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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

How to be a Lawyer

By Samuel Foote (1720–1777)

From ‘The Lame Lover’

Enter Jack

SERJEANT—So, Jack, anybody at chambers to-day?

Jack—Fieri Facias from Fetter Lane, about the bill to be filed by Kit Crape against Will Vizard this term.

Serjeant—Praying for an equal partition of plunder?

Jack—Yes, sir.

Serjeant—Strange world we live in, that even highwaymen can’t be true to each other![Half aside to himself.]But we shall make Vizard refund; we’ll show him what long hands the law has.

Jack—Facias says that in all the books he can’t hit a precedent.

Serjeant—Then I’ll make one myself; Aut inveniam, aut faciam, has been always my motto. The charge must be made for partnership profit, by bartering lead and gunpowder against money, watches, and rings, on Epping Forest, Hounslow Heath, and other parts of the kingdom.

Jack—He says if the court should get scent of the scheme, the parties would all stand committed.

Serjeant—Cowardly rascal! but however, the caution mayn’t prove amiss.[Aside.]I’ll not put my own name to the bill.

Jack—The declaration, too, is delivered in the cause of Roger Rapp’em against Sir Solomon Simple.

Serjeant—What, the affair of the note?


Serjeant—Why, he is clear that his client never gave such a note.

Jack—Defendant never saw plaintiff since the hour he was born; but notwithstanding, they have three witnesses to prove a consideration and signing the note.

Serjeant—They have!

Jack—He is puzzled what plea to put in.

Serjeant—Three witnesses ready, you say?


Serjeant—Tell him Simple must acknowledge the note[Jack starts];and bid him against the trial comes on, to procure four persons at least to prove the payment at the Crown and Anchor, the 10th of December.

Jack—But then how comes the note to remain in plaintiff’s possession?

Serjeant—Well put, Jack: but we have a salvo for that; plaintiff happened not to have the note in his pocket, but promised to deliver it up when called thereunto by defendant.

Jack—That will do rarely.

Serjeant—Let the defense be a secret; for I see we have able people to deal with. But come, child, not to lose time, have you carefully conned those instructions I gave you?

Jack—Yes, sir.

Serjeant—Well, that we shall see. How many points are the great object of practice?


Serjeant—Which are they?

Jack—The first is to put a man into possession of what is his right.

Serjeant—The second?

Jack—Either to deprive a man of what is really his right, or to keep him as long as possible out of possession.

Serjeant—Good boy! To gain the last end, what are the best means to be used?

Jack—Various and many are the legal modes of delay.

Serjeant—Name them.

Jack—Injunctions, demurrers, sham pleas, writs of error, rejoinders, sur-rejoinders, rebutters, sur-rebutters, re-plications, exceptions, essoigns, and imparlance.

Serjeant[to himself]—Fine instruments in the hands of a man who knows how to use them. But now, Jack, we come to the point: if an able advocate has his choice in a cause, which if he is in reputation he may readily have, which side should he choose, the right or the wrong?

Jack—A great lawyer’s business is always to make choice of the wrong.

Serjeant—And prithee, why so?

Jack—Because a good cause can speak for itself, whilst a bad one demands an able counselor to give it a color.

Serjeant—Very well. But in what respects will this answer to the lawyer himself?

Jack—In a twofold way. Firstly, his fees will be large in proportion to the dirty work he is to do.


Jack—His reputation will rise, by obtaining the victory in a desperate cause.

Serjeant—Right, boy. Are you ready in the case of the cow?

Jack—Pretty well, I believe.

Serjeant—Give it, then.

Jack—First of April, anno seventeen hundred and blank, John a-Nokes was indicted by blank, before blank, in the county of blank, for stealing a cow, contra pacem, etc., and against the statute in that case provided and made, to prevent stealing of cattle.

Serjeant—Go on.

Jack—Said Nokes was convicted upon the said statute.

Serjeant—What followed upon?

Jack—Motion in arrest of judgment, made by Counselor Puzzle. First, because the field from whence the cow was conveyed is laid in the indictment as round, but turned out upon proof to be square.

Serjeant—That’s well. A valid objection.

Jack—Secondly, because in said indictment the color of the cow is called red; there being no such things in rerum natura as red cows, no more than black lions, spread eagles, flying griffins, or blue boars.

Serjeant—Well put.

Jack—Thirdly, said Nokes has not offended against form of the statute; because stealing of cattle is there provided against: whereas we are only convicted of stealing a cow. Now, though cattle may be cows, yet it does by no means follow that cows must be cattle.

Serjeant—Bravo, bravo! buss me, you rogue; you are your father’s own son! go on and prosper. I am sorry, dear Jack, I must leave thee. If Providence but sends thee life and health, I prophesy thou wilt wrest as much land from the owners, and save as many thieves from the gallows, as any practitioner since the days of King Alfred.

Jack—I’ll do my endeavor.[Exit Serjeant.]