Below follows an article co-authored by Hon. Lynne A. Battaglia of the Maryland Court of Appeals and yours truly. It appears in the current Maryland Litigator.
Butcher: “The first thing we do let’s kill all the lawyers” (King Henry VI, Part II) (Act IV, Scene 2).
Why were those like Dick the Butcher, a follower of the anarchist Jack Cage, “head of an army of rebel and demagogue pandering to the ignorant,” when seeking to overthrow the government, planning to strike first at the lawyers? Lawyers throughout history and today are the centrifugal force of a free society under the rule of law.
The legal profession has always been, for the most part, self-governing, particularly in this Country and in the State of Maryland. Self-governing or self-regulation has succeeded because the profession has imposed on itself the very highest standards. As leaders, lawyers impose these highest standards upon themselves, not for the purpose of maintaining self-regulation, which, no doubt, is coveted, but because we have professional responsibilities to ourselves, our clients, the courts and the community. Surely Shakespeare, through Jack the Butcher, knew that for rebellion to succeed, striking first at lawyers might bring down the rule of law and the free society so dependent on that rule.
A free society depends on its lawyers for protection. Lawyers are the palladium of liberty.
It is equally unhealthy for the profession, as it is for society, if the public loses confidence in the high quality of members of the legal profession. Lack of confidence erodes our ethos and our role as leaders. Thus the highest standards must be maintained and self-imposed. This has been so and should continue to be so.
To be professionals requires excellence in expertise and knowledge in order to foster trustworthiness and to enhance the role of the lawyer as a fiduciary - one who seeks to serve another, rather than him or herself. The foundation of excellent lawyering and serving the community rests upon continued education and intellectual growth for self-improvement, to better represent clients, and serve those who depend upon us. More so than ever before is the law growing at a dramatic pace.