Wednesday, June 15, 2011

1850s: "Discourage litigation" and "Persuade your neighbors to compromise"

As Righthaven's case of frivolous lawsuits (rightfully) collapses (hat tip to Glenn Reynolds) — with Clayton concluding that "Righthaven's scalp needs to be clearly visible as a reminder that being a lawyer has ethical requirements" — it bears reminding that already in the 1850s, a prominent frontier lawyer, disturbed by what he saw, felt compelled to offer the following advice in a speech to aspiring lawyers.
Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. … A moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.

Abraham Lincoln — for it was he (drawn above by Dan Greenberg) — concluded: there is a
popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest . . . the impression is common, almost universal. Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave.