Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/476

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

The Editor's Bag of state but the study of two systems of international law, American and Eng lish, which need to be brought more closely into harmony and mutual sup port. THE MORAL TEST FOR ADMIS SION TO THE BAR WHEN Mr. Clarence A. Lightner told the Section on Legal Educa tion that "there are some arguments worthy of consideration in favor of an open bar," which would place the burden of maintaining the standard of qualifi cations for practice upon the law schools rather than upon public bar examiners, his remark suggested an interesting alternative to the system at present in force. Why should not the diploma of a law school approved by the state as maintaining a proper standard of legal education entitle the graduate to admission to the bar as a matter of right? It may reasonably be contended that if a law school is not capable of so training its students that all who are graduated from the institution are fit to practice law — at least so far as their intellectual preparation is concerned — it is failing to perform its function as a law school. There is undoubtedly much in the contention that it is not simply the business of a law school to train candidates for the bar; that, on the con trary, it has a larger function to fulfil, in the education of law teachers, publicists, and others who will never turn to the practice of law as a vocation. While a broad educational aim of this kind is praiseworthy and ought to be encouraged, it is incomprehensible how a degree from a school administered in this broad way could signify anything less in the way of professional preparation than one granted by an institution of narrower technical aims. On the contrary, the


state would be likely to more readily admit the right of the diploma of the broader institutions to recognition than that of the narrower ones. The other important element, that of moral character, has to be considered. Mr. Walter George Smith, doubtless led to speak as he did largely by Mr. Coudert's inquiry into the fitness of candidates for the bar of New York, properly emphasized the importance of training in high professional ideals. If it be urged that moral training is not the function of a university, or is at least only a minor function owing to the nature of the relation of the univer sity to the social conduct of students, it seems fair to reply that there is no other agency fitted to discharge the function under equally favorable conditions, and that a public board of examiners has fewer resources of information as to the character of candidates than a law school faculty. While the question of moral qualifi cations looks simple on its face, it is really as difficult to define and deter mine the standard of moral preparation for the bar as that of intellectual prepa ration. There is room for a wide differ ence of opinion as to what should be the requisite moral attributes of a member of the bar, and their relative importance. Probity and fidelity are certainly funda mental, but by no means exhaust the essentials of professional character. It is not enough that a counselor be honest in all pecuniary matters and faithful to the interest of his client. His office is also a public trust, and requires of him an equal or indeed greater fidelity to the state. It is also conceivable that while a trite formula of moral qualifi cations might appear to be all that public opinion would require, the state would really expect of its practitioners at the bar a higher sense of professional duty