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experienced business man has found that litigation usually does not pay. A reasonable offer of compromise is quickly accepted. This is true not only of the careless and cowardly, but also of the shrewdest and strongest clients. They would rather pay to keep out of law than to get into it. They want to be undisturbed in the prosecution of their legitimate business. The average man prefers peace to strife. He is frequently in need of good advice, and if he knew that he could go and consult a lawyer without the danger of being drawn into law, he would gladly do so more often than he does now.
The aversion to litigation is aggravated by its long delays, repeated adjournments, multiplied appeals, reversals of judgments and reversals of reversals, terminating after all, perhaps, in a miscarriage of justice. The expense of such procedure is necessarily large, and with these difficulties to encounter, it is not strange that the business of litigation has been spoiled.
The development of the law, moreover, tends to render litigation unnecessary. Almost every question that arises has already been decided. The results of repeated decisions have been embodied in Codes. When some new disorder arises the Legislature promptly regulates the matter by statute. The publication of the statutes and of Court decisions is so widespread by the press that few are left in ignorance. The system of law reporting and digesting has reached a stage of perfection that brings the Courts of every State and of the United States into close touch, and tends to harmonize them. Federal legislation has also an increasing influence. The most marked example of this is the Bankruptcy Act of 1898. This statute, enacted by a Congress containing more than a majority of lawyers, has done more to decrease law business than any other single cause that can be named. It
may be called the law of forgiveness of debtors. It furnishes a refuge for all those of doubtful solvency and robs the law of its sharpest terrors. It is in line, however, with the spirit of the times, and no matter how much the profession may suffer, it will not complain so far as the law is equitable and beneficent.
lf, now, we group together the several causes that have been assigned for the changed conditions in the practice of the law, we will discover that they are only phases of one great evolution, the unification of society. If this be true, it is folly to fight against such forces; it is common seuse to unite with them. A deeper law is steadily being evolved. Codes and digests are indispensable for the student, but the clue to future success in the law is to be found in a comprehensive survey of human affairs and an attentive study of human nature in its best estate. The same intellectual process has revolutionized the law that has revolutionized theology. The methods of the a priori school have prevailed in both departments. Both systems were founded upon dogma and sustained by authority. The scientific methods of the inductive school have, however, gradually made their way, and the modern business world accepts them and flourishes accordingly. But with the conservatism of an intellectual caste, most of the legal profession cling to old traditions and take the chances of starvation. The oldfashioned lawyer was essentially an idealist. He was grounded in the faith that just ideas were good in themselves and must forever endure. The modern world has learned that ideas are good only as they are realized and has been busy realizing them. While the profession of the law has a standard of its own to maintain and must never lower it to a gross materialism, it has much to learn from business men.
The outcry against the commercial spirit is more or less superficial. It will be noticed that those who denounce commercialism" most severely are either unable, unwilling or afraid to go into the open market and compete with their fellows. The commercial spirit transforms barren abstractions into fruitful realities. It is essentially just, because it takes its rise from the fair and open exchange of equivalents, and it is inspiring, because it deals with things and not theories.
These suggestions are made for the purpose of criticism and comment by the learned gentlemen here assembled, and lead up to the main question as to how we are to meet the changed conditions. Every individual must work out the answer to this question in his own way, but the experience of some of our most successful brethren would be of assistance to others, if they should see fit to give it.
It is evident that we must readjust our methods, correct abuses and improve the service. The key to modern methods is organization. To succeed one must identify himself with existing organizations or create new ones. To begin the work of readjustment, every lawyer in this State ought to join this Association. He owes this to his profession. He needs most, however, to organize his own business so as to work in close connection with the community in which he is located. Let us get in touch with business men and in sympathy with business methods so that we can be of real assistance in carrying on business enterprises. Business men want lawyers who understand business and can bring to bear upon their problems the more acute analysis which legal training should afford. The system of arranging with regular clients to transact their legal business upon moderate annual retainers is spreading and is to be recommended. In general, by establishing a franker and more intimate relation between
the profession and the rest of the community, much can be accomplished.
To do this, however, certain abuses must be suppressed. The maintenance of speculative actions on manufactured testimony brings discredit upon the Bar that permits it. The practice of "ambulance-chasing" degrades all who are in any wise connected with it. Whoever practices law upon the theory that it is a system of chartered chicanery should be made to feel that he is professionally odious.
To bring this about the standards for admission to the Bar must be steadily advanced. Good work is being done in this direction in New York State, but much remains to be done. The young man who thinks of entering the Bar without the most thorough preparation and special ability might better go into other business. The parents and teachers of young men should take notice of the marked decrease in law business to which attention has been called and give advice accordingly.
This sketch of changed conditions, the causes thereof and remedies therefor is now submitted in order that it may be corrected and supplemented by the views of others. If anything has been said to stimulate discussion, the purpose of the writer has been accomplished.
George F. Slocum, of Rochester:
I desire, on behalf of myself, and, I think, all of those present, to congratulate ourselves that we did not lose this very interesting and profitable paper, as we came very near it.
The Association then adjourned to meet in the Assembly Chamber, Capitol, at 8 P. M.
ALBANY, N. Y., TUESDAY, January 19, 1904.
Eight P. M.
The Association convened in the Assembly Chamber, in the Capitol, on Tuesday evening, January 19, 1904, at eight P. M., for the purpose of listening to an address by Hon. John W. Foster, LL. D., of Washington, D. C., on "What the United States has Done for International Arbitration."
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.-The Rev. Paul Birdsall will open the proceedings by invoking the Divine blessing.
Rev. Paul Birdsall:
O Eternal God, the God of Justice, Law and Right, we humbly beseech Thee, for the President of the United States, the Governor of this State and for the people of this Commonwealth, so especially for the members of this Association, charged with the defense of the people, that Thou wouldst be pleased to direct and prosper all their consultations to the advancement of Thy glory, the good of Thy children, the safety, honor and welfare of Thy people. That all things may be so ordered and settled by their endeavors upon the best and surest foundation, and that peace and happiness thereof and justice, religion and piety may be established among us for all generations.
All this we humbly beg, in the Name and mediation of Jesus Christ, our most Blessed Lord and Savior. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with us all evermore. Amen.