Bashing lawyers is a popular pastime that I find as disgusting as any other form of bigotry. Almost all lawyers practice with courage and professionalism every day. So it is with pleasure that I pass on to you an account of the integrity and political bravery of a particular lawyer, and second US president, John Adams. Mr. Adams added honor to the profession by taking on the most extremely unpopular trial of his time – defending British soldiers in the Boston Massacre in the Fall of 1770. Here is an excerpt from a brilliant piece under the title of “Law’s Heroes” at the web site of the University of Missouris Kansas City Law School:
It is striking that a man of such tremendous accomplishments would, in his later years, point to his representation of British soldiers in 1770 as perhaps the proudest achievement of his life. Adams wrote: “The Part I took in Defense of Captain Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.”
The verdict, in case you are curious:
After less than three hours deliberation, the jury acquitted six of the soldiers on all charges. Hugh Montgomery and Matthew Killroy–the only two soldiers clearly proven to have fired–were found guilty of manslaughter.
Thanks to Stephanie West Allen for sending me this. If you don’t know Stephanie, you will. A lawyer by profession, she developed and ran a stress-reduction program for lawyers, and then moved to Denver and worked for a number of years at a large Denver-based firm as their manager of professional development (training for the lawyers, evaluation of the associates, etc.). She was on Larry Smith’s Training Forum for his “Lawyer Hiring & Training Report” and was one of the original members of the Professional Development Consortium. Watch for a blog and a book from Stephanie in the not too distant future.