The History of Lawyers


Legal professionals in the United States have been under fire during the last few years. As a result, many people may be wondering where lawyers come from and how centuries of competing ideas and influences came together to shape our legal system today. Gabi Silver Attorney is committed to answering this historical question through her book, ” The History of Lawyers “. This article explores what it has taken for lawyers to evolve into their current role as protectors of the law. 

It discusses some major societal changes that have caused us to need lawyers more than ever before, including vernacular law, criminal justice reform efforts, changing attitudes towards personal rights, compulsory schooling laws and outbreaks of war. It also explores how the growth of the legal profession has changed lawyers’ place in society. Lastly, it explains how legal scholars, judges and lawyers themselves have contributed to the expansion of law in America since the 1700s.

“The History of Lawyers” starts with an overview of how people first came together to form a society that depended on law. From this “Golden Age” era comes the vernacular law system which was composed of local understandings of what is or is not construed as legal action. This had several effects on our system including better protection for personal rights and higher penalties for crimes such as murder and thievery.

The History of Lawyers :

1. The Golden Age :

The Golden Age is the historical period starting with the founding of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 through the Constitution of 1787. During this time, local governments were pass laws that provided a “better” understanding of right and wrong. It was also during this time that people began to rely more heavily on jury trials than trial by combat, which had been used for various crimes since before records were kept at Jamestown.

2. The Renaissance :

During the Renaissance, from about 1350 through 1700, the legal systems in Europe changed from local understandings brought about by vernacular law to a more formal and codified system. The primary sources for this were the Magna Carta, which became accepted law in England in 1297, and the Justinian Code of Rome which was published in 533. The Magna Carta was signed by King John of England to give some “rights” to his subjects. 

It laid out how the king should behave towards his subjects by limiting his power. The Justinian Code provided various forms of civil law as well as criminal law. This included a distinction between major crimes with capital punishment and minor crimes without capital punishment. It also included an understanding that “presumed consent” could be applied to everything from forced marriages to rape, making it very difficult for a victim to prove her innocence.

3. The Reformation :

During the Reformation, from 1517-1648, the Protestants in Europe fought to remove the Catholic Church’s influence over government. By 1648 most of Europe was controlled by rulers who were Protestant. The Reformation also marked an end to many of the “perverse” laws which had been plaguing Europe for centuries. 

During this time there was also a new emphasis on personal rights. Some examples include monarchs being held accountable for their crimes and Henry VII of England providing for the education of his subjects. The Protestant movement also led to major improvements in crime and punishment, especially with regard to murder and robbery.

4. The Enlightenment :

During the Enlightenment from 1650 to 1800, the legal system in Europe had a relatively strong basis in the authority of the common law. The British Constitution had its origins during this time and laid out how royal power would be limited by Parliament. 

The influence of this common law was also felt in America’s early history as people like John Adams looked to the decisions made from Britain for guidance on how best to run a government. In England, during this time there were major changes in crime and punishment as well as personal rights, such as the expansion of jury trials and trials by combat being completely banned.

5. The American Revolution :

During the American Revolution, from 1770 to 1820, the legal system in England was under major change. During this time the Americans began to codify their common law system and make it more formal, so that rules of law would not be so dependent on the customs and habits of judges. 

The result was The Federalist Papers, which laid out a framework for how a government should be run according to the people’s will. This period also marked an expansion of personal rights as laws that discriminated based on religion were largely eliminated during this time. In addition, rights for various minority groups including women and blacks were expanded during these years.


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