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In the U.S.marker, a country lawyer, or county-seat lawyer, refers to an attorney who has completed little or no formal legal training and has become a member of a county bar or a state bar after "reading law"; traditionally, these lawyers practiced general law in a rural setting, or on the frontier such as Andrew Jackson.

By extension, and popularized by such figures as Abraham Lincoln, Clarence Darrow, and Robert H. Jackson, the country lawyer's image has become that of advocate and protector of the common man.

Reading law

The opportunity to become a lawyer without graduating law school, called "reading law", is still available in seven U.S. states (Californiamarker, Mainemarker, New Yorkmarker, Vermontmarker, Virginiamarker, Washingtonmarker, and Wyomingmarker) through various apprenticeship programs.

Learning law

Unlike their American counterparts, early Canadianmarker lawyers did get some legal training, but not within a higher institution like a school. Following English tradition, early Canadian lawyers trained by learning law through another lawyer. To practice fully, these legal students (Articled clerk) are required to pass a bar exam and be admitted to the bar.

Learning law was also used in Ontariomarker to train lawyers until 1949. People training to become lawyers need not attend school, but they were asked to apprentice or article with a practicing lawyer. Changes in the late 1940s ended the practice.

In Quebecmarker civil law required formal education and in Nova Scotiamarker lawyers were trained by attending university.

Descriptions

According to Francis Lyman Windolph in his 1938 book The Country Lawyer:

Robert H. Jackson offered his own description in his 1950 essay "The County-Seat Lawyer":

Notable examples

In chronological order:

United States

  • Andrew Jackson (1767–1845), frontier lawyer (1787–1796), 7th U.S. President (1829–1837)
  • Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), prairie lawyer, 16th U.S. President (1861–1865), ended slavery (1862–1865)
  • Clarence Darrow (1857–1938), leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union
  • Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933), country lawyer (1897–1916), 30th U.S. President (1923–1929)
  • Robert H. Jackson (1892–1954), last U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker justice (1941–1954) not to have graduated from law school, chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trialsmarker (1945–1946).
  • Sam Ervin (1896–1985), civil liberties advocate and Democratic U.S. Senator (1954–1974), and leading member of Congressional committees involved in discrediting McCarthy in 1954 and Nixon in 1974. Ervin called himself a "country lawyer," but graduated from Harvard Law School after being admitted to the bar.
  • Strom Thurmond (1902-2003), Edgefield (South Carolina) Town and County Attorney (1930-1938), Circuit Judge, Governor of South Carolina (1947-1951), United States Senator (1956-2003), Presidential Candidate (1948).


Canada



References






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