concept of standing up and speaking out for the rights of someone who has been
wronged, which is what trial lawyers do, is not a new or modern development.
The roots of the lawyer’s calling grow out of principles founded in the Bible.
Seeking enforcement of compensation and restitution for losses caused by
another person’s wrongdoing, which is the heart of the civil justice system,
was recognized and promulgated in the Law of Moses:
When a man leaves a pit
open or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox falls into it,
the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to [the ox’s]
owner, and the dead beast shall be his. (Exodus 21:33-34)
When a man causes a
field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose, and it feeds in
another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field
and in his own vineyard. (Exodus 22:5)
provided legal consequences where someone builds a roof in such a way as to
allow people to fall off.
Law of Moses also prescribed types of damages that operate (in principle) the
same as modern punitive damages, where someone’s wrongdoing is more accountable
than mere negligence or carelessness:
If a man steals an ox
or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for an ox and four
sheep for a sheep. He shall make restitution. . . . (Exodus 22:1-4)
modern corporate lawyers or insurance lawyers, trial lawyers who represent
families, workers, and small
businesses find themselves standing up for people whose opponents are far more
powerful and far more wealthy. The Bible recognizes the need for advocates who
will try to obtain justice for those who do not enjoy advantages of riches and
encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of
the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
Speak up for those
who cannot speak up for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Do not deny justice
to your poor people in their lawsuits. (Exodus 23:1)
Do not exploit the
poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court. . . .(Proverbs
The righteous care
about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. (Proverbs
there are certain corporate special interests who pursue a constant relentless
agenda of slamming and disparaging the profession of law, particularly those
who choose to represent the family, worker, or small business owner in disputes
against insurance companies and giant corporations. Those who seek advantage
through such cheap shots are overlooking the fundamental and historical moral
foundation of the lawyer’s calling.
A Cum Laude Honors graduate of Cumberland School of Law, Alabama tort law expert Mike Roberts has successfully litigated cases covering civil litigation, personal injury, negligence, product liability, wrongful death and fraud. He is the author of six editions of Alabama Tort Law, and is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court.