A Brief History of the Legal Profession

The legal profession has been around in various forms for centuries, and truthfully, no one knows who or where the first legal professional came from.  As long as there has been organized society, there have been forms of legally associated positions.   However, we do have a general idea of the history of lawyers, and where they started to become organized and recognized.


Most sources say that the lawyer, though very different from the lawyer as we know them today, originated in ancient Athens.  They were the speakers of Ancient Greece, or Orators. Citizens at that time were legally required to plead their own case without official representation, and one could not accept a fee to plead the case of a citizen.  


However, the citizen could call on the help of a friend, which they often did to get around the system.  Those who studied the legal system in depth would offer their “friendship” for services and goods and hide the exchange from the justices.  Basically, they became advisors, who did not formally represent clients, but presented their information to the court as assistance for a friend being tried.


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The first official and legal representation of clients can be traced to Rome.  People were finally able to hire a professional to represent them.  The Emperor Claudius legalized the profession, but set a limit to the income one could make.  Since the pay was not great, many of the legal representatives studied the law and took on clients as an extracurricular activity.  These were already wealthy or financially stable individuals who took on these cases as a hobby.  


They could discuss the cases together, study the law, and represent their client.   Many of the legal representatives did so as an extracurricular activity, and some did so professionally, although the legal profession did not pay well.  Eventually, the legal profession developed into a regulated and accepted position.


Throughout history, the idea of legal representation developed and progressed over time to become the organized and associated profession it is today.  


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