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A Reminder That Rapacious Lawyers Are Not a New Problem

I was reading through Hening’s Statutes at Large; BEING A COLLECTION OF ALL THE LAWS OF VIRGINIA FROM THE FIRST SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE IN THE YEAR 1619 in preparation for class yesterday, and I ran into this gem that reminds us that rapacious lawyers are not a new problem.

BE it also enacted, for the better regulating of attorneys and the great fees exacted by them, that it shall not be lawfull for any attorney to plead causes on behalfe of another without license or permission first had and obtained from the court where he pleadeth, Neither shall it be lawfull for any attorney to have license for mor courts then from the quarter court and one county court, and that they likewise be sworne in the said courts where they are so licensed, And it is further enacted that no attorneys plead in any county court shall demand or receive either for drawing petition, declaration or answer and for his ffee of pleading the cause of his client above the quantitie of 20 lb. of tobaccoe or the value thereof, nor that at any pleading in the quarter court shall demand and receive either for drawing petition, declaration or answer and for his ffee of pleading the cause of his cliant above the quantity or 50 lb. of tobaccoe or the value thereof, [Hening, Statutes at Large, 1:275, ch. 61, March 1642/3]

This doesn’t mean that everything that they did was fine back then.  The 1620s statutes are awash in mandatory church attendance laws, and the 1630s statutes are various laws limiting the amount of tobacco you could plant, as a way to keep prices up.  Still, it is a reminder that some problems are not new.

By the way, if you visit that collection–someone did a lot of work to transcribe (not just scan) Hening’s Statutes at Large, primarily for the benefit of genealogists.  It’s just an amazing resource for historians.

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