Ethical View of the Lawyer
Last evening in Phillips Brooks House Mr. Louis D. Brandeis L.'77 delivered the second of the series of lectures on "The Ethics of the Professions," under the auspices of the Ethical Society. His subject was "The Legal Profession."
The legal profession in America, said Mr. Brandeis, has always afforded abundant opportunities for usefulness. Formerly the lawyer of ability was invaria- bly a great political and administrative power in the state; in our own day he is an equally important factor in industrial and financial affairs.
The lawyer is well fitted for his important role by the training he is forced to undergo. For, after receiving an academic education from books, he develops his practical ability in the exercise of his profession. By the training of speedy and accurate judgment he adapts himself to the position of adviser of men.
In the field where the lawyer could have been of the greatest service to the community, however,--in the solution of the problems of public economy--he has generally asserted his influence on the wrong side. On questions relating to trusts, the municipalization of franchises, the conflict between capital and labor, and the like, the great lawyers have almost invariably tried to influence legislation in favor of wealthy corporations, and against the people. They justify their action on the ground that they are only attempting to present one side of the question, just as in a court of law, and are leaving the legislatures to decide between them and their opponents. But, as the lecturer pointed out, whereas the wealthy corporations are always ably represented, the public seldom has an efficient spokesman.
Here lies a great field for ethical endeavor. Disinterested lawyers, by upholding the side of the people against wealthy industries can do a great benefit to the community: directly, by influencing legislation in the right direction; and, indirectly, by turning the revolution of the lower classes against the excesses of wealth, which is certain to occur within the next generation, from violent into legitimate channels