Lawyers: Hated Since the Fifth Century (give or take a few hundred years)

Sylvester_Shyster

Sylvester Shyster, Disney’s 1930s crooked lawyer who schemed with Peg-Leg Pete to deprive Minnie Mouse of her inheritance

Thanks to a lawsuit alleging over-billing against DLA Piper, an internal email surfaced between attorneys at the firm who joked, “churn that bill, baby!” In order to quell some of the outrage over the untoward comment, this week editors at Slate’s Explainer column delve into the history of attorney billing and present a fascinating story.

According to columnist Forrest Wickman, attorneys were not always so reviled as they are today. In fact, lawyers practicing under the Roman empire enjoyed a kind of respect unheard of since the Middle Ages. Lawyers came from high class families and worked for the public good, collecting modest legal fees and were paid based on their gift of gab rather than encyclopedic knowledge of statutory law.

By the Dark Ages, the Catholic church had developed a tortured code of society. So difficult was the system to crack, specialized interpreters were required to interpret the code. However, attorneys were criticized for charging competitive rates for their trade. So loathsome was this practice that some compared lawyers to Judas, explaining that “he who sells the truth for money sells Christ, who is Truth.

See the rest of the column for more.

Via Slate.

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