St. Mary’s University School of Law Dean Stephen M. Sheppard, J.S.D., mines legal history to elucidate the need for lawyers to follow in the heroic tradition of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman statesman who defended the republic’s principles.
Here’s an excerpt from Sheppard’s piece, “Where Did the Noble Lawyer Go?: Looking for Cicero in the Boardroom or on the Billboard,” for the Library of Law and Liberty.
Even so, we keep looking for our Ciceros. One reason is that the stakes are great. Lawyers have been the guarantors of liberty. They have written our Declaration of Independence, federal and state constitutions, the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, civil rights acts, not to mention the great judicial opinions creating a federal republic and the protection of individual rights and equal dignity. The fact that members of the profession can perform such functions makes clear their ability to guard the individual from others and from the state.
To be able to help another is a predicate to helping, but there is more. Lawyers undertaking this task fill the role such that others do not. Like becoming a lifeguard, a lawyer loses the immunity from a duty to save those in peril. Lawyers lose the moral independence not to act in the public good.