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the task he has undertaken. An accomplished and an able lawyer himself, his opinion, upon such a subject, is worthy of the attention of those whose duty it is to produce a more healthy, as well as a more elevated tone in both branches of the profession. Nothing can, in our opinion, be more efficacious for this purpose than the introduction of a sound and comprehensive system of legal education.
In fact, the time has come when it can no longer be dispensed with. It is necessary not only that those who are actually at the Bar, but that every well-educated gentleman in the community should have some competent knowledge of that particular science which more or less affects all his deal
ings in life. Law ought no longer to be a mystery, save to the initiated; and every man should at least have a sufficient knowledge of its principles to guide him in the every-day transactions of life, as well as to enable him to form a just idea of the qualifications of those to whom, at present often in utter ignorance, he intrusts the conduct of affairs of the greatest magnitude-suffering alas! but too often by the carelessness or the incompetence of the practitioner he has selected.
"There can be no doubt," says Lord Campbell, "that those men who are eagerly bent upon study will improve themselves; they will be self-taught, and will conquer all disadvantages; but serious inconveniences arise from there not being better instruction provided for those who are to practise as advocates. In the present want of system, a great deal of time is wasted by the student, from his being left entirely without a guide to his own researches, discoveries, and exertions. However eminent men in all public departments have been already produced at the bar, such men would have been equally great if they had had a regular legal education, and many of them would have performed these duties in a still more distinguished and satisfactory manner, while many of those who have acquired high offices, by their abilities and their interest-being deficient in legal acquirements-have not performed the duties assigned to them at all in a manner as well as they would have done, if they had been more particu larly and more systematically educated."
And, in addition to this, we have the evidence of Lord Brougham, who observes:
"That although many men learn law very accurately, and even profoundly, by their own studies, they would learn it better at all events they would learn it easier—and save themselves a great deal of fruitless labour in acquisition — if they had the benefit of a learned and skilful professor, accustomed to teach, and who was versed in the didactic art, which a person may be very ignorant of, and yet be very well acquainted with the subject which he teaches."
These, with other authorities of equal weight, are cited by Mr. Joy, in order to establish what no one, we should think, will be adventurous enough to denythat a comprehensive system of legal education would be attended with many advantages to the law-student ; and we fully agree with him in his idea of what should be its main object. It ought to be to guide the young student through the labyrinth which law presents to the uninitiated, and to establish legal principles systematically in the mind; to ground him, as a lawyer, in the knowledge of principles, as distinguished from a mere mechanical collector of cases." He would not confine this course of education to instruction in one branch of the profession alone, holding that this has a national tendency to narrow and contract the mind, but have it extended equally to common law and equity.
There is an argument which some have advanced, to which, however, in our opinion, it is idle to listen; that because our present sytem has produced distinguished men and able lawyers, they see no reason to change it. That men have attained to eminence in spite of this system, we are by no means disposed to deny, but the argument goes no farther; any one who turns over Lord Campbell's "Lives of the Chancellors" will see that many of those distinguished men owed much of their learning, and consequently their advancement to the system of readings, meetings, and exercises, which were then established at the Inns of Court, so that the period of time which has produced the eminent men who have sprung from this latter system, has been of no long duration. What was the practice in the time of Sir Edwd. Coke, as cited from his third reports, by Mr. Joy :
"Now for the degrees of law, as there be in the universities of Cam
bridge and Oxford divers degrees-as general sophisters, bachelors, masters, doctors-of whom be chosen men for eminent and judicial places, both in the church and ecclesiastical courts; so in the profession of the law there are most men, which are those that argue readers cases in causes of chancery, both in terms and grand vacations. Of most men after eight years' study, or thereabouts, are chosen utter barristers; of these are chosen readers in Inns of Chancery; of utter barristers, after they have been of that degree twelve years at least, are chosen benchers or ancients, of which one that is of the pusine sort reads yearly, in summer vacation, and is called a single reader and one of the ancients, that had formerly read, reads in Lent vacation, and is called a double reader; and commonly it is between his first and second readings about nine or ten years; and out of those the King makes choice of his Attorney and Solicitor-General, his Attorney of the Court of Laws and Licences, and Attorney of the Duchy; and of those readers, are sergeants elected by the King, and are, by the King's wish, called ad statum et gradum servientis ad legem;" and out of these the King electeth one, two, or three, as please him, to be his sergeants, which are called the kings sergeants of sergeants are by the King also constituted the honourable and reverend sages and judges of the law.
"Each of the houses of court consists of readers-above twenty; of utter barristers, above thrice so many; of young gentlemen-about the number of eight or nine score who there spend their time in the study of law, and in commendable exercises fit for gentlemen-the judges of the law, and sergeants, being commonly above the number of twenty, are equally distinguished into the higher and more eminent houses, called Sergeants' Inn. All these are not far distant from one another, and altogether do make the most famous university in profession of law, only or for any one human science that is in the world; in which houses of court and chancery, the readings and other exercises of the laws therein continually used, are most excellent and behoofful for attaining to the knowledge of these laws."
We are sorry to confess the fact, but it is notorious to the community at large, that the Irish bar, whether as regards the qualification, the talent, or the education of its practitioners, has greatly deteriorated within the last fifty years, Ask any old lawyer, and he will tell
you what, with every allowance for his Nestor-like predilections, is but too true, that the bar of Ireland is not what it used to be, nor are its practitioners of the present day at all equal to the associates of his earlier years. Talent will always find its level in every profession, and we should be most unwilling to shut the gates of advancement in the face of any man, however humble his origin, who is disposed to climb the difficult ladder which leads to professional eminence, but among the host of evils which tends to lower the character of the profession, there is a class of men thronging at present to the bar of this country, who innocent of any desire to attain professional distinction, are perfectly satisfied with snatching at, and doing in a slovenly and clumsy manner, if they can do it at all, the elymosynary business which is afforded to them by their relations. In fact it is notorious, that almost every solicitor in any tolerable practice shoves his son to the bar, often wholly uneducated, with no other knowledge of his profession than the miserable practice of his father's desk can supply. They have an ambition to see their son a counsellor, and a counsellor he accordingly becomes, inheriting, by descent, declarations which he draws, we presume, instinctively, and deriving his daily nutriment from orders to compute.
In due process of time, the counsellor's parent is gathered to his fathers-he departs to that realm
"Where dead attorneys go!"
and another son reigns in his stead, keeping up, at the same time, the business of the office, and his brother, the counsellor, who, jogging on from year to year, signs his declarations, and moves his motions of course, without a thought, a wish, or a capability for performing any thing else.
There is another class of men, also, who encumber the avenues to success; they begin by being apprentices to solicitors, then they become solicitors themselves, and having acquired a certain knowledge of the routine business, as well as an extensive professional connexion, the grub is transformed into the butterfly, and the attorney is metamorphosed into a full-blown barrister. Now all these, with several other
matters, which are equally prejudicial to the character of the profession, but which want of space prevents us from noticing at present, have the unfortunate effect of lowering the character of the Irish bar, and every sober-thinking, educated man, who knows the gross extent of these evils, as well as the vast amount of business disposed of altogether by patronage such as we have glanced at, must be well aware that a sweeping and thorough reform is essential. We would, therefore, adopt the most stringent mode, not of excluding these classes from the profession, but of compelling them to undergo a sound system of legal education, at the close of which there should be a most searching examination—the passing of which should alone be a sufficient test of their qualifications and competency. We would not permit any one to be called to the bar without being submitted to this test. We do not, therefore, by any means agree with Mr. Joy, "that a compulsory public examination is to be deprecated, as an essential preliminary to admission to the bar." Is this profession alone to be excluded from the benefit of a test, of which every other possesses the advantage?
Is the advocate to be the only man in the community of whose competency to perform his duties we do not require a satisfactory test-he to whose cool skill and clear intellect are entrusted, in infinite variety, every complicated question which can affect the prosperity, the rights, the liberty, and the life of man? The omission of one word in a settlement has been known to cost a family their estates.
A case came within our own notice lately, which must, of course, be known to many of the profession, where a property, amounting to several thousand a-year, passed from the hands of an amiable and estimable nobleman, solely because there was a technical informality in the instrument which conveyed it.
"Can these things be,
And overcome us like a summer cloud,
Can these things be? and is it to be tolerated that we go blundering stupidly and unconcernedly onward, without caring, by correcting the errors from which they have had their source, to secure ourselves against their recur
It is observed, in a legal periodical, cited by Mr. Joy
"In the two numbers of Drury and Warren's reports, tempore Sugden, comprising in all thirty-four cases, no less than nine are on the construction of deeds. In the third volume there are six cases, and fourteen in the second. With such abundance of natural talent, the disadvantage to which Irish conveyancing appears liable seems mainly to arise from defective legal education.”
Now, it appears that within a pe riod of fourteen years, there have been upwards of nine hundred and fifty students called to the Irish bar, and of these there are at this moment seven hundred practising barristers. There are not less, we are told, than sixteen hundred licensed attorneys. Surely it is high time that some step should be taken by the legislature for the purpose of mitigating this hydraheaded this monstrous evil. What becomes of these practitioners? They prey upon each other. Mean and disreputable practices are resorted to in both branches of the profession for the purpose of procuring business. Solicitors get up trumpery or disgraceful actions; barristers (we are ashamed to say it) take briefs upon speculation -take half fees, and are glad to get them and sometimes work without fees at all. Queen's counsel-men of standing in their profession, who ought to be men of character-take guinea fees upon declarations. We have heard of one practitioner of the outer bar who unites in himself both branches of the profession, performing with equal facility the respective functions of each. He receives his instructions from the client-he makes out his own brief he pays himself his own fee; and all for the ridiculously small sum of a guinea. Are such practices to be tolerated? The educated gentleman, a few rare specimens of which are still to be seen in the Hall of the Four Courts he who has had the benefit of an enlightened university education, and has thoroughly mastered the difficulties of his profession, comes now to the bar, and by whom does he see himself surrounded. Too proud, with too much self-respect to stoop to such practices, what chance of success has he against such competitors as these, who work like moles in the dark? He
sickens at the contact he is disgusted with the arts which he sees others use, and at length, after years thrown away in pacing the weary round of that hall, whose flags have worn out so many hopes, he who might have been an ornament to his profession, leaves it in disgust.
Such, it is notorious, we know it, are some among the many causes which at this moment operate prejudicially against the Irish Bar, and lower the class of men who are competitors for its business and its honours; and although we differ from Mr. Joy in one or two points he has laid down, and we do so with some hesitation, we are, nevertheless, of opinion that he has conferred a great public benefit by calling the attention of the community to the subject of his book. Nothing will have so salutary an effect as a sound, comprehensive system of education, which ought, however, to be followed by a rigorous examination, not a voluntary one. This is an ordeal through which the classes to which we have alluded ought to be made pass, and it would have the effect of sweeping away the hordes of political speculators and hungry adventurers, which now throng the avenues of the profession; although Mr. Joy does not go so far as we do, he is, nevertheless, in the right track. In his seventh letter he says:
"There are reasons for preventing the indiscriminate increase of the bar which do not apply to other professions. This seems to be well understood in foreign countries. The only check, however, which in a free country ought to prevail is, the check of education. It is the interest of the public that this check should exist in a profession with such responsibilities, such influence, so wide a command of public and official situations, and to which property, liberty, and life are daily and hourly intrusted, often without appeal, whatever errors or unfaithfulness there may be in the protection of the rights committed to its members. It is the interest of the public that it should be confined, so far as the moral check of education can confine it, to its legitimate professors, as distinguished from the large and increasing class that belong to it only in name, and which has incalculably weakened its public and moral influence, and created a distrust in the public mind, which it requires no little effort to remove."
Mr. Joy cites one or two authorities for the purpose of proving his proposition that voluntary examination would be a sufficient test, as for instance :
"It would be necessary to fix the standard of examination either too high or too low. If we fix it at such a height as to test the stronger spirits there destined for the higher departments of business, then we should shut out of the profession all those men, who though but of moderate abilities are yet quite sufficient for the execution of a large portion of what may be termed the heavy routine business of the bar; and again, voluntary examination will answer all the purposes of establishing a public distinction between those who have made proof of their ability, and those who have shrunk from it, provided the examination be made really a severe test. It will not exclude from the profession the men of labour, but of moderate ability, who, as a working mass, are most useful, though individually not remarkable; nor will it exclude those who though possessed of talent or strength either cannot or will not develop it in early life. It will supply the existing deficiency of a legitimate means of making those known to the profession who do possess and can early exert brilliant abilities, without attempting to stigmatize others; and it will bring forward the bold and ambitious without deterring the retiring and over modest, who may yet beneath their crust of shyness conceal abilities of a high order."
Now one moment's consideration will show, that there is nothing in this which would have the effect of obviating the evils of which we have just complained. What is essentially requisite in this country is, a sufficient test of the qualifications of the men who come to the bar. If the examination were voluntary merely, the hordes of incompetent adventurers, of those depending upon the support of their own connexions, would be by no means diminished, and, until they are so, we need never expect to see the Irish bar what it ought to be, either as regards the qualifications or the character of its practitioners. There are some observations in a recent number of the "Jurist," which so fully bear out the opinion we have formed, with reference to the necessity of a compulsory examination, as a test, previous to admission to the bar,
that we trust we shall be pardoned if we extract them at length ::
"We confess that we have observed with regret, the reluctance of the Inns of Court to enforce upon the candidate for admission to the bar, the acquisition of some legal knowledge. It is difficult to perceive upon what grounds the present practice can be supported. It is, we believe, said, that the nature of a barrister's employment, the public manner in which it is exercised, and the intervention between the advocate and the client, of a competent judge, in the person of the attorney, render a preliminary test unnecessary; and without it, those only who are competent, will be employed as advocates. But why should the public, or rather, the litigating portion of them, be obliged to ascertain from amongst a crowd of persons, all bearing the same insignia of learning, those who indeed possess it, and those who have only its semblance-what coins are of true metal, and what of false. Rather is it the duty of the state, or in the present care of those to whom the state has delegated its authority, to present to its subjects, for their choice, in matters of such grave import as are intrusted to an advocate, those only who must, in some degree, be presumed to be competent for the task. But admitting that ultimately the character of each individual barrister is fairly and accurately ascertained-and when we do that, we are granting what is far from the fact, why should not this be facilitated by selecting the subjects for public experiment? It is said that the attorney will ascertain the fitness of the counsel: but how is he told so in the first instance? either he must personally know the untried man-a state of things, which, if it were possible, would be far from desirable, or he must run the risk of a mistake, and peril his client's interest in the choice of the advocate. Both these evils may be almost avoided by the adoption, not of an examination merely, through which all must pass, but of one by which the various degrees of proficiency would be made apparent; the public would have afforded to them some clue to guide their choice, and the unknown and friendless man of talent, who may now wait hopelessly for an opportunity of trying his powers, would have afforded to him one way at least of emerging from his obscurity.
"From the ranks of the bar are chosen numerous officers, judicial and otherwise; so much so, indeed, that the phrase, a barrister of seven years' standing,' has become proverbial. The confining the
choice of officers to any particular class, can only be justified on the ground of its peculiar fitness for the discharge of its duties. How is this fitness learned? What is done to make the barrister of seven years' standing more fit for his office than any other person? Nothing. He may have observed the forms required by the Inns of Court-forms, which have long ceased to have any meaning attached to them-without having ever seriously perused a single legal work, or during his attendance at a pleader's or conveyancer's chambers, extended his studies beyond the columns of a newspaper, donned the wig and gown, and fluttered for a time about the courts; thence retiring to more congenial pursuits, with which to while away the probationary term; after which, if he chance to have friends, he may obtain one of those places for which the legislature has declared them qualified. Those are the men whom such an examination would keep away from the bar, or if they did come, they would be obliged to acquire some knowledge.
"We think the honour of the bar and the interest of the public require that some test of fitness should be requiredin no other profession, we believe, is it wanting."
In the justness and truth of these observations we most fully concur; and, we are moreover of opinion, that there is nothing like a public viva voce examination for sounding the depths of a man's knowledge-his answers will continually suggest fresh questions and so the actual amount of his information upon any given subject With will most easily be ascertained. reference to the objection which has been so strongly urged against the policy of a compulsory examination, that country gentlemen and persons of consideration who now come to the bar for the purpose of becoming qualified to fulfil their respective duties in life, would, by this means, be deterred from doing so, we have only to observe that they can have the full benefit of the education, lectures, &c. ; and if, having had the advantage of these, they are found unable to pass the ordeal, there is no great harm done after all. It is not from such a class that the ornaments of the profession have ever been derived. They have conferred no lustre upon it; and if they seek to obtain additional position by becoming enrolled in its ranks,