Personal injury law dates back to biblical times, believe it or not. For nearly as long as civilization has existed, the law has been regarded as one of the more structured intellectual aspects of our Western cultural society. In the early days of personal injury law, the ancient Greeks actually had the rule written that the plaintiff must plead their own case. However, in the thousands of years since the ancient Greeks practiced such a form of law, personal injury law, and the court systems, have progressed to contest these early practices with the birth of lawyers.
Even though in the early days of the law, the ancient Greeks forbade anyone except for the plaintiff to bring a case to court, it was actually the norm to have a friend help the plaintiff out in conforming and presenting their case. Thus, over time, the “friend” clause came to be known amongst the ancient Greeks in Athens and the birth of the lawyer profession was born. Come the 300’s, this original rule that only the plaintiff could represent their self was repealed or dropped altogether.
Early Law – Lawyer or Friend?
Though the ancient Greeks abolished the idea that these “friends” could not take money from the plaintiff in exchange for their representation, the practice itself never actually grew largely. For this reason, the “friends” or lawyers of the time, were tightly constrained as to what they could afford to do – since they were not generally paid for their services. This meant that the growth of the profession was stunted in a sense, as groups were unable to gather in councils and/or guilds to study and discuss the law.
The Romans actually instilled a ban on lawyers taking money from the plaintiff in exchange for their representation or services. However, in the Roman culture, this ban was widely ignored; and some would argue that disregard for a rule such as this was rightfully justifiable. After all, could you imagine being told that you were not allowed to accept payment from an individual after you extended your services in skillfully representing them in the court of law? In today’s society law is quite the opposite scenario, where the money is a large part of legal dealings.
In fact, personal injury attorneys are actually one of the highest-paid professionals in the world, to date. So, take that ancient Romans.
Eventually, the Romans began to respect the art of practicing law and the study of such was able to progress throughout Rome. With such progression came the inevitable eradication of the ban on making money for practicing the law. In fact, it was Claudius who was responsible for the final repeal of the ban on compensation for representation in Rome; and also who popularized the lawyer profession as a legitimate career. During this time, lawyers were often referred to as advocates or supporters to the injured. Also at this time, there were no rules or regulations that oversaw practicing lawyers. Additionally, at this time a lawyer’s personal reputation was the most dependable sign of their trustworthiness and success in the courtroom.
During this time, practicing law was not known to be the most profitable of careers and this was a real problem for the personal injury attorneys of the day. Complaints rose and spread quickly. Claudius was also to thank or rather blame, for the low wages of early-day lawyers, thanks to his putting a cap on how much a lawyer could be paid. For this reason, the success of lawyers in ancient times continued to be restricted.
It took until a few hundred years of the fall of Rome for the lawyer profession to become commonplace amongst other civilizations. However, once the profession spread, so too did the respect for such an important player in society. Lawyers became well known and well-respected members, which eventually were able to be compensated for their vital role in the practice of law.
Modern Personal Injury Law Has Come a Long Way
In today’s society, every profession is regulated and governed by somebody or another, this includes the practice of personal injury law. In fact, lawyers are some of the more specifically targeted governed agencies of today. This is because being a lawyer, of any sort really, in today’s society has many stereotypes and stigmas associated with it. However, beneath these surface images that cultural ideas have formed around such a classic and archetypal profession, there lies one of the most powerful fields in business today.