jews did not practice law in as large numbers as in the 20th century but there were few eastern cities in which there were no successful Jewish practitioners or judges.

Two Jewish lawyers were outstanding during the 19th century: Philip *Phillips and Judah Philip *Benjamin. The former was recognized as one of the foremost advocates of his time, arguing more than 400 appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court; the latter was the first Jew to be offered a judgeship of the Supreme Court (which he refused), and to be attorney general of the Confederacy in the Civil War. After the defeat of the Confederacy he escaped to England where he became a leading counsel of the English bar. Other prominent Jews in American law during this period included Raphael J. *Moses (who became the leading commercial lawyer of Georgia), and William Mallory Levi (1827–1882) who was a justice of the Supreme Court of Louisiana.

The 20th century saw a dramatic increase in the number of Jewish lawyers in the United States, partly reflected in the rise of the number of Jews to hold judgeships and university professorships. But for many years Jewish lawyers had considerable difficulty earning a living, particularly in New York, where the majority congregated. They suffered severely from the effects of the depression which substantially reduced the volume of business, particularly in view of the fact that in relation to the total Jewish population of New York, the profession was grossly overcrowded. Jewish lawyers found advancement difficult since many were foreign born, did not go to the best colleges, and often came from poor homes, making it more difficult for them to open their own firms. In 1939 it was estimated that more than half the lawyers practicing in New York were Jews but that the annual income of the average Jewish lawyer was several hundred dollars less than that of his non-Jewish counterpart. The same trend was discernible in other American cities; the ratio of Jewish lawyers to the total Jewish population was much higher than the ratio of lawyers to the general population and since Jewish lawyers largely attracted a Jewish clientele, their chances of success were slim.

In contrast to the high percentage of Jews in private practice, Jews did not generally hold top posts in the profession. Few of the large firms had Jewish members and it was almost unknown for a Jew to be head of a large law firm. Similarly, Jews did not generally become law professors at leading universities like Harvard and Yale and notable exceptions such as Felix *Frankfurter indicated that only Jews with outstanding talent were offered teaching posts. Discrimination also existed in appointments to judgeships and even in New York Benjamin *Cardozo and Irving *Lehman were the only Jews to be appointed to the New York Court of Appeals before World War ii.

Nevertheless, a few Jews did achieve distinction in the legal profession. Louis *Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, and Felix Frankfurter were successively appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and established a tradition of the "Jewish seat" on the Supreme Court bench. All three were recognized as among the greatest judges ever to sit on the Supreme Court. Other Jewish judges of note during this period were Julian *Mack, judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Horace *Stern, justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; Henry *Butzel, three times chief justice of the State of Michigan; and Samuel Kalisch (1851–1930), justice of the New York Supreme Court.

A few Jews made their mark as legal philosophers, among them Max *Radin, professor of law at the University of California and Morris Raphael *Cohen, professor of philosophy at the City College of New York. Outstanding advocates included Louis *Marshall, Louis *Nizer, Samuel *Leibowitz, and Lee M. *Friedman.

A gradual improvement in the status and condition of Jewish lawyers took place after World War ii. To a large extent Jews found it easier to be admitted to large law firms, although research in the late 1960s indicated that discrimination still existed. Jewish graduates from American universities found it harder to find a job than non-Jewish graduates and Jewish graduates were more likely to earn a lower starting salary. As a result Jews tended to be accepted in Jewish law firms (in 1950 it was estimated that nearly 85% of Jewish lawyers entered law firms which were wholly or partly Jewish), where discrimination did not exist, or in less prominent firms, and only the outstanding students entered the best non-Jewish firms. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that Jews were discouraged from becoming lawyers, especially since other prestigious professions, such as banking, were even more discriminatory. Jewish lawyers of the postwar period benefited from the fact that they no longer tended to come from poor families and that the Jewish communities among whom they lived had become relatively affluent, thereby giving them work. They were no longer prevented from obtaining the best legal education available and were able to compete with their gentile colleagues on more or less equal terms. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that though by the late 1960s 20% of America's 350,000 lawyers were Jewish, only in 1969 did a Jew, Bernard *Segal, become president of the American Bar Association.

The most notable feature about the position of Jews in the legal profession after World War ii was their influence on the law both as judges and jurists. Two Jews were appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court after World War ii, Arthur *Goldberg and Abe *Fortas; a number of Jews served on state supreme courts, among them Stanley *Fuld, chief justice of the New York Court of Appeals, David *Bazelon, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia, and Simon *Sobeloff, U.S. attorney general (1954–56). Prominent jurists of the postwar period include Judge Jerome *Frank, one of the principle theorists of the American realist school, Paul *Freund, professor of constitutional law at Harvard, Fred Rodell (1907–1980) and Alexander Bickel (1924– ), both professors of law at Yale, Edmond *Cahn, professor of law at New York University, and Professor Jerome Hall, an outstanding authority on criminal law and theory. In general, Jews did not suffer from discrimination in acceptance as university teachers or as students. In 1970 it was estimated that 20 out of 75 members of the Harvard Law faculty were Jewish, at Yale 17 out of 54, at Columbia 15 out of 60, and at California 14 out of 45. Furthermore, a report on entrance to law schools indicated that Jews actually obtain admission more easily than Protestants to the elite law schools.

One of the most significant aspects of Jewish participation in American law in the 20th century has been the extensive interest of U.S. Jewish lawyers and judges in upholding and extending civil liberties in the United States and the profound influence they have exerted in this respect on major constitutional doctrines affecting race relations, the administration of criminal justice, and the operation of the political process. Understandably, they tend to have such an interest partly because of their recognition of their own group's historical disabilities, and partly because of the traditional liberalism and concern for civil rights that has long characterized the U.S. Jewish community. The Supreme Court judges named above played key roles in this field, and prominent American Jewish trial lawyers whose careers have been in large measure dedicated to civil liberties cases include Arthur Garfield Hays, Louis Marshall, Samuel Leibowitz, and Walter *Pollack. The latter two cooperated in fighting and winning the world-famous "Scottsboro Boys" rape case in Alabama in the 1930s. Jack Greenberg (1924– ) and Anthony Amsterdam (1935– ) defended white and black civil rights workers in the American South during the 1960s, the latter as chief legal counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Leonard Boudin (1912–1989) and William Kunstler (1919– ) were active as defense counsels in the political trials of prominent Communists and radicals, the latter gaining national fame in 1970 as chief attorney for the militant Black Panthers. Both were leading figures in the American Civil Liberties Union, as were Osmond Fraenkel, Norman Dorsen, Aryeh Neier, and Max Radin. Jewish judges whose strong support for civil liberties had a decided impact on American law as a whole included Mayer *Sulzberger, Irving Lehman, Horace *Stern, David Bazelon, and Charles *Wyzanski.

In the last decade of the 20th century, as Jews became thoroughly assimilated into the mainstream of American life, President Bill Clinton appointed two Jews to the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader *Ginsburg and Stephen G. *Breyer. Ginsburg, named in 1993, had a distinguished legal career as a civil libertarian and as an advocate for women's rights. Her appointment reflected a recognition of the increasing role of women in the law. At that time, the field of law was attracting more and more women – more than half of law students were women – and eventually more of them, many Jewish, won positions on the bench. Breyer, who married in England in an Anglican ceremony with references to Christ edited out, was a professor at Harvard Law, and his appointment in 1994 apparently had little to do with the fact that he was Jewish.

[Julius J. Marcke /

Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]


Only a few Jews were qualified to practice law in Ereẓ Israel under Ottoman rule. Thus Gad *Frumkin was the only Jewish lawyer in Jerusalem when the city was captured by the British in 1917. The British mandatory authorities established the Palestine Law School, known as the Jerusalem law classes, in 1921 for the training of lawyers and most of the qualified lawyers when the State of Israel came into being were graduates of these classes. The Jerusalem law classes were not designed to provide academic law studies and in 1926 courses in Jewish law were begun at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A separate school for the study of law and economics was opened in Tel Aviv in 1935. In 1948 both the law faculty on Mount Scopus and the British Government Law School were closed down and in 1949 a new law faculty was opened in West Jerusalem for students preparing for the master's degree. Doctoral and undergraduate courses were later inaugurated.

Formal law courses at the Tel Aviv University were opened in 1959 when the Tel Aviv School of Law and Economics was integrated with the Hebrew University. From 1966 the law faculty of Tel Aviv University severed its connection with Jerusalem. A department for the study of Jewish Law was opened at the Bar-Ilan University in 1970. In addition many immigrant lawyers who had studied law in their native lands requalified as Israel lawyers after passing the foreign lawyers examination of the Israel Chamber of Advocates and completing the required period of apprenticeship.


H. Sinzheimer, Juedische Klassiker der deutschen Rechtswissenschaft (1938); A.L. Goodhart, Five Jewish Lawyers of the Common Law (1949); E. Bedarida, Ebrei d'Italia (1950), 171ff.; C. Roth, Jewish Contribution to Civilization (19563), 245–8; S. Kaznelson (ed.), Juden im deutschen Kulturbereich (1962); F. Kobler, in: J. Fraenkel (ed.), Jews of Austria (1967), 25–40; M.M. Fagin, in: jsos, 1 (1939), 73–104; A.I. Goldberg, ibid., 32 (1970), 148–61.


views updated May 29 2018


The activities of early modern lawyers had much in common with those of their modern counterparts. They practiced courtroom defense, acted as political and legal counsels to princely houses, municipalities, and religious houses, and held positions in the courts and royal administration. The general economic expansion since the late Middle Ages and the accompanying growth of social and institutional complexity created a growing demand for services that could be performed only by those who possessed technical and specialized legal skills. Just as modern states employ teams of lawyers, a variety of governmental and judicial institutions of early modern states needed legally educated personnel. The functions and organization of lawyers varied over time and space, but the early modern period saw the ever-increasing presence and influence of lawyers throughout Europe.


The legal profession was already vigorous in the Italian towns of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, fostered in part by the revival of jurisprudence in the study of Roman law. The Florentine guild of lawyers and notaries (Arte dei Giudici e Notai) dates from the early thirteenth century. The rise of lawyers in northern Europe coincided with the establishment of the supremacy of the royal courts over seigneurial and ecclesiastical jurisdictions. In France, lawyers for secular courts appeared in the mid-thirteenth century around the same time as the emergence of the sovereign court, the parlement. Feudal procedure, with its reliance on a judicial duel and ordeal, had been gradually transformed in the king's courts into accusatory procedure, where the parties were required to substantiate their claims by calling upon witnesses and producing written proof. The complexity of adversarial procedure required the intervention of legally educated personnel capable of representing the parties involved. The crowns of England and France allowed litigants in royal courts to appoint lawyers to represent them and oversee the convoluted process of trial. A legal world that became increasingly complicated thus gave rise to professional lawyers when a growing number of people depended on royal justice for vindication.

Unlike in Italy, where the legal profession was governed and regulated by the guild, lawyers in northern Europe were closely attached to the state. The French royal ordinance of 1345 set the conditions of admission to the legal profession and its duties. To become a lawyer, the candidate had to prove that he (women were excluded) had studied law at a university for years. After the judges examined candidates' learning and moral rectitude, successful candidates were sworn in and were inscribed on the official roll. Lawyers were expected to abide by certain principles of professional conduct. According to the 1345 French rule, lawyers were prohibited from assuming the defense of causes they knew to be unjust, obliged to expedite the causes they had undertaken as promptly as was possible, and prohibited from withholding evidence from the opposing parties. These injunctions, which have a familiar ring today, were apparently frequently breached. The seventeenth-century writer Bernard de La Roche Flavin deplored the fact that lawyers all too often used surprises and dirty tricks, holding the best evidence back so as to catch the opponents by surprise in front of the judge. Another rule, also repeated time and again, was to plead and write briefly. Irrepressible verbosity of lawyersand the public's exasperation with itgoes back to the profession's formation.


The lawyers of early modern Europe were a diverse group, ranging from a small elite of learned jurists to obscure practitioners akin to legal artisans. From early on, notaries were considered to form a profession separate from lawyers. In the Italian guild of judge-lawyers and notaries, the two groups were clearly distinguished. Drawing up contracts, deeds, marriage agreements, and wills was for the most part the province of notaries. Within the practice of law a division of function developed, leading to different careers with varying qualifications and reputation. The most fundamental distinction involved the separation between those who handled the procedural aspects of a suit and those who dealt with substantive legal issues. A royal proclamation of 1547 in England restricted the right to plead before the royal courts to students of the Inns of Court. By 1600 a rigid divide had emerged between advocati and procuratores (barristers and attorneys in England, avocats and procureurs in France, abogados and procuradors in Spain). Although the distinctions between the two groups were not as clear as in the modern English or French legal profession (barrister/solicitor in England and avocat /avoué in France until 1971), each group held an exclusive right on a specific activity. Only the advocatus (hereafter 'barrister'), not procurator (hereafter 'attorney'), had the right to plead before the court. In England solicitors (solicitadores in Spain) appeared as an identifiable branch of the legal profession during the sixteenth century.

A barrister was a man formally trained in jurisprudence. He offered legal advice to clients and presented oral or written arguments to the court. Barristers' arguments touched only on questions of law supposedly requiring legal knowledge and reasoning while questions of fact were left to the attorneys. Few French avocats, in fact, spent much time pleading in open court, for the parlements judged most cases on the basis of written evidence. Also, French avocats handled only civil cases; criminal defendants were deprived of their right to counsel by the ordinance of Villers-Cotterets in 1539. The ordinance of Villers-Cotterets required the use of French in both pleadings and court rulings, but lengthy Latin quotations were not easily abandoned by the Renaissance lawyers who were all too proud of their knowledge of the classics. Less prestigious than a barrister was an attorney. His place in society was solid but lowlier. It was an attorney who was most often consulted by a client needing legal representation at the beginning of a suit. His function was to steer cases through the court and take care of the procedural details, filing motions, drawing up writs, assembling facts, and collecting evidence. The attorney handled the formalities of the lawsuits, gave clients advice, and represented their claims in court. Only when a lawsuit involved a question of law that required greater expertise would the services of a barrister be obtained. An attorney was denied the right of audience, which properly belonged to a barrister, a full-fledged jurist. In the sixteenth century there was as yet no sign of the later rule prescribing that clients contact barristers only through attorneys, but usually attorneys procured clients in the marketplace and then chose barristers. Attorneys did not necessarily train at a university, instead learning their law through clerkship or apprenticeship to other practitioners.

In the early modern period French kings openly sold royal offices to the highest bidder. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the kings had forced venality upon nearly all legal occupations, magistracies included. French procureurs needed to purchase a venal office, but avocats did not become venal officers. The reason for this is not clear, but it is possible that the avocats ' powerful clients, prominent nobles and prelates, opposed venality, lest it threaten their interests. At any rate, this exemption of avocats from venality conferred a certain degree of status on the bar, as admission to its ranks was perceived to emphasize learning, not money. The price of the procureur 's offices rose sharply during the sixteenth century when the volume of litigation increased rapidly. Established attorneys opposed creation of additional places, fearing that such expansion would decrease the value of their own offices.


The relative profitability of the legal profession and its respectable status attracted talented young men to legal careers. There are many examples of those who pursued legal studies, often pressured by their ambitious fathers, but eventually failed or abandoned them: Petrarch (13041374), Martin Luther (14831546), John Calvin (15091564), and Voltaire (16941778) were only a few. The best source of lucrative practices for barristers lay in becoming consultants to leading princely houses, ecclesiastical institutions, towns, and corporate bodies. Those who made fortunes depended heavily on the business of aristocrats, managing their vast real estate holdings and providing legal and political advice. Of those lawsuits handled by Florentine lawyers, disputes over dowries were among the most common, followed by cases dealing with the confiscation of private property due to some act of rebellion. Other cases involved litigations between religious houses or between individual clerics over benefices, disputes between local administrations, or litigations between government offices and individuals.

Little is known about legal fees. There were significant differences of income within and between members of the branches of the legal profession. From early on, lawyers claimed that the fees they charged were the result of free agreement with the clients and thus outside any state interference. The kings often attempted to prohibit excessive fees, without much success. The French Ordinance of Blois of 1579 (Art. 161) stipulated that avocats reveal the amount of their fees at the bottom of deliberations and court documents. In 1602 the Parlement of Paris, backed by Henry IV, revived this rule, which had fallen out of observance. Livid over what they regarded as a blow to their honor, the avocats waged a successful two-week boycott of the courts in protest. Faced with the collective resignation of the avocats, the parlement had no choice but to withdraw the measure. In general, lawyers' vested interests in the existing system and its traditions dictated their outlook and attitudes. Lawyers of early modern Europe were a tight-knit corporate group. On the eve of the French Revolution, the king simply could not break the fundamental solidarity of the jurists blocking legal reforms.

Like their modern counterparts, early modern lawyers were targets of sustained hostility. They were criticized for overcharging, fraudulently keeping clients' monies, illegally negotiating contingent fees, maliciously pursuing delays, or lodging endless appeals. Tales of shyster lawyers seem timeless. Luther, never kind to lawyers, observed that a successful jurist was a woeful Christian.


Men with legal training were one of the most prominent groups in early modern culture. Renaissance humanism in Italy was largely a creation of lawyers and notaries, such as Coluccio Salutati (13311406), Poggio Bracciolini (13801459), and Lorenzo Valla (c. 14061457). The French Renaissance displayed the close relations between humanism and the law, as represented by Guillaume Budé (14671540), Jean Bodin (15301596), Antoine Loisel (15361617), and Étienne Pasquier (15291615). Thomas More (14781535), Francesco Guicciardini (1483150), Michel de Montaigne (15331592), Francis Bacon (15611626), Giambattista Vico (16681744), and Montesquieu (16891755) were among the many lawyers who were the leading minds of their time. Equipped with humanistic education and style, and endowed with judicial dignity and political influence, lawyers were often at the forefront of intellectual inquiry and challenge in early modern Europe.


There existed a vast social gulf within the legal profession. Historians have confirmed the overall social heterogeneity of early modern European lawyers. The commonplace observation that the law was a quick and assured means of achieving upward social mobility appears exaggerated. Social mobility was indeed possible in the legal profession, but it occurred only at a slow pace over several generations. The great majority of lawyers in Europe came from families that had acquired wealth a few generations before there was a lawyer in the household. One obvious reason that the notion of rags to riches was no more than a myth in a legal career was that education at one of the great law schools was a very expensive affair. Historians have shown that a university education in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was much costlier than in modern times. A doctorate in canon law normally required six years of university and in civil law seven or eight years. A large number of lawyers had doctorates in both civil and canon law, spending a minimum of ten years in study. In most cases an aspiring lawyer either had some direct contact with the profession or had grown up with material means sufficient to set off to a university in order to pursue a dignified legal career.

Recruitment from within the legal professions was common and often involved a step upward. A son of a court clerk or a notary, for example, would become an attorney, and occasionally a shopkeeper's child would enter the career of attorney. The attorney, having made his moderate fortune, was likely to send his own child to law school and to the bar. Many lawyers in the Reichskammergericht (imperial court of justice) in Speyer in the early sixteenth century had been Prokuratoren (attorneys). It was rare for a barrister's or a magistrate's son to become an attorney, moving downward in social hierarchy. Many barristers came from families already established in the law. The bar also attracted the sons of well-off merchants or urban rentiers. Sons of barristers used their law degrees to move even further up the hierarchy of law. In France, positions as magistrates in the inferior courts were readily open to them, and there was a chance, providing they had the money, to purchase an ennobling office in a sovereign court.

From the mid-sixteenth century the legal profession in most European countries tended to become more exclusive. Within the legal field each group was increasingly conscious of its status and took steps to protect it. Separation of attorneys from barristers was not merely a matter of the evolution of distinct procedural functions but of the differentiation of lawyers organized on the lines of education, prestige, self-perception, and family links. A doctorate required of avocats as well as of magistrates in the sovereign courts was one of the means to regulate entry into the higher ranks of the legal profession. Both magistrates and barristers had the strong desire to perpetuate their profession in their families, and there existed a high degree of continuity of career among families involved in the practice of law. The law faculties in early modern Europe increasingly became the preserve of students whose fathers were, in one capacity or another, men of law. Any French magistrate who wished to guard his investment in office and pass it on intact in inheritance saw to it that at least one of his sons attended a faculty of law.

In England, the gentry entered the world of justice in great numbers. In the years 15901640 more than half the barristers were gentry. France witnessed in the sixteenth century the emergence of noble judicial families, a noblesse de robe. The proportion of aristocrats among those attending law faculties in the Holy Roman Empire quadrupled at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Throughout Europe, access to higher-ranking legal offices and occupations was firmly in the possession of tightly interwoven families of lawyers, many of which formed great legal dynasties. It became rarer to rise from the ranks of attorney to barrister. Barristers from outside the close-knit network had difficulty procuring legal business and complained that certain families jealously maintained a virtual monopoly on legal practice.


Before 1600 the French avocats did not have a formal bar association. The discipline of the practicing avocats and the protection of their collective interests were largely left to the magistrates of the parlements. Many magistrates, presidents of the parlements, and chancellors were selected from avocats. However, this relationship of the traditional cordiality and mutual respect between the avocats and magistrates began to deteriorate seriously because of venality of offices. By the early seventeenth century, high judicial offices had been made inheritable, practically becoming personal property. Avocats no longer had special access to magistracies; they had to purchase judgeships like others. As prices of offices increased, the prospect of becoming a judge became slim. In terms of training and social profile, barristers did not differ much from magistrates. However, the sale of offices now drew a clear line between the magistrates and avocats, between those who came from families of prominence and inherited wealth and who now enjoyed the title of nobility by virtue of their offices and those who saw themselves relegated into second-class citizens in the world of the law. Charles Dumoulin (15001566), the great French jurist of customary law, blamed his struggling career as an avocat at the Parlement of Paris on venality. He bitterly claimed that he, a brilliant scholar, was being ignored in his own country simply because he did not choose (rather, could not afford) to purchase a judicial office. The kings recruited the members of royal councils and administration in large part from the parlements, and the proportion of lawyers acceding to the highest public offices declined after the mid-sixteenth century. Furthermore, the avocats faced added competition from officeholders who, often in debt after acquiring their position, actively sought business from princely houses as counselors.

The social and moral crisis suffered by the avocats eventually brought about a significant redefinition and redirection of the profession. The emergence of the independent Order of Barristers in France in the 1660s represented a step toward professionalization of the lawyers. The order set down standards of conduct and disciplined its members. Aspiring avocats now needed to complete a two-year internship to obtain practical skills before gaining formal acceptance by the order. Lawyers, responding to a crisis in their profession, embraced a modern sense of professionalism, a concern for high ethical standards and occupational competence.


The changing culture of litigation in early modern Europe overall contributed to the emergence of professional consciousness among lawyers. The favorable economic and demographic climate of the sixteenth century resulted in a marked increase in litigation and an almost explosive rise in the number of lawyers. England saw an enormous increase in central court litigation between 1560 and 1640. Business in King's Bench increased fourfold between 1560 and 1580, and more than doubled between 1580 and 1640. Historians have noted a sharp rise in litigation in Castile beginning in the late fifteenth century and continuing almost uninterrupted until the second quarter of the seventeenth century. In England the years between 1558 and 1640 witnessed a steady increase in the number of admissions to the four Inns of Court, from around fifty per year in the early sixteenth century to about three hundred in the later years of the reign of James I. Matriculations in the law faculties soared during the sixteenth century throughout Europe, more than doubling the number of graduates in less than fifty years. Between five thousand and six thousand students were enrolled each year in the law faculties of Salamanca and Valladolid; in 1617 there were five thousand law students in Naples. In France during the reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV, the influx of students into the faculties of law was so copious that many reformers, including Jean-Baptiste Colbert, were concerned that it would hamper the development of a commercial class.

This century-long expansion of lawyers began to recede from the mid-seventeenth century. Recent studies have linked loss of population, a stagnant economy, and rising court costs to contraction in litigation and a corresponding decrease in the number of lawyers in the late seventeenth century. The shrinking number of suits was reflected in the decline of the universities' once prosperous law faculties. From Spain and England to the provinces of the Netherlands and the Holy Roman Empire, the stream of students in law faculties fell steadily during the eighteenth century.

The downturn in legal business brought about a significant change in the legal profession. A negative economic climate and business retrenchment meant that lawyers, in order to carve out a living from the law, needed to reconfigure their activities and recast their relations with society as a whole. Faced with professional uncertainty, shrinking sources of income, and growing competition, lawyers developed a new professional model, one based on occupational competence, competitiveness, self-regulation, a heightened sense of identity, and claims to special knowledge and expertise. The study of law had attracted not only students interested in a professional legal career but also sons of the gentry and the nobility for whom legal training represented a broad preparation for life. In England, fewer than 10 percent of those attending the Inns of Court at the beginning of the seventeenth century truly aimed at practice as a barrister. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries fewer than half of the lawyers in the Netherlands were active in their profession. In France thousands of men held the title of avocat in the seventeenth century, but only a small percentage of them practiced law, many holding the title for purely decorative reasons. In the eighteenth century, however, legal study became a relentlessly practical training of vocational nature. Being a law graduate and becoming a lawyer now meant a profession, not a mere status or ornament.

The legal profession in early modern Europe underwent long-term evolution. By the end of the eighteenth century, lawyers possessed most of the criteria associated with a modern career. The increasing professionalization of this old occupation played an essential role in the development of the law itself and the differentiation of the legal systems of modern Europe.

See also Crime and Punishment .


Primary Sources

La Roche Flavin, Bernard de. Treize livres des parlemens de France. Geneva, 1621.

Loisel, Antoine. Pasquier; ou, Dialogue des advocats du Parlement de Paris. Paris, 1602. Edited by André Dupin. Paris, 1844.

Secondary Sources

Acerra, Martine. "Les avocats du Parlement de Paris (16611715)." Histoire, économie et société 2 (1982): 213225.

Amelang, James S. "Barristers and Judges in Early Modern Barcelona: The Rise of a Legal Elite." The American Historical Review 89 (1984): 12641284.

Bell, David A. Lawyers and Citizens: The Making of a Political Elite in Old Regime France. New York, 1994.

Berlanstein, Lenard R. The Barristers of Toulouse in the Eighteenth Century (17401793). Baltimore, 1975.

Bouwsma, William J. "Lawyers and Early Modern Culture." The American Historical Review 78 (1973): 303327.

Brooks, Christopher W. Lawyers, Litigation and English Society since 1450. London, 1998.

Cipolla, Carlo. "The Professions: The Long View." The Journal of European Economic History 2 (1973): 3752.

Delachenal, Roland. Histoire des avocats au Parlement de Paris, 13001600. Paris, 1885.

Dolan, Claire. "Entre les familles et l'état: Les procureurs et la procédure au XVIe siècle." Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 10 (1999): 1936.

Kagan, Richard L. "Law Students and Legal Careers in Eighteenth-Century France." Past & Present 68 (1975): 3872.

. Lawsuits and Litigants in Castile, 15001700. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1981.

Karpik, Lucien. French Lawyers: A Study in Collective Action, 1274 to 1994. Translated by Nora Scott. Oxford, 1999.

Martines, Lauro. Lawyers and Statecraft in Renaissance Florence. Princeton, 1968.

Prest, Wilfrid, ed. Lawyers in Early Modern Europe and America. New York, 1981.

Ranieri, Filippo. "From Status to Profession: The Professionalisation of Lawyers as a Research Field in Modern European Legal History." The Journal of Legal History 10 (1989): 180190. Translation of "Vom Stand zum Beruf: Die Professionalisierung des Juristenstandes als Forschungsaufgabe der europäischen Rechtsgeschichte der Neuzeit" in Ius Commune 13 (1985): 83105.

Marie Seong-Hak Kim


views updated Jun 27 2018



The Profession. Lawyers were few in the early English colonies because their skills were rarely required. In colonies like Massachusetts Bay the generally high level of education of the early inhabitants meant that some had experience in law. Gov. John Winthrop and the Reverend Nathaniel Ward were two such men. But there were no professional, full-time lawyers, and in colonies like early Virginia practically no one had any familiarity with English law. The demand for legal counsel came late in the 1600s and then only in the cities, usually fueled by merchants whose business interests were large enough and complicated enough to warrant seeking such help.

Attitudes. For most people in the 1600s, going to court meant representing oneself. Lawyers were suspect, seen as individuals who profited off other peoples misfortunes and tried to confuse honest folk with legal intricacies. From a modern point of view this meant that legal affairs were terribly amateurish in the seventeenth century. But at the time the prevailing social attitude kept the law from getting too complicated and expensive. A few colonies even attempted to prohibit the use of lawyers or at least to outlaw lawyers fees. All this allowed considerable room for experimentation, sometimes at the expense of innocent people, and it permitted lay peopleboth men and womento handle their own legal affairs.

Brent. One of the most important lawyers of seventeenth-century Maryland was a woman, Margaret Brent, who as attorney for her brothers economic interests and as consultant to Gov. Cecilius Calvert handled more cases than any other lawyer in her lifetime. Brents example reminds us that lawyers were needed, especially by the government and by those with sufficient wealth. New Netherland contained no practicing attorneys, despite much litigation, before English conquest made it New York in 1664. The Dukes Laws promulgated by Gov. Francis Nichols were actually written by a lawyer, Mathias Nichols (no relation), who had studied law in London. The result was that the Dukes Laws exhibited a superior understanding of the common law, which influenced New Yorks legal history more than any other colony.

The Few. By 1700 the major towns like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Charleston boasted several successful lawyers, but most of these had other business interests to explain their wealth. The small numbers meant that one wealthy client could retain all the local lawyers. In 1695, for example, New York had to impose restrictions on the number of lawyers available to any one litigant. Although New Yorks ranks of lawyers did grow, the colony licensed only around 170 lawyers between 1709 and 1776. Between 1695 and 1769 only 49 lawyers practiced in New York City. Virginia was slower in developing a qualified corps of legal professionals. A major reason was that the large landowners who dominated the colonys politics in the late 1600s did not want lawyers in their way. But after Virginia regularized its system of courts in 1705, the need for trained lawyers became more apparent. By the end of the colonial period Virginia was home to many distinguished legal minds, including Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, and George Wythe.

Incomes. Most colonial lawyers did not get wealthy. The better lawyers in New York might earn around £700 per year in the mid 1700s. John Rutledge, lawyer to merchants in Charleston, South Carolina, made several thousand pounds per year, but that was unusual. Lawyers wages were kept low in Virginia by legislation. In the 1760s men like Patrick Henry and Jefferson earned in their peak years less than £600 each and collected only little more than half. Lawyers did make more than doctors, though, and their social and political prominence had risen greatly by the end of the colonial period, as had the professional standards which they attained.


Anton-Hermann Chroust, The Rise of the Legal Profession in America: The Colonial Experience (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965);

The Legal Profession, in Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies, edited by Jacob Cooke (New York: Scribners, 1993).


views updated May 21 2018


A person, who through a regular program of study, is learned in legal matters and has been licensed to practice his or her profession. Any qualified person who prosecutes or defends causes in courts of record or other judicial tribunals of the United States, or of any of the states, or who renders legal advice or assistance in relation to any cause or matter. Unless a contrary meaning is plainly indicated this term is synonymous with attorney, attorney at law, or counselor at law.

Each of the 50 states employs admissions committees or boards to review the backgrounds of prospective attorneys before they are admitted to practice. Each state also has adopted codes of conduct or disciplinary rules and has appointed adjudicative boards to address attorney misconduct. But these measures only weed out or discipline those who have violated laws or those who are otherwise unfit to practice law. They have done little to address the day-to-day civility and conduct of attorneys in their practice. In that regard, the behavior and conduct of peers and colleagues within the profession often impose more palpable influences on newly practicing attorneys than any standards or codes of ethics that they may have learned in law school.

A focus of a new movement in several states is not only to crack down on professional misconduct per se, but also to stem borderline conduct before it becomes an ethical violation. U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice william rehnquist, addressing new graduates from the University of Virginia School of Law in June 2001, remarked that incivility remained one of the greatest threats to the ideals of American justice and to the public's trust in the law. The conduct of former president bill clinton was considered to have seriously contributed to the harming of public confidence and trust in the legal profession because of his subjective approach to answering questions under oath and other improprieties associated with the legal aspects of his administration.

The american bar association (ABA) and lawyers' groups in more than a dozen states have joined in the movement to improve not only civility and courtesy among lawyers, but also the public's perception of the profession. Ultimately, the goal of these efforts is to ensure that attorneys have an unequivocal, current, and realistic standard of conduct and ethics to rely upon as a valid guide for their profession.


views updated May 17 2018

law·yer / ˈloi-ər; ˈlôyər/ • n. a person who practices or studies law; an attorney or a counselor.• v. [intr.] practice law; work as a lawyer: [as n.] (lawyering) lawyering is a craft that takes a long time to become proficient at. ∎  [tr.] (of a lawyer) work on the legal aspects of (a contract, lawsuit, etc.): there is always a danger that the deal will be lawyered to death.DERIVATIVES: law·yer·ly adj.


views updated Jun 08 2018

lawyer a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client it is unwise to believe that self-knowledge and self-interest will equip you to be your own advocate; proverbial saying, early 19th century.

See also barrack-room lawyer, the Devil makes his Christmas pies of lawyers' tongues at devil, Philadelphia lawyer.


views updated May 14 2018

lawyer see LAW.