(from SOME LAWYERS ARE PEOPLE TOO! )
By Hugh L. Dewey, Esq.)
The evolution and history of lawyers is very similar to the evolution
and history of mankind. Like the symbiotic relationship between
trees and fungus, lawyers and humans have an important, interlocking
relationship going back to the dawn of man.
Legal anthropologists have not yet discovered the proverbial first
lawyer. No briefs or pleadings remain from the proto-lawyer that is
thought to have been in existence more than 5 million years ago.
Chimpanzees, man’s and lawyer’s closest relative, share 99% of the
same genes. New research has definitely proven that chimpanzees do
not have the special L1a gene that distinguishes lawyers from
everyone else. (FN 1)
This disproved the famous outcome of the Scopes Monkey Trial in which
Clarence Darrow proved that monkeys were also lawyers.
Charles Darwin, Esquire theorized in the mid-1800s that tribes of
lawyers existed as early as 2.5 million years ago. However, in his
travels he found little evidence to support this theory.
Legal anthropology suffered a set-back at the turn of the century in
the famous Piltdown Lawyer scandal. In order to prove the existence
of the missing legal link, a scientist claimed he had found the skull
of an ancient lawyer. The skull later turned out to be homemade,
combining the large jaw of a modern lawyer with the skull cap of a
gorilla. When the hoax was discovered, the science of legal
anthropology was set back 50 years.
The first hard scientific proof of the existence of lawyers was
discovered by Dr. Margaret Leakey at the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.
Her find consisted of several legal fragments, but no full case was
found intact at the site. Carbon dating has estimated the find at
between 1 million and 1.5 million years ago. However, through legal
anthropology methods, it has been theorized that the site contains a
the remains of a fraud trial in which the defendant sought to
disprove liability on the basis of his inability to stand erect. The
case outcome is unknown, but it coincides with the decline of the
Australopithecus and the rise of Homo Erectus in the world. (FN2)
In many sites dating from 250,000 to 1,000,000 years ago, legal tools
have been uncovered. Unfortunately, the tools are often in
fragments, making it difficult to gain much knowledge.
The first complete site discovered has been dated to 150,000 years
ago. Stone pictograph briefs were found concerning a land boundary
dispute between a tribe of Neanderthals and a tribe of Cro-Magnons.
This decision in favor of the Cro-Magnon tribe led to a successive
set of cases, spelling the end for the Neanderthal tribe. (FN3)
Until 10,000 years ago, lawyers wandered around in small tribes,
seeking out clients. Finally, small settlements of lawyers began to
spring up in the Ur Valley, the birthplace of modern civilization.
With settlement came the invention of writing.
Previously lawyers had relied on oral bills for collection of
payment, which made collection difficult and meant that if a client
died before payment (FN4) the bill would remain uncollected. With
written bills, lawyers could continue collection indefinitely.
In the late 1880s, legal anthropologists cracked the legal
hieroglyphic language when they were able to determine the meaning of
the now famous Rosetta Stone Contract.(FN5) The famous first
paragraph can be recited verbatim by almost every lawyer:
“In consideration of 20,000 Assyrians workers, 3,512 live goats
and 400,000 hectares of dates, the undersigned hereby conveys all of
the undersigned’s right, title, and interest in and to the property
commonly known as the Sphinx, more particularly described on Stone A
attached hereto and made a part hereof.”
The attempted sale of the Sphinx resulted in the Pharaoh issuing a
country-wide purge of all lawyers. Many were slaughtered, and the
rest wandered in the desert for years looking for a place to
Greece and Rome saw the revival of the lawyer in society. Lawyers
were again allowed to freely practice and they took full advantage of
this opportunity. Many records exist from this classic period.
Legal cases ranged from run-of-the-mill goat contract cases to the
well-known product liability case documented in the Estate of
Socrates vs. Hemlock Wine Company 123 Roman2d 675 (Roman Feudal
The most famous lawyer of this period was Hamurabi the Lawyer. His
code of law gave lawyers hundreds of new business opportunities.
With the creation of a massive legal system, the demand for lawyers
increased ten-fold. In those days, almost any thief or crook could
kill a sheep, hang-up a sheep skin, and practice law, unlike the
highly regulated system today which limits law degrees to only those
thieves and crooks who haven’t been convicted of a major felony.
The explosion in the number of lawyers coincided with the development
of algebra, the mathematics of legal billing. Pythagoras a famous
Greek lawyer is revered for his Pythagorean Theorem which proved the
mathematical quandary of double billing. This new development
allowed lawyers to become wealthy members of their community, as well
as to enter politics, an area previously considered off-limits to
lawyers. Despite the mathematical soundness of double billing, some
lawyers went to extremes. Julius Caesar, a Roman lawyer and
politician, was murdered by several clients for his record hours
billed in late February and early March of 44 B.C. (FN7)
Before the Roman Era, lawyers did not have specific areas of
practice. During the period, legal specialist arose to meet the
demands of the burgeoning Roman population. Sports lawyers counseled
gladiators, Admiralty lawyers drafted contracts for the great battles
in the Colisseum, International lawyers travelled with the great
Roman armies to force native lawyers to sign treaties of adhesion.
Many of these treaties lasted hundreds of years until they were
broken by the Barbarian lawyers who descended on Rome from the north
and east, and the ever-popular Pro Bono lawyers (Latin for ’can’t get
a real job’) who represented Christians and lost all their cases for
As time went on, the population of lawyers continued to grow until 1
out of every 2 Romans was a lawyer. Soon lawyers were intermarrying.
This produced children who were legally entitled to practice Roman
law, but because of the many defects that such a match produced, the
quality of lawyers degenerated, resulting in an ever-increasing
defective legal society, and the introduction of accountants.
Pressured by the legal barbarians from the north with their ’sign or
die’ negotiating skills, Rome fell and the world entered the Dark
During the Dark Ages, many of the legal theories and practice
developed during the golden age were forgotten. Lawyers lost the art
of double billing, the thirty-hour day, the 15- minute phone call;
they virtually became meer manual laborers, sharing space with
primitive doctor-barbers. Many people sought out magicians and
witches instead of lawyers, since they were cheaper and easier to
The Dark Ages for lawyers ended in England in 1078. Norman lawyers
discovered a loophole in Welsh law that allowed William the Conqueror
to foreclose an old French loan and take most of England, Scotland,
and Wales. William rewarded the lawyers for their work and soon
lawyers were again accepted in society.
Lawyers became so popular during this period that they were able to
heavily influence the kings of Britain, France, and Germany. After a
Turkish corporation stiffed the largest and oldest English law firm,
the partners of the firm convinced these kings to start a bill
crusade, sending collection knights all the way to Jerusalem to seek
A major breakthrough for lawyers occurred in the 17th century.
Blackstone the Magician, on a trip through Rome, unearthed several
dozen ancient Roman legal texts. The new knowledge spread through
the legal community like the black plague. Up to that point, lawyers
had used the local language of the community for their work. Since
many smart non-lawyers could thus determine what work, if any, the
lawyer had done, lawyers often lost clients, and sometimes their
Using Blackstone’s finds, lawyers could use Latin to hide what they
did so that only other lawyers understood what was happening in any
lawsuit. Blackstone was a hero to all lawyers, of course, until he
was sued for copyright infringement by another lawyer. (FN8)
Despite his loss, Blackstone is still fondly remembered by most
lawyers as ’the father of legal Latin’. “Res ipsa loquitur“ was
Blackstone’s favorite saying (’my bill speaks for itself’) and it is
still heard today.
Many lawyers made history during the Middle Ages. Genghis Kahn,
Esq., from a family of Jewish lawyers and senior partner in the firm
Hun & Kahn, pioneered the practice of merging with law offices around
Asia Minor at any cost. At one time, the firm was the largest in
Asia and Europe. Unfortunately, their success became their downfall.
Originally a large personal injury firm (if you didn’t pay their
bill, they personally injured you), they became conservative over
time and were eventually overwhelmed by lawyers from the west.
Vlad Dracul, Esq., a medical malpractice specialist, was renowned for
his knowledge of anatomy, and few jurors would side against him for
fear of his special bill (his bill was placed atop 20foot wooden
spears on which the non-paying client was placed). His legendary
legal practice became the basis for many 20th Century legal horror
films staring such legendary actors as Borris Karloff and Christopher
Leonardo da Vinci, Esq. was multi-talented. Besides having a busy
law practice, he was also an artist and inventor. His most famous
case was in defense of himself. M. Lisa vs. da Vinci (Italian
Superior Court 1513) involved a product liability suit over a
painting Da Vinci delivered to the Plaintiff.
The court, in ruling that the painting was not defective despite the
missing eyebrows, issued the famous line, “This court may not know
art, but it knows what it likes and it likes the painting.” This was
not surprising, since the plaintiff was known for her huge,
caterpillar-like eyebrows. Da Vinci was able to convince the court
that he was not only entitled to damages, but to attorneys’ fees,
costs and punitive damages as well. The court, taking one last look
at the plaintiff, granted the request.
A land dispute case in the late 15th century is still studied today
for the clever work of lawyer named Christopher Columbus, Esq. He
successfully convinced an Aztec court, in Columbus vs. 1,000,000
Acres, 3 SA3d 1095 (Aztec High Court 1493) that since the Indians did
not believe in possession, they could not legally claim the land in
question. Therefore, his claim had to be given priority. Despite
the fact that the entire court was sacrificed to the gods, the case
held and Spain took an early legal lead in the New World. This was
due to Columbus recording the court’s judgment in the Aztec Public
Records. Once recorded, the judgment took priority over every other
As the New World was colonized, England eventually surpassed Spain as
the leading colonizer. England began sending all of its criminals
and thieves to the New World. This mass dumping of lawyers to the
states would come back to haunt England; eventually the grandchildren
of these pioneer lawyers would successfully defeat King George III in
the now famous King George III v. 100 Bags of Tea 14 F. Supp 34
(Colonial Supreme Court 1783). England by this time was now
dreadfully short of lawyers.
The new American lawyers exploited this shortfall and after a seven
year legal war, defeated the British and created the United States,
under the famous motto, “All lawyers are created equal.”
England never forgot this lesson, and immediately stopped its
practice of sending lawyers to the colonies. This policy left
Australia woefully deficient in lawyers.
With stories of legal success common in the late 1700’s, more and
more people attempted to become lawyers. This process of stealing a
shingle worried the more successful lawyers. To stem this tide as
well as to create a new profit center, these lawyers passed laws
requiring all future lawyers to be restricted from practice unless
they went to an approved law school. The model school from which all
legal education rules developed was Harvard Law School.
Established in 1812, Harvard set the standard for legal education, in
1816, when it created the standardized system for legal education.
This system was based on the Socratic method. At most universities,
the students questioned the teacher/professor to gain knowledge.
These students would then bill their law professors and if the bill
went unfulfilled the students usually strung up their law professor
for failure to fulfill the bill. At Harvard the tables were turned,
with the law professors billing the students. This method enriched
the law professors and remains the standard in use in most law
schools in America and England today.
Following the Harvard method, law students now take a standard set of
courses: 1. Jurisprudence: The history of legal billing, from early
Greek and Roman billing methods to modern collection techniques; 2.
Torts: A French law term for “you get injury, we keep 40%.” Teaches
students ambulance chasing techniques; 3. Contracts: Emphasizes the
fact that despite an agreement between two parties (the contract), a
lawsuit can still be brought; 4. Civil Procedure: Teaches the tricky
arcane rules of court, which were modernized only 150 years ago in
New York; 5. Criminal law: Speaks for itself.
These courses continue to be used in most law schools throughout the
Despite the restrictions imposed on the practice of law, a four year
college degree, three years of graduate school, and a state sponsored
examination, the quantity of lawyers continue to increase to the
point that three out of every five Americans are lawyers. (FN10)
Every facet of life today is controlled by lawyers. Even Dan Quayle
(a lawyer married to a lawyer, and former Vice-President of the
United States) claims, surprise, that there are too many lawyers.
Yet until limits are imposed on legal birth control, the number of
lawyers will continue to increase. Is there any hope? We don’t know
and frankly don’t care, since the author of this book is a
successful, wealthy lawyer, the publishers of this book are lawyers,
the cashier at the book store is a law student, and your mailman is a
lawyer. So instead of complaining, join us! Remember, there is no
such thing as a one lawyer town.
1 See Science Digest Lawyers in the Mist? Dr. Mark Johnson, May 1990,
pp 43 - 52.
2 Leakey, Margaret A. The case of the erectus hominid Legal
Anthropology March 1947 pp 153
3 See Widget, Dr., John B. Did Cro-Magnon have better lawyers?
Natural History June 1926 pp 135. See also Cook, Benjamin Very Very
Early Land Use Cases Legal Press 1953.
4 With life expectancy between 25 and 30 years, and the death penalty
imposed for all offenses, most clients died shortly after their case
5 Harrison, Franklin D. The Rosetta Bill Doubleday 1898.
6 Wilson, Phillips ed. Famous Roman Cases Houghton, Mifflin
7 His murder was the subject of a play by William Shakespeare. When
Caesar discovered that one of his murderers was his law partner
Brutus, he murmured the immortal words, “Et tu Brute”, which can be
loosely translated form Latin as “My estate keeps twice the
8 Posner v Blackstone 11 RS 345 (Queens Bench 1754)
9 These movies include Dracula, Esq., The Bill of Death, It came
from the Grave (to collect its bill), and the classic Blood of Res
10 In fact, there are more than 750,000 lawyers in this country
today. Seems that truth is stranger than fiction.