Imágenes de página

that dreadful the tongue without the help of the pistol. A reluctance to shoot then raised contempt for the ablest, even among the best, of men.

Germany of of that eighteenth century were the rich so gay or the poor so gaunt. Never anywhere did the gentry scatter so profusely the plenty of a starving land, The Irish Parliament had, during the earlier part of the century, been & negligible quantity in the State. In the last quarter of it the Ulster Volunteers and Grattan between them gave it power which it was never fitted to possess. That power the Government of the day had to eonciliate, and it did so by giving the members innumerable places and pensions. Thus the road to preferment lay through Parliament, and every man who sought to gain promotion, or to pillage by means of an undeserved pension the revenues of the country when he had by his own extravagance ceased to be able to pillage the peasants, sought a seat in it. The only way in which a poor man, and the best way in which any man, could secure a seat was by way of the Bar. Success at the Bar ensured the successful councillor not merely a seat, but also a reputation, in the House of Commons, and often, as a consequence, in the House of Lords.

Success at the Bar could be secured only by one of two instruments the pistol or the tongue. There was this difference between these implements, that success was always obtainable by the ready use of the pistol without the help of the tongue, but very seldom obtainable by the ready use of

When a certain distinguished counsel refused a challenge on the ground that his mother, wife, and daughter were dependent upon him, this is how the gentle and kindly Bushe, afterwards Lord ChiefJustice, thought proper to celebrate the event-

"Our hero of Erin, abhorrent of slaughter,

Improves on the Scripture command

He honours his mother, his wife, and his daughter,

That his days may be long in the land."

A man who refused a shallenge was said to be "put down" by his opponent-that is, so degraded as not to be entitled to public consideration-and there were not a few young

young barristers who made it their business to win success by "putting down" persons who had become obnoxious to the Government, or shooting them if they declined to be put down. Of this brigade of pistoleers the most notorious was Toller, afterward Lord Norbury and Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. It was said truly enough of him that he shot up to the Bench. Even after he had reached that elevation his reliance on the steadiness of his hand and heart is to us of this day sufficiently amazing. His knowledge of law was very limited, and therefore he hated

[ocr errors]

appeals from his decisions; so more than once when an imprudent counsel showed an undue tendency to test their soundness in the court above, his lordship would caution the unbeliever that he was not inclined to sink the gentleman in the judge, and if the counsel persisted in his line of conduct his lordship was ready to settle their differences of opinion in another place than the Court of Appeal. Readiness of the tongue, though not absolutely necessary to the young barrister who had sufficient readiness with the pistol, was still a most valuable quality to him. It is therefore not strange to find it developed amongst members of the Bar in both its highest and lowest forms. With men of genius like Curran, Plunkett, Bushe, and half a dozen more, it took the form of the noblest eloquence, the most pleasant wit, and the most pungent sarcasm. With the rabble of the Bar it took the form of little but insult, noise, and vulgarity; in fact, instead of "putting down" their opponents as the fire-eaters did, they shouted them down. A remark made by the aforesaid Lord Norbury shows the way business was conducted before him. Counsel asked a witness how he made his living. "I keep a racket court," replied the witness. "So do I," observed his lordship grimly.

The one thing which was absolutely useless to a lawyer was a knowledge of the law.

Even the greatest men at the Bar were far from being what would now be considered deeply learned. Plunkett, for instance, was in intellect immeasurably above the ordinary lawyer of the present day; but his reported decisions make one doubt whether in learning he was not a little below him, below him. The reason, of course, was that all barristers had in the end to look for promotion not to their success at the Bar, but to their success in Parliament; and for success there, eloquence, wit, and sarcasm were infinitely more effective than a knowledge, however profound, of Coke on Littleton or of the Reports.

With the Union all this began to change. Power and preferment passed from the corrupt Parliament of Dublin to the, at any rate, less corrupt Parliament of London. The Government no longer wanted its henchmen to "put down" its opponents by challenges, and even began to appoint some barristers to judgeships because they knew the law, and these judges would not let counsel win cases by shouting down their opponents. Politics still had a great deal too much to do with promotion to the Bench, but that was so in England as well as Ireland, and had not prevented learning being more or less a condition precedent to promotion. Gradually the same rule prevailed also in Ireland, until for years past there has been little dif

ference in this respect between the specialist is at a disadvan

the Benches and Bars of the two countries.

There is, however, still one marked difference between the nature of the learning of the Bench and Bar of Ireland and that of the Beneh and Bar of England. The law in England is a specialised profession. A man on his call has to choose which of at least a dozen kinds of practice he will seek; and the more strictly he sticks to the particular kind he has chosen, the more certain and the more rapid is his success. In Ireland there is practically no specialisation. The man newly called has to seek any kind of work he can get. The field is too small to allow of any subdivision of labour in its cultivation. After a time, no doubt, most successful men get a special reputation in some particular kind of praotiee, but every man must in his time have dealt with all kinds of practice in order to become successful.

Specialisation has its advantages and its disadvantages in law, as in everything else. A man who studies exclusively a small part of a great subject must master that part more completely than he could by the same effort master it all. It is not, therefore, surprising to find that cases arising on some branches of law-such more especially as the law of shipping, mereantile contracts, companies are as a rule better dealt with in England than in Ireland. But most cases arise on the general law, and here


tage as compared with the general practitioner. Therefore it is not surprising to find that most cases are dealt with at least as well in Ireland as in England. And sometimes of late, where the decisions of the courts in England and Ireland have differed, the Courts of Appeal here have shown an inclination to adopt the Irish decisions. I may mention as instances of this the recent cases of In re Sampson ([1906] 2 Ch., 584), and Hewson v. Shelley ([1914] 2 Ch., 13). Bourne v. Keane ([1919] 35 T.L.R., 560), though it accommodated the law in England with the law in Ireland, cannot be said to follow the Irish decisions, since the Aot of Parliament which gave most difficulty in it did not apply to Ireland.

This is the chief difference between the Bench and Bar of Ireland and the Bench and Bar of England; but as between the Bars only there are several others as important. In the first place, every barrister in England who purports to practise must have chambers, where he meets his clients and where he does his work which is not done in court. As we know, each of the four Inns of Court has from time immemorial had hundreds of sets of rooms attached to it in which its members formerly lived, and in which they still work. In Ireland barristers have no chambers; King's Inn is but a dining-hall, a library, and a school for law students. Bar


risters are supposed to do their out-of-court work at their homes; and in income-tax returns a share of the rent is deducted as expenditure necessary to the earning of their incomes. And most of the leaders do use their homes for the purpose of conferences and consultations, and all barristers keep their law books there. But for the vast bulk of the Bar the place where all the out-of-court work is done is the Library of the Four Courts. To each barrister a particular seat is allotted, and there he reads his briefs and drafts his pleadings. If a solicitor comes to consult him, the Library attendant summons him from the seat, and in one of the adjacent rooms the two lawyers discuss the business on hand.

This practice has, like specialisation, its advantages and its disadvantages. Its advantages are enjoyed principally by the younger men. In the first place it saves them the expense of chambers and a clerk. In the next, it introduces them rapidly to an acquaintance with the other and more experienced members of their profession. They meet together daily there as in a very social club; visit the courts below from time to time, and discuss the cases going on there much in the way English barristers do at mess on circuit, but have little opportunity of doing in town. And when work comes to a young man, he is not left to find his own way out of the difficulties arising from inexperience; friends acquainted

with the work are always about him in the Library to whom he can apply for help, which is never refused.

The chief disadvantage is that such a place conduces more to gossip than to hard work. Moreover, the ease with which difficulties can be overcome without study makes some men rely on So overcoming them; and so what at the beginning is a great help becomes in the end a great hindrance. If many an Irish barrister long in practice is not a sound lawyer, he has often to thank for that the assistance which at first enabled him to do his work without learning his law.

In England nearly every aspirant to the Bar who seeks work there after he has passed his final examination reads for a time in chambers-that means before trying to practise himself he enters the chambers of a barrister in practice and there studies how the law which he has learnt from books and lectures is practically applied. In Ireland, as I have said, there are no chambers; and there is little to correspond with reading in chambers. The instruction which the English student gets in chambers the average Irish student gets, so far as he gets it at all, in the Library of the Four Courts. It is not strange then to find that in Ireland the drafting of pleadings, conveyances, and other documents is not always so artistic and the observation of rules of pleading not always so strict as these are in Eng

land-though in this respect there is not now so marked a difference as there once


At King's Inn, Dublin, as at the Inns of Court, London, lectures are delivered each term for the instruction of the Bar students; but there is this difference. In Dublin attendance at the lectures is compulsory, while in London it is optional. Formerly another difference in the students' education is that in Dublin, but not in London, a part of the lecturers' duties was to see that the students reported a certain number of cases which had been heard in the courts during the term. This reporting of cases partially supplied the absence of reading in chambers; and if earefully done by the student and carefully revised by the leoturer, could not but be a good preliminary_to actual practice in court. Formerly it was almost a custom among young English barristers to begin the work of their profession by reporting for a year or two. I cannot but regret that the practice of students in Ireland and young barristers in England reporting cases has now become obsolete.

The tendency of civil business in the south of England to drift to London, and the growth of local Bars in the great oities of the north, threaten the English oirouit system with extinction. In Ireland the circuit is the best working part of the machinery of justice. This is partly due

to the universal inclination to have local cases tried locally; but it is also due to the appeals from county courts. In England a party to a county court action can appeal only on a point of law; and then the appeal is heard by a divisional court sitting in London. In Ireland he can appeal not only on the law but on the facts: and the appeal, which is practically a rehearing, is to the Assizes. Such appeals often outnumber the ordinary civil actions. An incapable county court judge is quite a godsend to the barristers on the circuit in which he operates, while a capable one is the reverse. Some time ago the county court judge, now deceased, of the greatest court of the kind in Ireland, did his work so satisfactorily that appeals from his decisions threatened to become unknown. The juniors of the circuit, in desperation, inveigled him to a mess dinner under the pretence of doing honour to his renown; and, when they had him there, they proceeded to try him on a charge of attempting to ruin his old profession by depriving its members of the means of subsistence. He was found guilty, and detained in eustody until he apologised to the Bar and swore on a copy of Blackstone that he would not repeat the offence.

The incomes made by leading barristers in England are popularly immensely exaggerated; but still some of them are five or six times greater than any income that it is possible for

« AnteriorContinuar »