Country Lawyer

Country Lawyer

"The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." [ From the first of twelve Lowell Lectures delivered by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. on November 23, 1880, which were the basis for "The Common Law".]

Country Lawyer – or county-seat lawyer — refers to an attorney who has completed little or no formal legal training and is a member of the county or state bar. Traditionally, these lawyers practiced general law in a rural setting.

While perhaps a far cry from the “modern" image of an attorney working at a big firm in a big city, the opportunity to become a lawyer without graduating law school is still available in six U.S. states (California, Maine, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming) through various apprenticeship programs.

Popularized by such figures as Abraham Lincoln, Clarence Darrow and Robert H. Jackson, the country lawyer’s image has become that of advocate and protector of the common man. According to Frances Lyman Windolph, "the true test of the country lawyer is not the size or importance of the community in which he does his work, but rather the sort of work which he does and the sort of people for whom he does it…If a lawyer performs every sort of legal service for every sort of client — the poor and the lowly as well as the rich and the well born — he is, within my definition at least, a country lawyer." [ Windolph, Francis Lyman, "The country lawyer essays in democracy," University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989.]

In a famous essay Robert Jackson offered his own description of the "The County-Seat Lawyer". [ Jackson, Robert H. "The County-Seat Lawyer," 36 ABA Journal 487 (1950).]


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