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The results of such studies cannot obviously be claimed by any one profession exclusively for itself. They have an influence for every calling, and are, in some degree, an indispensable pre-requisite to those vocations in particular, which require intellectual culture and effort.

Now, from the various paths, which, well trod, lead to usefulness, and profit, and honour, the student is here selecting the one which he is to follow through life, and henceforth, therefore, his studies will not, as hitherto, have for their only object general mental cultivation, but they will assume a definite character and direct application suited to his now determinate views. The desire to excel in languages or science will receive a new direction and impulse, and will either be accompanied by, or give place to the thirst for legal knowledge and skill.

Does the law student, then, by entering upon this path bid a final adieu to literature and science? It is, indeed, too common for him to do so, but a slight reflection will shew, that he is urgently called to a continued cultivation of these pursuits, not only upon general grounds, but by a consideration also of what is due to professional accomplishment and success. To throw away at this stage his classical knowledge, and such introduction to science as he may have obtained, is certainly to sacrifice a great source of mental enjoyment, a powerful implement of continued intellectual culture, a medium of communication with the finest minds of former ages, as well as of the present. There are some who conscientiously withhold their approval from the cultivation of the dead languages; and those, whose minds have been enriched with a better learning than the classic page unfolds, feel with the pious Augustine, that even in Cicero there is a void for which no eloquence can compensate; but, however alloyed with human imperfection, there is here a fountain of excellence, whose invigorating qualities have commended it to the human mind in many succeeding centuries; and these writings have been preserved more carefully than others, both because they were intrinsically better, and because they have more important uses. Into such uses this is not the place to inquire, but even here we ought not to forget the aid which learning has always afforded in the investigation, preservation, and diffusion of Sacred Truth, and how powerfully the cultivation of Greek and Roman literature has, at the most important periods of history, tended to liberate the mind from superstition and error, to awaken its highest energies, and to aid it in the reception of a pure and simple faith.

The advantages derivable from the prosecution of liberal studies by that branch of the legal profession with which this Chair is more immediately connected, will be best appreciated by attending to the nature of a Conveyancer and Law-agent's business. Let us advert, then, shortly to the functions which the members of this profession are called to execute.


The path of the Conveyancer does not at its entrance present the INTRODUCTION. attractions of those leading to some other professions, and it is un- CHAP. I. suited to minds which can only be satisfied with the stirring life of DUTIES OF THE the soldier, the excitement of commercial adventure, the profound CONVEYANCER researches of science, the eloquence of the pulpit, or the intellectual AND LAWstrife of the bar. Yet the Conveyancer's calling, combined as it is in Scotland with the other business of a Law-agent, is not destitute of excitement or interest; and how absorbing and intense these may be, is best known to those who have most faithfully discharged its duties.


What is the general nature of these duties? As a Conveyancer, IN transmisthe Law-agent must insure his client's safety in purchasing property, SON, AND CARE, in selling it, in investing money with or without security, and in all the various circumstances and positions in which property is transferred from one owner to another, or made the subject of temporary or permanent arrangement or negotiation. In particular, he must advise and act in the arrangement and execution of family-settlements for the distribution of property, whether such settlements are made by parties jointly, and to take effect during their lives, or by individuals for the disposal of their means after their death. Here he is responsible both for the security of the rights created, and for the exact attainment of the intentions of the parties. As solicitor and attorney again, he must advise-either upon his own responsibility, or with the assistance of counsel, whose aid he must know when it is necessary to obtain,-in matters of disputed right, instituting actions when necessary, and conducting them with minute attention to law and facts, and to the forms of Court. He will be called upon to enforce judgments of the Courts, in order to vindicate his client's right against the property or person of his debtor-proceedings inferring a high responsibility. There will be expected a general attention to his client's property and interests, the care of which may be entirely devolved upon him, maintaining his just rights, defending such as are assailed, watching over those which are precarious, and giving the benefit, not only of his professional knowledge and skill, but of the care and anxiety also, which a prudent man bestows upon his own affairs.

These are duties, obviously, which affect men's most important temporal interests. Property of great magnitude is dependent upon them, and professional skill is equally necessary where the value is small. The prosperity of individuals, the security of the estates which they have inherited or acquired, the comfort of families, happiness in the domestic relations, and tranquillity in circumstances of trial and anxiety-all and each of these interests, which come so home to men, to their hearthstones, and their bosoms-are committed to the Law-agent's keeping; and as by his attention and skill they

INTRODUCTION. are rendered secure, so by his negligence or ignorance they may be endangered or sacrificed.





Nor is it only in the magnitude or the momentous nature of the interests committed to our care as Law-agents, that we find sources of professional anxiety and responsibility. The relation between agent and client is in many respects peculiarly delicate, and it involves duties which may be difficult and trying. A counsel gives his opinion deliberately upon the statement before him, unembarrassed by the presence of the party. But the agent must take the case from the fountain-head, extracting what is material from the mingled mass of passion, partiality, and incoherence presented to him; and here every faithful agent feels how ill he would acquit himself, were he to join his client with the zeal of a sympathizing partisan. He must, in his own mind, try the whole case by anticipation, scrutinize it with the eyes of an adverse party, and exercise the impartiality of a judge in forming his opinion, and imparting his advice. Thus he will rescue his employer from the effects of what may be his own ignorance and perversity, and he will be faithful in advice, even should he have to confront in his client's person the demon of undisguised Selfishness, regardless of every consideration but its own ends.

Again, the law-agent's position necessarily procures for him a large DENCE PLACED and implicit confidence. His professional knowledge gives him authority with his clients, and they have no alternative but to trust him. In the enjoyment of this confidence he possesses a power which, if not beneficially used, may lead to consequences the most pernicious. One false step, the permission for a moment of a tendency towards what is tortuous or doubtful, may be the launching into a sea of litigation, fruitful no doubt of emolument to himself, but involving his client in loss, embarrassment, and eventual ruin.


SELF-DENIAL is an indispensable quality in this profession. There is none which more imperatively demands the exercise of that virtue, because none presents more powerful temptations to forsake it. One of the Law-agent's first lessons must be to possess himself in the face of the strongest temptation, to detect and resist the most insidious suggestions and disguises of self-interest-that momentary indulgence which is the parent of lasting remorse-and to pursue the path of duty, passing by the glittering heaps of possible but forbidden gain without a regret, and conscious of a reward higher than the "regnum et diadema" promised by the Poet to him,

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The practitioner, who is enticed to enter within the gate which conducts to lucre, but excludes a single eye to his employer's interest, may leave behind him all hope of honourable preferment, and all hope of a dearer possession, viz., his own self-respect. He is betraying

confidence the most exuberant, and deserting the cause of that mo- INTRODUCTION. rality, of which by his profession he is constituted a guardian. Such CHAP. I. a dereliction, when it becomes general, is a sure symptom of the corruption of manners. In the decline of the Roman Empire, the cunning, ignorance, and unscrupulous rapacity of her lawyers was one fatal indication of her departing glory. It may be long ere a difference of opinion will cease to exist regarding the real sources of the French Revolution in the last century, one of which the eloquent observer of that event found in the commission of legislative powers to "the "ministers of municipal litigation, the fomenters and conductors of the "petty war of village vexation." But no one will be disposed to question upon general principles the soundness of the opinion implied, when he asks, "Was it to be expected that they would attend to the stability "of property, whose existence had always depended upon whatever "rendered property questionable, ambiguous, and insecure ?"



I am not aware that any writer has described specifically the bene- ADVANTAGE OF fits arising to a community from the possession of lawyers sufficiently SKILFUL LAWlearned and skilful in their respective departments, and exercising LY EDUCATED, their functions under the influence and control of a liberal education and high principle. It is as in a member of the human body. While it is sound and acts healthfully, we are unconscious of its acting; and it only attracts notice when disabled or affected by disease. But the advantages of skill and a pure morality in the legal profession are sufficiently obvious. In important transactions, and in all such matters as men conduct under advice, the law-agent is necessarily present, his influence is felt, and his character must give a tone and colour to the spirit in which the business is conducted. If then he is truly animated by the spirit of an enlightened jurisprudence, which has been well defined" the collected Reason of ages, combining the principles of original Justice with the infinite variety of human concerns," it will devolve upon him, in a form and in circumstances the most impressive, to give a practical exposition of the morality from which Jurisprudence is derived. It is his occupation, and his duty, to investigate the boundaries of right and wrong in human conduct, and he is, therefore, a guardian posted at their turning-points and dangers, and has it largely in his power to temper with humanity the severity which legislation may have failed to obviate, and to secure the influence of that portion of the moral law, which, in the language of Bacon, comes from a source too sublime for the light of Nature to penetrate.

The duties which have been described are no doubt arduous, and I request your attention for a moment to some of the qualities which are necessary to secure their right fulfilment. Some of them are more or less dependent upon natural constitution-others are acquired by study-all of them may be strengthened and improved by self-government and discipline.




The Law-agent ought to possess a strong sense of responsibility, and this not merely with reference to the magnitude of the interests committed to his keeping; it is a necessary element and condition of his position, as the guardian of another's rights. His aim should be, as 1. SENSE OF RE- much as possible, to attach to the matter which he undertakes, the same importance which it holds in his employer's mind, but divested of the natural anxiety of personal interest.






He ought to have the qualities of self-possession, promptitude, and decision. It is of great moment, that, in circumstances which overwhelm the client's mind, and paralyse its powers, he should have in his law-agent the benefit of the calm judgment, which such circumstances chiefly require. Such a judgment is valuable at all times, unspeakably so in sudden emergencies, when there may be a necessity for immediate action; and the law-agent will be called on to act in such emergencies. Misfortune, crime, death, come without notice, and afford no time for deliberation. At such a crisis, inaction may be ruin. Hesitate, and opportunity may be irretrievably lost.

The mind must be trained to versatility in applying itself without discomposure to various matters in succession, to patience in tedious. investigation, and to willingness in exchanging, at the call of duty, what is interesting for employment which may be dry and irksome.

At the same time there must be an ability to command the attention in the midst of distracting circumstances and interruptions, and to give deliberate consideration to matters too important to brook delay, and too difficult to be disposed of upon a cursory regard.

The memory must be carefully cultivated, and habituated to retain the salient points of business matters, which form landmarks to their respective details. Without this faculty, accompanied and aided by practical method and order, there is too much reason to apprehend confusion and bewilderment.

It would be proper, if time served, to dwell upon the necessity of accuracy in the smallest matters, and uncompromising reverence for Truth, not as a speculative principle, but as a supreme and inflexible condition of every transaction and in all circumstances.

Such is a brief sketch of the Law-agent's duties, and some of the qualities which he ought to possess. Of the perfect discharge of these duties, or the complete possession of these qualities, it may be difficult to find an unexceptionable example in the same person. Some of them we are taught by the experience of defects in ourselves, and the observation of excellence in others. And since the duties of this profession are so important, and in some respects arduous, it is of moment to ascertain how the student may equip himself for the proper discharge of them.*

In place of the foregoing sketch of the duties and qualities of a law-agent, Professor Menzies occasionally substituted the introductory remarks which will be found appended in the shape of a note to this chapter.

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