Page:The Green Bag (1889–1914), Volume 25.pdf/464

This page needs to be proofread.


The Influence of the Lawyer we enter such fields of inquiry? It seems sufficient for the present purpose merely to make a loose general comparison between those two rather hazy abstrac tions, the lawyer mind and the lay mind, which gives to the former, in the main, a preponderating advantage. Of the avenues through which a law yer's influence may be exerted in the direct formation of public opinion speechmaking probably ranks first in actual importance, even though writing per haps ought to be treated by the gen eral public as a more effective medium of expression. Addresses are apt to be widely reported and to reach a much wider audience than the immediate assemblage. If the lawyer is a ready speaker he is likely to make his way into politics easily and to possess himself with little difficulty of the prestige and opportunities for influence which pub lic life affords. Men are much more susceptible to the influence of the spoken word than to that of the written word. Consequently the lawyer is likely to find public life more accessible than literature, and it must be borne in mind that lawyers are frequently good writers, so it is not through lack of aptitude that they make their power felt in the field of public life more than in the realm of letters. The chief opportunity of the lawyer to influence public opinion is through that direct participation in the work of government to which he is wel comed. If the opinions of a legislator have no appreciable effect on the com munity in general, they usually have weight with his own constituents, and a chief executive can always get the ear of a mass of people. It was this influence that the lawyer can exert as a factor in public life, both upon the people and upon his personal associates in the councils of state, which Lord Haldane had in mind, but he also

437

spoke of a power exercised by the lawyer more outside the legislature than within it, thus suggesting the numerous ways in which a lawyer's influence may be exerted, both through the written word and by example and precept in the ordinary relations of daily conduct. Many of the best popular books on con temporary problems are written by law yers, and even when they find it easier to write articles for technical publica tions than for the lay public they may be influencing those who possess great power in directly shaping public opinion. The work of lawyers in the serious dis cussion of vital questions is likely to be competent and useful, and they deserve to be encouraged to take up literary production more extensively. The too common view of editors that the public does not care for discussion of this kind is erroneous. Lawyers would do well to seek means of raising the standards of the periodical press by giving their attention to the thoroughness with which it discharges its more important functions. In the field of public life it will not be questioned that lawyers are likely to be more influential than other men; for this reason the action of a legislature, or its failure to act, is often due to the merit or fault of its lawyer members — a point frequently overlooked. That the work of legislation is not better per formed is not, however, a reproach to the legal profession, but to the laity, which is too ready to permit a wrong type of lawyer to gain the ascendancy. Till the public is educated to demand a better type of lawyer-legislator it is hard to see much hope for progress in this field, and from whom is the public to obtain its inspiration to seek im provement, if not from lawyers them selves? We have briefly considered one great