Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Community News Network

March 29, 2013

How did lawyers get such a bad reputation?

One of the world's largest law firms, DLA Piper, is being sued for overbilling, in a case the New York Times notes will not help the public's low opinion of lawyers. Emails disclosed in conjunction with the suit show one lawyer describing another's approach as "churn that bill, baby!" When did lawyers get such a bad reputation?

The Middle Ages. In the days of the Greek and Roman empires, lawyers generally came from noble, wealthy backgrounds, worked for the public good, and were respected for it. It was often considered dishonorable to collect legal fees, and a lawyer's skill was in his rhetoric rather than in his specialized knowledge of elaborate legal codes. Even when Emperor Claudius eventually permitted legal fees in Rome, he allowed only fees that were less than 10,000 sesterces — several years' pay for a legionary, or only about a week's earnings for some senators. After the Dark Ages, lawyers were required once again by the ever expanding labyrinthine laws of the Catholic Church, the most complex organization of the Medieval era. The church's seemingly endless codes required specialized interpreters, but the lawyers were criticized for selling their God-given talents to the highest bidder. For this greed and "venality," they were attacked viciously in morality tales and satirical poems. One medieval poet wrote, "They are no psalmists, but the harpists of Satan." Others compared them to Judas, explaining that "he who sells the truth for money sells Christ, who is Truth." Their venality was associated particularly with the their tongues, and in the moral spook stories called the exempla, their tongues were in turn blackened, torn from them, or, in one case, scorched by fiery horses and cattle stuffed into their mouths.

Though lawyers weren't compared to Judas every time they took a fee, the perception that lawyers were greedy and opportunist continued through the Renaissance and into the early modern era. An early lawyer joke can be found in Shakespeare's King Lear, when Lear tells the Fool that his speech is "nothing, fool." "Then 'tis like the breath of the unfeed lawyer," the Fool replies, delivering the equivalent of the aphorism "A lawyer's opinion which costs nothing is worth nothing." Many dramas even compared lawyers to the devil himself, or depicted the devil as a lawyer. By 1832, the lawyer-devil archetype was so tiresome that the editor of one book of jokes complained that it was a "hackneyed character."

Text Only
Community News Network
  • 20140727-AMX-GUNS271.jpg Beretta, other gun makers heading to friendlier states

    In moving south and taking 160 jobs with it, Beretta joins several other prominent gunmakers abandoning liberal states that passed tough gun laws after the Newtown shooting.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.21.22 PM.png VIDEO: Dog 'faints' from excitement of seeing owner

    A reunion between a Pennsylvania woman who had been living overseas for two years and her pet schnauzer has gone viral, garnering nearly 20 million views on YouTube.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    July 31, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Couple Channel Grief Into Soldiers' Retreat WWI Aviation Still Alive at Aerodrome in NY Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Clinton Before 9-11: Could Have Killed Bin Laden Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
House Ads
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide