History of the American legal profession
The History of the American legal profession covers the work and training and professional activities of lawyers from the colonial era to the present. lawyers grew increasingly powerful in the colonial era, as experts in the English common law which was adopted and all of the colonies. By the 21st century over 1 million practitioners in the United States held law degrees, and many others served the legal system as justices of the peace, paralegals, marshalls and other aides.
Eagle Legal procedures in 17th century America were quite informal, with judges discussing issues directly with the people involved in the case. Every man his own lawyer, but that benefits him with a natural talented and handicapped many more. The solution was to hire a talented lawyer. By 1700, therefore the judges and their procedures in court had become much more formal, and to win a case a client needed a lawyer to handle the arguments, cite the precedents, and neutralize the opposition lawyer. unlike in England, where there was an elaborate hierarchy of judges, barristers, and solicitors with elaborate formal qualifications, American lawyers were Jacks of all trades who learned their skills by apprenticeship and by closely watching court procedures. Colonial legislatures passed laws to fix the fees lawyers could charge for standardized procedures; the fees were always relatively low. For the ambitious lawyers, the solution was a high volume of cases speedily handled. Provincial courts usually made a circuit between the different counties, spending a few days in each county seat. Each attorney might be handling 30 to 40 cases in three or four days. The great majority of cases dealt with debts, which were speedily handled. Occasionally there were land disputes, which were much more complicated and time-consuming because they required searches in legal titles, which were poorly indexed. Bystanders attended for the sport of watching the high-speed, high drama cases play out every few minutes. The lawyers thereby collected a steady stream of income every month, quite unlike the merchants, planters and farmers who depended on seasonal sales, or long-term trading voyages that lasted many months of the time. Becoming familiar with the intimate economic details in the vicinity, lawyers could take advantage of bargains and did so., Building up their wealth, and also their connections that made for a political base. They were highly flexible and had the time and opportunity to hold local offices, most of which paid poorly but some of which were quite generous. Decade by decade the lawyers emerged as one of the highest income groups, with the widest range of contacts.
In New York City at first, legal practitioners were full-time businessmen and merchants, with no legal training, who had watched a few court proceedings, and mostly use their own common sense together with snippets they had picked up about English law. Court proceedings were quite informal, for the judges and no more training than the attorneys. By the 1760s, the situation had dramatically changed. Lawyers were essential to the rapidly growing international trade, dealing with questions of partnerships, contracts, and insurance. The sums of money involved were large, and hiring an incompetent lawyer was a very expensive proposition. Lawyers were now professionally trained, and conversant in a extremely complex language that combine highly specific legal terms and motions with a dose of Latin. Court proceedings became a baffling mystery to the ordinary layman. Lawyers became more specialized and built their reputation, and their fee schedule, on the basis of their reputation for success. But as their status, wealth and power rose, animosity grew even faster.
Professional lawyers were not loved anywhere in colonial America. Every family had stories of how they had been cheated in this case or that one by devious opposition lawyers. Roscoe Pound says flatly, "Lawyers as a class were very unpopular in the colonies." The lawyers tried to raise their professional standards by forming local bar associations, but had little success in the anything-goes colonial era. Full professionalization would wait until after the Civil War.
Lawyers and politics
The British governors were upper class aristocrats not trained in the law, and felt unduly constrained by the legalistic demands of the Americans. In the period from the 1680s to about 1715 numerous efforts were made to strengthen Royal control and diminish legal constraints on the power of the governors. Colonial lawyers fought back successfully. An important technique that developed especially in Boston, Philadelphia and New York in the 1720s and 1730s was to mobilize public opinion by using the new availability of weekly newspapers and print shops that produced inexpensive pamphlets. The lawyers use the publicity medium to disseminate ideas about American legal rights as Englishmen. By the 1750s and 1760s, however, there was a counter attack ridiculing and demeaning the lawyers as pettifoggers. Their image and influence declined. The lawyers of colonial New York organized a bar association, but it fell apart in 1768 during the bitter political dispute between the factions based in the Delancey and Livingston families. For the next century, various attempts were made, and failed, in New York state to build an effective organization of lawyers. Finally a Bar Association emerged in 1869 that proved successful and continues to operate.
The American Revolution saw the departure of many leading lawyers, and the arrival in high office of even more younger lawyers. In most of the 13 colonies a prominent faction of the legal profession were Loyalists; their clientele was often tied to royal authority or British merchants and financiers. They were not allowed to practice law unless they took a loyalty oath to the new United States of America. Many went to Britain or Canada after losing the war.. Nevertheless, the lawyers who remained had a major impact on shaping the new nation. they comprised 45 percent of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence, 69 percent of the forty-five members of the Constitutional Convention, and 40 percent of the twenty-five Senators in the new Congress that opened in 1789, as well as 26 percent of the sixty-five Representatives.
Becoming a lawyer
In the 18th and 19th centuries most young men became lawyers by studying in the office of an established lawyer, mixing clerical duties such as drawing up routine contracts and wills, together with the study of standard treatises. They then had to be admitted by the local court in order to practice law. Frank B. Kellogg (1856-1937) was unusually successful at this route. Starting as a farm boy in Minnesota who dropped out of the local one-room school at age 14; he never attended high school, college or law school. He clerked for a lawyer who specialized in corporate law, and soon proved himself adept. He played a major role as special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General in one of the most famous decisions in corporate legal history, in which the Supreme Court broke up Standard Oil Corporation in 1911. His professional colleagues elected Kellogg president of the American Bar Association in 1912. After one term in the United States Senate, he became a diplomat as ambassador to Great Britain and as Secretary of State in 1925-29. He co-authored the world-famous Kellogg–Briand Pact of 1928, for which he shared the Nobel Peace Prize. The pact was signed by nearly all the nations of the world. It outlawed making war, and provided the legal foundation for the trial and execution of German and Japanese war criminals at the end of World War II.
The apprenticeship system favored nepotism, as friends and relatives of lawyers tried to place their sons. One broadly open to the middle class were academic law schools. The first American law school was the Litchfield Law School, founded in a small town in Connecticut by Tapping Reeve. Between 1784 and its closure in 1833 it trained over 1000 young men, many of whom became leaders of the bar at the state level, or politicians at the state and national level. They included two vice presidents (Aaron Burr and John C Calhoun), as well as 101 members of the United States House of Representatives, 28 United States senators, six cabinet secretaries, three justices of the United States Supreme Court, 14 state governors and 13 state supreme court chief justices. by the 1860s, academic law schools tied to universities were increasingly popular. as typified by the University of Pennsylvania which opened its law department in 1850.  By the middle of the 19th century, there were over a hundred law schools in the country, most of them very small operations run as a sideline. "Any lawyer who had a permanent office and perhaps a handful of law books could...establish a law school of his own, advertise the fact in the local newspaper, admit whatever students would care to show up....It differed from the traditional 'office apprenticeship' only in that he chose to call it by the honorific name of 'law school.'"
The most famous academic training program was the Harvard Law School, founded in 1817 as part of the University. Supreme Court justice Joseph Story was for decades its highly influential senior professor. Story's many compilations and law books established a national curriculum for local law schools. Even more influential was Christopher Columbus Langdell, Harvard's dean from 1870 to 1895. Instead of the usual practice of lectures every day, Langdale introduced the case system. The professor called on students to explain the legal reasoning behind specific cases, thereby teaching them to reason like judges. This case method spread rapidly to all law schools. By the 20th century, local bar associations required graduation from an accredited law school before a candidate could take the bar exam and begin practice. Small operations could not afford the necessary libraries and faculties, so they steadily disappeared. 
Local bar associations before 1870 were basically social groups, which took little or no responsibility for maintaining quality of admission or performance by the membership. In 1870 leading lawyers in Manhattan organized the "Association of the Bar of the City of New York" to battle the notorious political corruption of the Tweed machine, and emerged as a powerful organization. It became a model, and in the 1870s eight cities and eight statewide associations were in operation. By 1890 there were 20 state bar associations, 40 by 1900, and 48 by 1916. By 1890 there were 159 bar association's at the local level, and over 1100 by 1930. They still performed social functions, but were increasingly called upon to organize, discipline and professionalize the lawyers, and fight off the long-standing hostility and ridicule toward the legal profession.  An an important priority for the states and for the national American Bar Association was control of the state bar examinations, and the steady increase in the requirements for law schools, regarding strength of curriculum, library facilities, and availability of full-time faculty.
Gold Rush California
The American frontier spread West slowly, with the first stage a territorial government under the control of a federal judge and federal officials. After few decades, the transition was made to statehood, usually by adapting constitutional and legal procedures from previous states of residence, and using the lawyers who practice during the territorial. The sudden acquisition of Mexican territory in 1848 caused a very hurried transition. thanks to the California gold rush starting in 1849, California made a very rapid transition from Mexican territory in 1848 to statehood in 1850. Legal conditions were chaotic at first. The new state lacked judicial precedents, prisons, competent lawyers, and a coherent system of laws. Lawyers arrived from many different states and jurisdictions, with little common experience. Alarmed citizens formed vigilante tribunals, most famously in the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance in the 1850s. Absent an established system of law and order, they dispensed raw justice quickly through drum-head trials, whipping, banishment, or hanging. As a body of law developed, the courts set precedents on such issues as women's contractual rights, real estate and mortgages, tort law, and review of flawed statutes. an elaborate new body of law was quickly constructed to deal with gold mining claims and water rights. There was vicious mistreatment of Indians and the Chinese, and to a lesser extent against Mexicans. By the 1860s, San Francisco had developed a professional police force so it could dispense with the use of vigilante actions. Statewide by 1865, the courts, legislators, and legal profession had established a legal system that operated smoothly.
White Shoe firms
In American slang, a "white shoe" business is an old established, high prestige, typically White Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) institution. They hired very well-dressed men (occasionally wearing white buckskin shoes with red soles) with good family connections and new degrees from top-of-the-line law schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. They emerged in the late 19th century, and were usually based in New York or Boston or Philadelphia, where they catered to emerging major corporations. They were especially in demand from major railroads, that were built through complicated consolidations, and faced complex legal problems in multiple states. Previously, law firms were small operations with two or three partners and a handful of clerks. The new corporations were much too large, too complex, and spread over too many legal jurisdictions for a small firm. A key innovator was Paul Cravath, who made his reputation handling complex lawsuits for the new electrical industry. He not only enlarged the law office but he professionalized it, with full-time professional librarians, with the recruiting system focused on leading law schools, and with partners who specialized in particular complex topics. A career system was set up whereby junior people were carefully hired, then were closely supervised by the senior partners, and after a half-dozen years either departed, or were made junior partners with the share of the firm's profits.
For a list of White Shoe law firms see White-shoe firm#Law firms
In 1900, there were 108,000 lawyers and judges; the great majority were white men. Opportunities for women remained strictly limited. For example, Isabel Darlington was admitted to Pennsylvania's Chester County Bar Association in 1897. She was the only female attorney in the heavily populated suburban county until the shortages of men in World War II opened the system a crack. 
In 1955, the nation counted 5,000 women lawyers, 1.3 percent of the total. Law schools were generally quite hostile; only four percent of the students in 1965 or women. By 1973, however the figure was 16 percent; by 1979 it was 32 percent, reaching a majority of the law students in the 21st century. Began in significant numbers under Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. Sandra Day O'Connor (born 1930) graduated third in her class at Stanford Law school in 1952, and served on the Law Review, but jer applications to San Francisco law firms were all rejected. Likewise when she moved to Phoenix in 1957, no law firm would hire her so she set up an independent practice. She became active in Republican politics and was the first woman in the country to become a majority leader in the state senate. She was elected a county judge in 1974 and later was elevated to an appellate court. President Ronald Reagan astonished the nation in 1961 when he appointed her as the first woman on the United States Supreme Court. Feminists were thrilled, but anti-abortion foes were horrified because of her record.
Opportunities for black lawyers were practically nonexistent at nearly all law firms, but they did practice inside the black community. William Thaddeus Coleman Jr., after graduating first in his class at Harvard Law School in 1946, broke the color barrier as the first black law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court (and probably the first in the entire federal court system). In 1949 he became the first black lawyer hired at New York's "white shoe" firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He was the second black ever to be appointed to the cabinet, serving as Gerald Ford's Secretary of Transportation, 1975-77. 
In the first half of the 19th century, Mexico set up a judicial system for its northernmost districts, in present day New Mexico and California. There were no professionally trained lawyers or judges. Instead, there were numerous low-ranking legal roles such as notario, escribano, asesor, auditor de Querra, justicia mayor, procurador, and juez receptor. With the annexation by the United States in 1848, Congress set up an entirely new territorial legal systems, one that used the English language and American laws, forms, and procedures. Practically all the lawyers and judges were new arrivals from the United States, as there was no place in the new system for the old Hispanic roles. Elfego Baca (1865 – 1945) was an outlaw-turned-lawman, lawyer, and politician in New Mexico in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1888, after serving as a County Sheriff, Baca became a U.S. Marshal. He served for two years and then began studying law. In December 1894, he was admitted to the bar and practice law in New Mexico until 1904. he held numerous local political offices, and when New Mexico became a state in 1912, he was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for Congress. In the late 1950s, Walt Disney turned Baca into the first Hispanic popular culture hero in the United States, on 10 television shows, in six comic books, in a feature film, and in related merchandising. However, Disney deliberately avoided ethnic tension by presenting Baca as a generalized Western hero, portraying a standard hero similar to Davy Crockett, in Hispanic dress.
By the early 21st century in the southwestern states from Texas to California, well-educated Hispanic women confronted triple barriers of ethnicity, class, and gender. Nevertheless they made steady progress in political incorporation via the judiciary, especially in the county courts.
Very few Jews were hired by the WASP forms, but they started their own. The WASP dominance ended when a number of major Jewish law firms attained elite status in dealing with top -ranked corporations. As late as 1950 there was not a single large Jewish law firm in New York City. However, by 1965 six of the 20 largest firms were Jewish; by 1980 four of the ten largest were Jewish.
John Kennedy in 1961 appointed the first black district judge. He also appointed a protégé of Vice President Lyndon Johnson as the first Hispanic federal judge.  Lyndon Johnson In 1967 appointed Thurgood Marshall as the first black on the Supreme Court. He was best known for his arguments to the Supreme Court in 1954 that overturned legal segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. When Marshall retired, George Bush named the conservative Black, Clarence Thomas. He was confirmed in 1991 after an extremely contentious Senate hearing charging him with sexual harassment of one of his aides.. Thomas remains the only black on the Supreme Court. In 2009, Sonia Sotomayor, from a Puerto Rican family became the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court.
- History of the legal profession
- The American Lawyer, monthly magazine published since 1979
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- Law school in the United States
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- List of law schools in the United States
- List of jurists
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