“Be a True Lawyer”
Thank you, Chancellor Hawkland,
Distinguished graduates and guests:
You and Chancellor Hockland honor me by this invitation to speak with you who are about to become lawyers.
You have now spent four years in college and three and one-half years in law school. You may, therefore, share the sentiment that Thomas Jefferson expressed after he had spent some months reading law, primarily Cooke’s Institutes: “Well, Page,” he wrote to a college friend, “I do wish the Devil had old Cooke, for I am sure I never was so tired of an old dull scoundrel in my life.” Now you are done with old dull scoundrels, and only the length of this talk stands between you and your diploma.
Abraham Lincoln told of the Widow Smith’s son, Tom, who was a high school student. One summer he worked in a lawyer’s office as what used to be called an errand boy — now it’s called a paraprofessional or a law clerk. At the end of the summer Mr. Lincoln met him on the street and asked, “Tom, how did you like the law?” Tom replied, “Rotten. I’m sorry I ever learned it.” I hope that you will be glad you began to learn the law. But, unlike Tom, you should realize that you haven’t yet learned it. Learning it will take the rest of your life.
For the rest of your life you will be a lawyer. Some of you will not practice law. But most of you will. To those who elect to follow law as a profession let me urge you to be a true lawyer.
The true lawyer begins his education in law school, but does not end it there. Most of the cases that I work on today involve rules of law that I never studied in law school. Indeed, some of the subject matter was unknown. In 1942, when I finished law school, there was no subject known as “civil rights.” The constitutional law decisions we now reach rely for the most part on principles that had not been formulated or even conceived. There was little scope for the equal protection clause. Counsel was required only in death penalty cases. There were no Miranda warnings. Products liability law was in its infancy. School desegregation had not been heard of, for the Brown decision came almost three decades later. Courts had imposed no constitutional limitations on government administration of public benefits. Although the National Labor Relations Act was six years old, the West digest didn’t even have a topic for labor law. Much of what you will be doing when you have been out of law school ten years will involve legal rules or practical applications that were not yet developed when you were in law school.
The Class of ’42, in which I graduated, included Russell Long, who became our senior U.S. Senator; John McKeithen, who became Louisiana’s governor; and Gordon West, who became a federal district judge. All of them and the rest of us in that class found that, with the education we had received at LSU, we could not only follow unprecedented developments, but even assist in moving the law forward. For we had, like you, learned more in law school than transient rules. What the true lawyer learns in law school, — what you — and we — have learned —, is a method of understanding legal principles and their application to real life.
At this moment, beneath your happiness at finishing law school, there perhaps lurks some anxiety: can I really succeed in law practice? Let me allay your fears. Most lawyers are not as bright as you, most are not as well prepared as you, most do not apply themselves as they should, and as you will, if you are a true lawyer. You can see a demonstration of this in court every rule day and at almost every trial. You will be disappointed in the quality of most of what you observe but you will realize that you can do it, and do it better.
Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t the things you don’t know that hurt you. It’s the things you know that aren’t so.”
You will spend much of the rest of your lives learning to identify the things that you don’t know; even more important, you will learn to question whether things are or aren’t so. That’s what the true lawyer does. Do not accept the assumptions of the crowd or the platitudes of the moment. It is the business of the lawyer’s mind, as Justice Felix Frankfurter once said, to inquire: to inquire, in order to identify the false and to find the truth. Be an inquirer — if need be, a skeptic.
In addition, to be a lawyer, you must undergo some hardships. The practice of law will not be painless. You must adjust to a new way of life, and to the economic realities of earning a living. You will learn that great lawyers are sticklers for detail, and you will find that you must dwell on each minute part of a problem, not merely on the big picture. You will find that preparation is more important than genius. You will adjust to spending your days seeing people and answering the telephone, doing the other work early in the morning, late at night, on weekends and on holidays: times when the telephone does not ring and when your family waits at home.
To be a lawyer, you must learn the business of the law. You must master the economics of office management, the psychology of client satisfaction, the technique of dealing with your peers, and the mysteries of coping with judges who are sometimes irascible and frequently unpredictable. Yet the spirit of the true lawyer is not confined by the mundane details of hourly charges and finding clients. The true lawyer also learns the grander business of the law. That business is the task of making sense out of the confusion of life; reducing it to order but at the same time giving it scope and even dignity. The true lawyer does not merely charge fees to his clients; he helps them achieve their due, as citizens, as persons, as human beings.
As you develop a practice, trying to keep abreast of new rules and develop self confidence, you will be tempted to make the details of your practice your whole life. Most lawyers do this, forgetting the dreams that led them to law school. I hope that you will never abandon or compromise those dreams. For you are entering a profession, one that you will profess for the rest of your lives. When you are asked, “What is your business?” you will not say, “I practice law” but will answer instead “I am a lawyer.” Be then a lawyer, a true lawyer, the kind of lawyer that makes one proud to say, “I am a lawyer.”
Your profession has nothing to sell but service rendered with integrity. You will be your fellow man’s agent, his alter-ego in a complex world, his attorney at law, his counselor. Whether you represent rich or poor, petroleum potentate or ghetto oppressed, only you as your client’s lawyer and the rule of law that you uphold protect the individual against the state, prevent principle from yielding to expediency, and exalt the ultimate sanctity of means over ends.
Be a true lawyer: one who recognizes that due process is not reserved only for the deserving, the well-connected or the innocent, but is guaranteed also to the despised, the unpopular, and the person indicted as a criminal. Some say they are lawyers only for those in whose cause they believe. And there are those who are lawyers only for the rich and well-bred. I urge you to follow neither course: Be a lawyer for those who need you.
Be a true lawyer, and refute the charge that a lawyer who serves those in need is a hired gun. Medical care is not reserved for those whose lives are free from sin, nor legal service for the pure of heart. The true lawyer is not a plaintiff’s lawyer or defendant’s lawyer, although he may specialize in personal injury claims. He is not a Mafia lawyer or a bank embezzler’s lawyer, although he may specialize in the defense of persons charged with crime. The true lawyer safeguards the right of every person to his day in court, for what law worthy of its name is reserved only for those who fit into preconceived patterns of desert?
If you who are lawyers do not defend privacy, who then will safeguard the privacy of the person against its invasions by bug and wiretap, by dossier and photograph, by computerized biography and intrusive state? If you who are lawyers do not safeguard the individual, who will stand with him against the massive government that by its nature seeks to arrogate all rights to itself in the name of national need — and does so alike whether it governs by popular election or dictatorship, or in the service of capitalism or communism? If you who are lawyers do not secure the year of the massive bureaucracies of government and business, who will make them listen?
As Judge Elbert Tuttle reminds us: you cannot separate yourself as a person from your professional service as a lawyer. You will never have goods to sell, only yourself. Only service rendered with integrity. You may be asked: What is the right price for this service? To ask that question is to ask what a share of a man or woman is worth. Judge Tuttle provides us with these guidelines:
If [the lawyer] does not contain the quality of integrity, he is worthless. If he does, he is priceless. The value is either nothing or it is infinite. So do not try to set a price on yourselves. Do not measure out your professional services on an apothecary’s scale and say ‘only this for as much.’ Rather be reckless and spendthrift, pouring out your talent to all whom it can be up service. Throw it away, waste it, and in the spending it can be of service. Do not keep a watchful eye lest you slip and give away a little bit of what you might have sold. Like love, talent is only useful and its expenditure, and it is never exhausted. Certainly … [you] must eat, so set what price you must on your service. But never confuse the performance, which is great, with the compensation — be it money, power or fame — which is trivial.
Be the best lawyer you can be. But, even if you aren’t great, you will sometimes win anyway. Fortunately, we old judges try to decide cases on the basis of their merit, not on the skill of the advocate. Indeed, sometimes we lean over to protect the client whose lawyer appears incapable of doing so. In a delightful book entitled Eulogy of Judges, an Italian lawyer, Pierro Calamandrei, observes: “Oftentimes, through that common desire to protect the weak against the strong, the judges unconsciously tend to favor the party who is less ably defended. If he finds a judge with a generous heart, an inexpert lawyer can bring success to his client.”
Forty-one years after I graduated from LSU I still enjoy, and still am challenged by the business of law. Long ago — even before I started law school — Justice Holmes reply to charge that the study of law is “laborious study of a dry and technical system.” He told an undergraduate class at Harvard:
[The questions that meet you in the practice of law] are the same questions that meet you in any form of practical life. If a man has the soul of Sancho Panza, the world to him will be Sancho Panza’s world, but if he has the soul of an idealist, he will make — I do not say find — his world ideal. Of course, the law is not the place for the artist or the poet. The law is the calling of thinkers. But to those who believe with me that not the least godlike of man’s activities is the large survey of causes, that to know is not less than to feel, I say — and I say no longer with any doubt — that a man may live greatly in the law as well as elsewhere; that there as well as elsewhere his thought may find its unity in an infinite perspective; that there as well as elsewhere he may wreak himself upon life, may drink the bitter cup of heroism, may wear his heart out after the unattainable.
Some of you go forth seeking but to learn a way to earn a good living. A lawyer can do that. Some of you are seeking a way to serve your fellow man. A lawyer can do that. And some of you seek a way to change the world, if only a little bit, for the better. A lawyer can do that too. And if you must choose, be Don Quixote rather than Sancho Panza. In your practice, reach for the stars. Be a true lawyer.
Then, five or six decades from now, you will be able at the end of your career in law, to say like Odysseus, “We have lived a long time in this land and with honor.” I wish you a long life in the law — with honor.
The Law Center is pleased to welcome Chandel McDonald, J.D., to the Office of Alumni Relations. Chandel comes to us as a former Westlaw Client Manager who served law firm clients throughout Louisiana and MS. She was a top client manager and a President’s Award Recipient for Top Performance twice during her service to Thomson Reuters/Westlaw. She also served as a legal recruiter and consultant for over five years and spent several years in practice as a real estate attorney in the Baton Rouge and the New Orleans areas.
Chandel earned her J.D. from the Loyola School of Law in New Orleans. She also taught law as an adjunct professor with the LSU Agricultural program. Chandel joins the staff as a development officer and may be reached at email@example.com.Read More
The Louisiana state legislature honored longtime LSU Law professor George W. Pugh on Wednesday with a commendation passed during the regular session.
The resolution was filed by senators Dan Claitor, John Alario, Conrad Appel, Gerald Boudreaux, Norby Chabert, Page Cortez, Jack Donahue, Ryan Gatti (’99), Ronnie Johns, Gerald Long, Jay Luneau, Daniel Martiny, John Milkovich (’82), Fred Mills, J.P. Morrell, Barrow Peacock, Gary Smith, Gregory Tarver, Michael Walsworth, Rick Ward, and Mack Bodi White and Representative Franklin Foil.
A 1950 graduate of LSU Law, George began full-time teaching at the Law Center in 1952, and he remained on the faculty until his retirement in 1994. LSU Law’s George W. and Jean H. Pugh Institute for Justice was named after him and his wife.
The full text of the Resolution is below:
Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 135
To commend George W. Pugh, Professor of Law, upon his lengthy and distinguished career as an outstanding educator at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University as a prolific legal researcher and as the compiler of the Louisiana Code of Evidence.
WHEREAS, it is with great pride that the Legislature of Louisiana acknowledges the lifetime of legal expertise conveyed by the brilliant intellectual and legal scholar, George Willard Pugh; and
WHEREAS, a Julius B. Nachman Professor of Law at LSU, Professor Pugh remains a towering figure in the realm of Louisiana law; known as the “intellectual father” of the Louisiana Code of Evidence, his codification of the subject matter required gleaning evidentiary principles dispersed throughout constitutions, codes, statutes, and case law, and crafting those concepts into a comprehensive reference; and
WHEREAS, he was the coordinator and coreporter, along with fellow coreporters, who confected the Code of Evidence for the Louisiana State Law Institute, using the Federal Rules of Evidence as its model; it was enacted into state law in 1988; and
WHEREAS, the Louisiana Code of Evidence has proved to be an invaluable resource for judges, district attorneys, and other legal professionals; and
WHEREAS, he began his studies at LSU in 1942, nonetheless, George volunteered for military duty and was deployed to France during World War II; in 1946 at the age of twenty-one he returned to LSU, and after three semesters entered LSU Law School; and
WHEREAS, he would earn a Juris Doctor in 1950, however, during his last semester, he substituted for an ailing professor and taught the evidence course to his classmates; his teaching abilities were of an exceptional quality and noted by Dean Paul M. Hebert; and
WHEREAS, his law school counselor, Professor Harriet S. Daggett, encouraged him to attend her alma mater, Yale Law School, on scholarship; he obtained a Doctor of Juridical Science in 1952; his thesis on the history of sovereign immunity was published in the Louisiana Law Review; and he rejoined the LSU Law School faculty in the Fall of 1952 as an assistant professor; and
WHEREAS, these were exciting times at LSU Law School and George Pugh had the distinct privilege to be in the company of numerous titans of Louisiana law; and
WHEREAS, after his appointment to the Judicial Council and serving for two years as the state’s first Judicial Administrator for the Louisiana Supreme Court, he resumed his teaching position, became a full professor, and remained at LSU until 1994, having provided forty-three years of extraordinary instruction to nearly three generations of legal professionals; and
WHEREAS, during his tenure at LSU, Professor Pugh produced voluminous and influential writings in the areas of Evidence, Criminal Justice, Federal Jurisdiction and Procedure, and Comparative Law; and
WHEREAS, in the classroom, his Socratic method prodded novices to prepare thoroughly, to think logically and critically when called upon to summarize a case or defend a position, and to communicate succinctly as proficient attorneys-at-law; it was a “think on your feet” scenario, similar to the demands of litigation in court; there were the quick and the dead; and
WHEREAS, many graduates recall his penetrating interrogation in his law review seminar when authors were required to defend their articles before publication; and
WHEREAS, no matter how relentless and foreboding Professor Pugh may have appeared to his class, he was greatly admired for his command of evidence law, his reverence for “the facts”, and his enthusiasm for jurisprudence; and
WHEREAS, his former students also recall his compassion and availability; he often shared informal brown bag lunches with students which were peppered with lively discussions; and
WHEREAS, Professor Pugh often initiated stimulating conversations with his colleagues as well to encourage a closer examination of an issue and to propose broader alternatives; and
WHEREAS, his profound knowledge of the law led to service on the bench as a judge ad hoc for the Louisiana Court of Appeal, presiding over one thousand sixty cases and as a member of the Council of the Louisiana State Law Institute; and
WHEREAS, George Pugh was an active member of the Baton Rouge, the Louisiana, and the American Bar associations and chaired several select committees; he was also a member of American Law Institute; and
WHEREAS, his teaching abilities and scholarship garnered invitations to teach as a visiting professor at law schools in Virginia, Texas, Belgium, Greece, and France; and
WHEREAS, Professor Pugh was selected as one of six law professors chosen to coordinate special studies of judicial administration in twenty countries; and
WHEREAS his field research projects and scholastic pursuits took him abroad to France, South Africa, Vietnam, and the Philippines; and
WHEREAS, he received the “Hub” Cotton Faculty Excellence Award at LSU and an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Aix-Marseille III in France, named a Sterling Fellow at Yale Law School, and listed in Who’s Who in America; and
WHEREAS, George met the beautiful Jean Hemphill on a return train trip to Yale; they were married within a year; their partnership was one of love, romance, and abstract legal thought; an honors graduate from Vassar and an attorney in her own right, Jean was his confidante, his helpmate, and his eyes when his sight failed, and his collaborator for endless discussions on all manner of law; it was a marriage made in heaven that lasted sixty
WHEREAS, together they established the George W. and Jean H. Pugh Institute for Justice in 1998, to promote justice for individuals in the administration of criminal and civil justice systems in the state of Louisiana and elsewhere; she remained a strong proponent for criminal justice research until her death in 2012; and
WHEREAS, their union was blessed with four sons, William, George Jr. “Rusty”, David, and James; three sons became attorneys and the latter became an architect; and
WHEREAS, born on Bayou Lafourche near Napoleonville in 1925, and the son and grandson of physicians, George Pugh has always exhibited exceptional scholarship; and
WHEREAS, in 1950, Professor Pugh began his teaching career at LSU Law Center and retired, having taught approximately 4000 students; and
WHEREAS, upon his retirement in 1994, the Louisiana Law Review dedicated its January publication to Professor Pugh; he had been its editor, associate editor, and a longtime faculty editor of the review; and
WHEREAS, he is a dependable friend and consultant to trial and appellate judges who seek his counsel; and
WHEREAS, George W. Pugh is a legal theorist without par and one of Louisiana’s most influential legal scholars; his expertise reshaped Louisiana evidence law and his teaching has produced multiple generations of law professionals, attorneys, judges, and professors; and
WHEREAS, for George W. Pugh, the compilation of the Louisiana Code of Evidence was his passion; he has garnered the respect and praise of his peers, both nationally and internationally; he is admired by his former students and his legal fellows for his intellectual brilliance; and he is treasured as a mentor, colleague, and friend.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of Louisiana does hereby commend George W. Pugh upon his distinguished career as a professor of law at Paul M. Hebert Law Center at LSU and does hereby acknowledge his legacy of scholarship and his many contributions made for the betterment of the legal system of Louisiana.