In his book, Raising the Bar: The Crucial Role of the Lawyer in Society, Talmage Boston challenges his fellow lawyers to “raise the bar” and reclaim the elevated position that lawyers once held in society. Boston begins his look at the individuals that served as role models for the legal profession by examining the life and career of one of our country’s leading examples of honesty and integrity: Abraham Lincoln. He outlines Lincoln’s six points of advice, composed sometime in the 1850s, to assist those desiring to enter the practice of law. These tidbits of advice are reflected to some degree in the ethical rules to which lawyers must adhere, such as diligence, the provision of candid advice, and the importance of being honest in transactions and dealings. Boston also details those characteristics that intensified his greatness. These attributes included his brainpower, his self-control, his emotional intelligence, and his “high sense of purpose.”
Linked with Lincoln for his integrity and wisdom, Atticus Finch, the empathetic small-town lawyer from To Kill a Mockingbird, serves as Boston’s second inspirational role model. He cites examples of how Finch’s words and demeanor inspired many people to join the legal profession. Atticus Finch provided services to the poor, recognized the value of alternative dispute resolution, considered other perspectives, acknowledged the need for color-blind justice, and championed the power of the legal system while still conceding its limitations. Even today, Atticus Finch still ranks high on the list of favorite lawyers.
The author doesn’t simply focus his attention on historical and fictional lawyers; he also analyzes the careers of two lawyers he deems to be the greatest of the last 50 years: Leon Jaworski and James A. Baker III. Boston describes Jaworski as the protector and preserver of the Rule of Law. He supports this notion by highlighting five cases which Jaworski himself believed were the most important of his life, including State of Texas v. Jordan Scott and United States v. Nixon. Baker, on the other hand, Boston portrays as a lawyer who changed the world for the better. Chief of Staff during the Reagan Administration and Secretary of State during the Bush years, Baker utilized and applied the skills he refined as a business lawyer to his positions of diplomacy.
Boston also concentrates his interest on lawyers who became novelists and who not only used their legal experience to tell compelling stories but also to raise awareness of serious questions that affect the legal profession and the public at large. He examined the careers of Louis Auchincloss, whose novels dealt with the upper crust of New York society, Richard North Patterson, whose books increasingly focused upon the political arena, and John Grisham, whose legal thrillers evolved into “issue books” dramatizing social injustices. Still, despite the different paths the writings of these authors took, each drew on their experiences as lawyers and/or litigators to create stories worth reading.
Lastly, Boston turns his sights on Theodore Roosevelt. Though not a lawyer himself, Roosevelt lived and existed on the fringes of the law and various legal situations, having aligned himself with lawyers. However, the author uses Roosevelt as a cautionary tale. Roosevelt’s life stands as a warning to lawyers to keep their exuberance in check so as to avoid a similar crash and burn scenario suffered by Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a larger-than-life character, living in the so-called arena. However, this zeal attributed to his ultimate downfall, a sad end for someone so historically significant.
If you are interested in learning about the achievements of several distinguished lawyers and the characteristics that caused them to “raise the bar,” read Talmage Boston’s Raising the Bar: The Crucial Role of the Lawyer in Society.