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Dr. Johnson–Dishonesty and the Craft of Lawyers

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“But, Sir, does not affecting a warmth when you have no warmth, and appearing to be clearly of one opinion when you are in reality of another opinion, does not such dissimulation impair one’s honesty? Is there not some danger that a lawyer may put on the same mask in common life, in the intercourse with friends?” Johnson: Why no, Sir. Every body knows you are paid for affecting warmth for your client; and it is, therefore, properly no dissimulation: the moment you come from the bar you resume your usual behaviour. Sir, a man will no more carry the artifice of the bar into the common intercourse of society, than a man who is paid for tumbling upon his hands will continue to tumble upon his hands when he should walk on his feet.”

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, p. 245 (1791)


With the OPR reports and vanishing emails, this week has shown the public the decidedly dark side of the legal world. There is no better music to accompany this than Franz Schubert’s terzet “The Lawyers” (“Die Advokaten”), DV 37 (1812), in which we learn, among other things, that “paying fees is the client’s first duty.” Dietrich Fischer Dieskau, Horst Laubenthal and Peter Schreier perform this version:

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