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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Holmes Quotes: The Individual Lawyer's Place in the Legal System

A friend of mine recently gave me Julius Marke's, The Holmes Reader (Oceana, 1955). This book contains a collection of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.'s speeches and papers and is an excellent primer on some of Holmes' non-opinion work.

As I get into the book, I am struck by the number of excellent quotes from Justice Holmes, and I have decided to devote a series of posts to quotes that I find notably inspiring, striking, or surprising. The first quote in this series falls into the inspiring genre, and reflects Holmes' view of the individual lawyer's role in the broader legal system:

The glory of lawyers, like that of men of science, is more corporate than individual. Our labor is an endless organic process. The organism whose being is recorded and protected by the law is the undying body of society. When I hear that one of the builders has ceased his toil, I do not ask what statute he has placed upon some conspicuous pedestal, but I think of the mighty whole, and say to myself, He has done his part to help the mysterious growth of the world along its inevitable lines towards its unknown end.

(From Arthur Dehon Hill, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 39 Harvard Graduates Magazine 265-289 (March, 1931)) (Reader pp. 12-13).

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