Legal proffesion

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Contrary to conventional understanding, there were antecedents of a legal profession outside Europe prior to the spreading of such ideas through European colonialism. In China, for example, there was a long history of unofficial legal advisers—often young men preparing to take imperial examinations for official appointment—who assisted merchants and other laymen in the preparation of legal documents, including those needed to commence litigation. Although operating in the shadow of an imperial legal code that prohibited the instigation of litigation, these quasi-lawyers also enjoyed a fair measure of tolerance from officialdom, which suggests that at least some of them may have served a useful purpose.
Such indigenous developments notwithstanding, the rise outside Europe of a modern legal profession—in the sense of a class of specialists recognized by the state and yet operating with some measure of independence from it—is generally associated with European colonial expansion. In Britain’s North American colonies, and particularly in the United States soon after independence, lawyers assumed a prominent role in both public and private life, which led the French social observer Alexis de Tocqueville to write early in the 19th century that “it is at the bar or bench that the American aristocracy is found.” The English system also provided a model for most former English colonies in Africa, for most of the Indian subcontinent, and for Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Singapore. The Romano-Germanic practices that in time became the civil law made their influence felt in Scandinavia, eastern Europe, Latin America, and many Muslim countries in the Middle East; in French, Spanish, Belgian, and Portuguese colonies in Africa; and in Japan, Thailand, the French colonies of Southeast Asia, and, in some measure, the Republic of China (which existed on the Chinese mainland prior to 1949 and today exists on Taiwan). It should be noted, however, that the association between the modern legal profession and colonialism was not always felicitous. Although lawyers were in some instances at the forefront of their countries’ independence movements (as were Mohandas Gandhi in India and Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore), in other cases they worked to uphold colonial rule

To be sure, both the common-law and the civil-law models of lawyering underwent considerable modification by both the countries of export and the countries of reception. In particular, the specialization of procurator-advocate and solicitor-barrister tended to be replaced by a “fused” profession of legal practitioners qualified to perform both functions and usually doing so. Such a fusion occurred gradually in Germany between the 16th and 18th centuries, and it has taken place more recently in France (except before the courts of appeal). Although the division still formally exists in Italy, it is no longer of practical importance. In Latin America the fused profession is general. Notaries as a separate specialized branch of the profession exist, however, in most civil-law countries

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