In my article on the diabolical nature of lawyers, I forgot one ancient quote which describes lawyers as “Grasshoppers of Egypt…devourers of men’s estates by contention, and prolonging suits to make them without end.” I also forgot to state that I do not agree with all the writers, including Jesus, on what they had to say in that article about lawyers.
I passionately embrace the words of one writer who described lawyers as “learned, cultivated man, linguistics, logicians, tenacious disputants, true lovers of the nice case and the moot point. They are gregarious, clubbable men, arguing learning and teaching, the great mediators between life and logic, a reasoning reasonable element of the nation.”
In the days when western societies were classified, lawyers and their families were members of the nobility. Their stature was so aristocratic that valiant knights who were admitted by the monarch into lower orders found it easier to ascend the noble ranks by becoming lawyers. Those were truly the good old days for the legal fraternity.
Legal services were then only consumed by the aristocracy who needed the help of lawyers to manage their large estates. The only active branch of law was conveyancing which governed the purchase and sale of the estates The common man only required legal services when faced with a criminal charge.
But in those days there were no rights. People were tried and executed according to a barbaric law that knew no right but for mercy. Otherwise lawyers had no connection with the commoners.
With the advent of the industrial revolution, legal scene begun to change. New laws had to be made to govern the new commerce and the incidence that arose from it. Previously there were no factory workers. Now there were no factory laws, labour laws, contract laws, laws to govern the numerous business activities arising from the revolution. Overnight everybody needed the help of lawyers. Lawyers found themselves in the horas of a dilemma. On one hand they became technocrats who assisted people to use the law to make profit and a mass wealth. They no longer sat down and drafted sweet sounding documents or stood and narrated sweet stories before judges. They now ran around fixing deals, signing contracts, settling claims, filling cases, winning and losing those cases, and all in pursuit of profit.
Law practice ceased to be a noble occupation but became a business activity.
On the other hand, lawyers found themselves trapped in the social class to which they have been accepted. They had to still wear their traditional noble attire and they still had to be noble in their behavior and business conduct. While they were now privately profit conscious in their business activity, they publicly maintained the noble perspective to law practice.
It was the lawyers in America, the new world, who appreciated the changed nature of the profession and shed off the old systems. The America lawyers saw themselves more as part of the commercial world than as the noble and spiritual being of society. They rejected the old rules by refusing to wear the traditional attire.
One observer commented that if an English barrister walked the corridors of a Chicago Court dressed as he would be in a black gown and white wig and collars, he would be mistaken for an accused person charged with transvestite prostitution.
Many of the rules held dear in the English bar were rejected by the American lawyers. They use the term “Your Honour” instead of My Lord” when addressing their judges, they are free to advertise their services and to engage in price competition, they are even allowed to tour for legal business. The effect of their liberalisation of the legal industry was to make lawyers affordable and accessible. And the infusion of legal assistance into the American bar became known as “the Priesthood of Industry.”
After many years of resistance, the English Bar also finally came to terms with the changed nature of the profession. In 1990, Lord Mackay of Claskfern who had only been appointed Lord Chancellor one year earlier, introduced the revolutionary Courts and Legal Services Act. The Act made major reforms in the English Bar, the most fundamental of which was to allow lawyers to advertise their services. Lawyers were also allowed to talk to the press and enter discussions on their cases on the public media.
Usually changes in the law and practice in England affects the law and practice in Kenya. And the Kenyan legal profession modelled along the lines of the early 20th Century English Bar, is in dire need of reform. Will the 1990 Act passed in England affect the legal profession I Kenya?