« PreviousContinue »
then left that portion to a “learned friend” to accomplish, because he was wanted to
a neighbour's limb, you, whose case was treated by the substitute, would by no means yearn to send your cheque to the medical man who had abandoned you.
.We have not only in the medical profession, but in most other callings, analogous inconveniences to those complained of in the bar. Many a fashionable physician, whether a genius, quack, or lucky man, has had too much to attend to; while others, learned, skilful, conscientious, and capable, toil for ever, and in vain. Trades' unions, nine hours' movements, or any other combination, are impossible remedies for evils such as these, which seem inevitably to accompany the various businesses of life. Yet they may be mitigated or exaggerated by the adoption of rules formed on sound principle. The advantage of rules such as we refer to, is not to control the high-minded members of a profession, but to govern those who, looking upon their occupation as a mere money-making trade, adopt a low and selfish tone throughout their practice.
In equity the election by the senior practitioners of particular courts, has prevented some of the inconveniences which are experienced in courts of law. In the latter, the coincident sittings at nisi prius, and the relations between the respective courts in banco, and the nature of the business there transacted, has hitherto not been favourable to a like separation of the common law bar. The present Mr. Justice Byles was the last of those who adhered to one court only; and it would seem that, by a common consent between the public and the present Queen's counsel, the adoption of the plan in question is not approved of. After all, the covetousness and unconscientious conduct of individual counsel
may prove injurious to clients in particular cases; and although we doubt whether complaint as to the conduct of the bar is not of rare occurrence, yet the profession is bound to adopt rules for the common protection of themselves and their clients. If there is a notion among any portion of the public, that both branches of the legal profession combine for the plunder of society, or make regulations, and persist in them for purposes inimical to the interests of all except themselves, the sooner this is rendered impossible, and it is explained that it neither is nor can be the case, the better for all parties. Corruption of the kind supposed would indeed soon prove suicidal, and apologists for such professional malpractices would be the worst friends of the bar.
It has been suggested, that it would be advantageous if the fiction of honorary fees were abolished, and the commercial system of debtor and creditor introduced. It is supposed that, making counsel amenable to actions for breach of contract or negligence, would be the means of settling the question of when fees are or are not earned, and by allowing counsel to sue on the common count" for work and labour done,” they would be able to protect themselves from occasional loss, from defaulting or "irregular" attorneys. Of course, this alteration would involve the necessity of coming to the distinct understanding as to what really is the contract entered into between client and counsel. We have already expressed an opinion that this is in itself desirable ; but we crave leave to doubt if any beneficial result would be obtained for the client, so far as giving him the proposed remedy against his counsel. How rarely do actions against attorneys succeed ! Although their conduct is more tangible, yet, except where gross roguery or palpable neglect, entirely distinguishable from blunders or errors of judgment, is proved, no damages are ever recovered.
So, again, although not a few patients are strongly impressed with the idea that they have been “cruelly mistreated by their medical attendant,” in which belief they are, we believe, occasionally corroborated by those professional men who may be subsequently called in at a later date, yet the actions brought against the followers of chirurgical art are comparatively rare, and when brought, the plaintiff's success is still rarer. Now, inasmuch as every litigant who loses his cause believes that either the court or his counsel is wrong, and probably iniquitous, the door would be open to a few foolish actions, and a multitude of threats; but for all practical purposes the alteration would not be an improvement.
With respect, then, to that part of professional rule which regards the fees of those who practise in court, it may be well to establish the general regulation, that he who does not appear and conduct his client's cause, shall not be considered as having earned his honorarium. That such an enactment is not necessary to protect the client, or guide the conduct of the honourable, i. e., the great majority of the members of the profession, is, we are glad to believe, perfectly true. But laws, after all, are made to govern the evil-disposed, and not for those “who do by nature the things contained in the law.”
The high tone and honourable principles in the profession are its own safeguards, and the real protection to clients. If men practise at the bar-nay, if they enter any other calling-with the sole object of accumulating money, habits uncongenial to the spirit of gentlemen will naturally be engendered. Selfishness, meanness, hardfistedness, will be cultivated at the expense of all generous feeling
If there be any real distinction (and that there is much is insisted upon by some) between trade and professions, it is that in the latter mere profit is not the main object. Far be it from us to insinuate that we acquiesce in the illiberal idea, that trade is so tainted with the covetous love of pelf, as to throw a disgrace upon commerce ;
but it cannot be denied that it is the amount of profit made, and of wealth accumulated, which affords a standard of what is success in business ; whereas position--nay, promotion and fame-in professions may be achieved by those who in a pecuniary sense have not been the most successful. Here the measure by which pre-eminence is calculated is not money. It is, moreover, the privilege of the physician and the counsel to give their professional aid gratuitously when occasion arises, and to lend their advice and assistance without fee or reward. There would be very little essential difference between a counsel and a cabman, if they both merely went on their respective stands for hire, and both were equally ready to squabble about the fare, and to overcharge the customer when possible. Happily the counsel with the largest figures in his fee-book, and the reputation for the cunningest devices in court or chambers, does not therefore succeed to the bench, nor obtain in society and the profession the best repute. But, unhappily, there have been at all times, and there are now, a few practitioners whose names are often before the public, particularly in the large class of “sporting" and roguish actions, and who, to great ability as advocates, add none of the higber qualities which ought to characterise men of a liberal education and profession. They exhibit, perhaps, that courage which springs from natural audacity and unscrupulousness, and a resolution to get on somehow. The morality of their proceedings never troubles them. These may reach a certain kind of eminence, and even play a certain part in parliament perhaps, for a time, and thus by the uninformed be supposed to represent professional character; but, if the general tone of the body be preserved, their malign influences will not be prolonged. It is, however, for such as these that rules and stringent laws must be framed and remodelled, if need be; and we therefore recommend that, with regard to that part of the professional code which relates to the question, “When are fees earned ?” the profession should establish the principles above suggested.
ART. II.-A LATE TRIAL FOR MURDER IN GERMANY.
trial of which we here purpose to give our readers some
account, and the circumstances unfolded in the narration of a frightful murder, committed in Prussian Silesia during modern times, possess no ordinary interest. To English lawyers the proceedings in question are of especial value, as an exemplification of the effect of the system adopted in Germany in tracing out the antecedents of the accused, and examining into collateral matter, in order to obtain an insight into character and probable motives of the actors in the drama of crime.
On another occasion we shall take the opportunity of discussing the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the principles involved in the two conflicting methods of criminal proceedings in Eugland and Germany; that of England, which refuses to the judicial tribunal the aid (if such it be) which acquaintance with the history of the past life, and known disposition of a prisoner at the bar, would afford ; and that of Germany, which promotes minutest examination of the details of the conduct and character of the accused, in order that the judges may more certainly infer his guilt or innocence.
We shall follow in this instance the narrative of the learned gentlemen in Germany who have published the case—beginning with the preliminary and introductory story, which in a romance is common, but in a grave statement of the evidence on a trial for murder, is somewhat strange to English readers; only premising that it reveals an extraordinary brutality, and a grossness in vice, in a rank of life generally supposed to be free from such forms of crime.
The murder itself was committed in the year 1848, that period of revolution when, throughout the continent, every human—we wish we might call them inhuman-passion was aroused, and exasperated, and displayed in scenes of carnage and cruelty. That the time was one of political and social anarchy may explain the fact, that less notice was attracted to the remarkable murder of the Princess Sulkowski than otherwise it must have obtained. It was passed by almost as insignificant among the bloody events which crowded upon each other in this revolutionary era. This lady is represented as having been in disposition mild and amiable, remarkable for great talents, and in her youth renowned for beauty and charms of person ; while her son, accused of her murder, seems, whether guilty or not, to have been a desperate villain. Other characters, it will be found, fill up appropriately the parts of this plot in the domestic tragedy, which, as above observed, is laid in the upper ranks of society. The assurance of the criminal records, and judicial evidence, vouched for by respectable authority, shew that the story is genuine, and not one concocted, as might be almost supposed, by a French romance writer, catering for the taste of a vicious public, and only founding his story on facts.