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This Is Our Bar

by Gerard J. St. John

Winter 2002, Vol. 64, No. 4

"This is my bar."

Those were the words of Justice Bushrod Washington in the early 1800s as Philadelphia lawyers entered the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Washington knew of whence he spoke. Nearly twenty years earlier, he "read the law" in Philadelphia under the direction of a preeminent Philadelphia lawyer, James Wilson. From the very beginning, Washington knew that Wilson was a lawyer of exceptional significance. That had to be the case. The study arrangements had been made personally by Washington's uncle, General George Washington.

In colonial Philadelphia, the preferred preparation for law was attendance at one of the Inns of Court in London. William Penn attended Lincoln's Inn. The other three Inns were Gray's Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. The Inns of Court determined when an English lawyer was ready to be "called to the bar," i.e., admitted to practice. Between 1760 and 1783, more than 100 American lawyers received their training at the Inns of Court. That training was particularly valued in the middle colonies, and it left its mark on Philadelphia lawyers. One example is the Philadelphia tradition of listing the senior lawyer last and the junior lawyer first on court filings. That custom grew out of the practice at the Inns of Court, and it continued in Philadelphia until the latter half of the twentieth century.

With the War of Independence in 1776, Americans were no longer inclined to seek professional education in England. The way to become a lawyer in Philadelphia was "to read the law." In effect, it was an apprenticeship system. The "law clerk" or "law student" would work directly with a practicing lawyer who would also instruct his charges on the elements of the substantive law, which, for all practical purposes, were limited to equity, property and wrongs. The "tuition" varied from lawyer to lawyer, as did the quality of the preparation.

Even before the War of Independence, some Philadelphia lawyers were the products of the apprenticeship system. Andrew Hamilton emigrated from Scotland to the Chesapeake Peninsula of Virginia where he taught school while reading the law. He was admitted to the bar in 1703 and later undertook further studies at Gray's Inn pro favor. Apparently, pro favor meant that the skids were greased. Hamilton completed his studies in just two weeks. Nonetheless, the prestige of Gray's Inn may have played a part in Hamilton being retained to represent the family of William Penn, which representation brought him to Philadelphia in 1717. Hamilton served as recorder of Philadelphia, prothonotary of the Supreme Court and as a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly. It was in his capacity as an assemblyman in 1732 that he designed the building that we now call Independence Hall.

In 1735, the 59-year-old Hamilton took on the case that made him famous, the defense of printer John Peter Zenger who was accused of criminal libel against Bill Cosby. New York's Royalist Governor William Cosby had no sense of humor. The factual issue presented to the jury was whether Zenger had printed the offending material. Truth was not a defense to criminal libel. Hamilton argued that the jury should ignore the law as charged by the judge and instead return a general verdict of "not guilty." The verdict met with a mixed reaction. Legal scholars criticized it as contrary to law; patriots applauded the result. But everyone agreed that Zenger owed his freedom to the skill of his "smart Philadelphia lawyer." It took on a meaning of its own-"Philadelphia lawyer."

Thirty years after the Zenger case, another Scot came to America and became interested in the law. James Wilson taught at the College of Philadelphia, the school we now call the University of Pennsylvania. Seeing that lawyers in Philadelphia were generally affluent and well respected, Wilson borrowed money to read the law with Philadelphia lawyer John Dickinson, himself a product of three years at the Middle Temple. Wilson's law training was completed in less than a year. Finding that the supply of lawyers exceeded the demand for lawyering services in Philadelphia, he struck out in search of paying clients and courtroom experience. He traveled to the edge of the wilderness, which was then Carlisle, Pennsylvania. There, he developed an active courtroom practice riding a circuit that included Reading and Lancaster as well as Carlisle. Wilson signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He was one of the most dynamic participants in the Constitutional Convention. On September 24, 1789, James Wilson was nominated by President George Washington to be an associate justice of the newly created U.S. Supreme Court. Wilson was not pleased. He wanted to be chief justice.

As the eighteenth century came to an end, Philadelphia was the center of government and the center of law in the United States. It was the largest city in the country, although its population would soon be eclipsed by the more densely populated New York. Philadelphia was the center of medicine. It was the center of science. It was the center of learning. Philadelphia was the center of insurance. It was also the center of finance and commerce, thanks largely to the Bank of the United States. About 100 lawyers practiced full time in Philadelphia. For the most part, they were sole practitioners.

But times changed. The practice of law became more complex. The status of English common law in Pennsylvania courts was bitterly disputed. The importance of the growing federal, state and local case reports was apparent to everyone. But a well-prepared nineteenth-century lawyer still needed access to the traditional English law books. Faced with economic necessity, Philadelphia lawyers formed a professional association.

The Beginnings
1802-1852

On March 13, 1802, The Law Library Company of the City of Philadelphia was created by a charter signed by seventy-one attorneys and approved by the three justices and the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It was a stock company with shares at a par value of twenty dollars and annual dues of two dollars per member. The charter named as directors Joseph B. McKean, William Lewis, Edward Tilghman, William Rawle, Jasper Moylan, Joseph Hopkinson and John B. Wallace. The Law Library Company was located in the State House, i.e., Andrew Hamilton's "Independence Hall," in a small room adjoining the main building at the southeast corner. It stayed there until 1819 when it was moved to the second floor of Congress Hall, just west of the State House. By and large, the lawyers of the early nineteenth century were a well-to-do lot. They were selected that way. In the first instance, not everyone in that era had the requisite education. Also, access to a practicing lawyer willing to sponsor the novice was a threshold barrier to entry into the legal profession. Horace Binney, 22 years of age when he signed the charter for the Law Library Company, would later recall that he waited eight years for his first opportunity to represent a major client in a major case. Young Binney's wait was made more tolerable by his appointment as the official reporter for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The official court reporter was an entrepreneur who kept the profits on all sales, just like any other bookseller. When success finally came, Binney quipped that Philadelphia lawyers owed much of their livelihood to the ingenuity of Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte would not only confiscate the cargoes of ships taken on the high seas but would also justify the takings on novel grounds that did not fit neatly into the exclusions of commercial insurance policies. Rather than writing off the value of the ships and cargoes as would normally be done with acts of piracy or war, buyers, sellers and shipping companies brought suit against the insurers, usually in Philadelphia.

The Law Library Company served its purpose reasonably well. In 1805, and again in 1811, William Rawle, an alumnus of London's Middle Temple, published catalogues of the books of the Law Library Company showing mainly English case reports and treatises on commercial law and maritime insurance. Rawle was an ideal person to maintain the records of the law library. His lawyer-grandfather had been admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1725 and was a charter member of the Library Company of Philadelphia, which was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731.

In 1820, Philadelphia's lawyers addressed the need for training novice lawyers. The Law Academy of Philadelphia was patterned roughly after a short-lived lecture program presented by James Wilson in 1790. The first Provost was Peter S. DuPonceau who, as a teenager, left an abbey in France and using his facility with languages, accompanied Baron Steuben to America. DuPonceau's linguistic ability led to his employment in a Philadelphia law office, and he was admitted to practice in 1785. President Thomas Jefferson offered DuPonceau an appointment as chief justice for Louisiana but he declined. He would rather be in Philadelphia.

In 1821, sixty-seven Philadelphia lawyers formed The Associated Members of the Bar of Philadelphia. It had two standing committees, a Committee of Censors and a Committee of Finance. Jared Ingersoll was elected Chancellor and Horace Binney was elected Vice Chancellor. The Associated Members of the Bar did not have a long life as a separate organization. On April 2, 1827, The Law Library Company merged with The Associated Members of the Bar to form The Law Association of Philadelphia. The corporate charter was the one issued to The Law Library Company in 1802. William Rawle was elected the first Chancellor and Horace Binney the first Vice Chancellor. More than 100 years later, the Association would change its name to the Philadelphia Bar Association.

The Second Bank of the United States on Chestnut Street near Fifth was a mainstay of Philadelphia's economy. When it opened in 1816, it had the full support of the secretary of the Treasury, Alexander J. Dallas. But by 1832, the bank had powerful enemies. One such enemy was President Andrew Jackson; another was "Old Hickory's" secretary of the Treasury, Philadelphia lawyer William J. Duane. Daniel Webster was the bank's main spokesman in the Senate. In the House, the leading advocate for the bank was Philadelphia lawyer Horace Binney, serving his only term in Congress. Webster and Binney succeeded in achieving legislation to renew the bank's charter, but Jackson vetoed the bill and instructed Duane to withdraw federal funds from the national bank. Duane refused. He opposed the national bank but he would not destroy it. Jackson responded by removing Duane from office and replacing him with Attorney General Roger Brooke Taney (pronounced "Tawny") who carried out the President's order. The results were financial chaos and a severe depression. And Philadelphia was no longer the center of finance in the United States.

In the meanwhile, the Estate of Stephen Girard made its first appearance in Philadelphia's legal scene. Girard's heirs brought suit against the City of Philadelphia, seeking to set aside the multimillion-dollar bequest to establish the institution known as Girard College. A ruling that required a return of Girard's money would have been devastating. Fortunately, the Circuit Court ruled in favor of the city and dismissed the complaint. Girard's heirs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Unexpectedly, the court listed the case for reargument. Girard's heirs sensed an opportunity for a reversal. Daniel Webster was retained to present their case at reargument. The city fathers, too, worried that the court had doubts, and now they were also worried about the fabled forensic skills of Webster. The city needed a new lawyer. The city needed Horace Binney. But Binney had retired from active practice. Hats in hand, the city fathers went to see Binney and pleaded with him to take one more case. Binney agreed to take on the representation but only on the condition that John Sergeant would stay on as co-counsel. Sergeant had read the law alongside Binney in the office of Jared Ingersoll.

Binney found strong support for the validity of Girard's bequest in the well-established law of England. His argument was unassailable. At the conclusion of the oral argument, Webster is reported to have said, "Mr. Binney, you buried my argument under a ton of granite." Not long after the Girard case was decided, Binney was offered, but declined, an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. Binney had the good sense to recognize that lawyering and adjudicating are two different skills. At heart, Binney was an advocate. His greatest skill was in gathering all of the available material relevant to an issue and then constructing the most persuasive argument possible in support of his asserted proposition. Twenty years later, he would again reject an appointment to the Supreme Court, this time upon the death of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.

As the Law Association approached the end of its first half-century, its role as spokesman for the bar of Philadelphia expanded. Association leaders represented all Philadelphia lawyers in welcoming Chief Justice John Marshall on his many visits to the Philadelphia office of Dr. Philip Syng Physick. It was during these visits to the doctor that the Association commissioned the portrait of Chief Justice Marshall that still hangs today in its offices. In 1835, Chancellor William Rawle led the honor guard of lawyers that accompanied Marshall's body from Philadelphia back to Richmond, Virginia. And in 1850, virtually all of the leaders of the Law Association spoke out, albeit unsuccessfully, against a constitutional amendment that they believed would weaken the independence of the judiciary by making the judiciary an elected office. On the other hand, the election of judges marked the beginning of a judiciary that more closely mirrored the make-up of Philadelphia's citizenry.

Philadelphia lawyers fretted about the qualifications of the young men entering the legal profession. In 1850, George Sharswood was appointed professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania. Sharswood was a well-respected judge of the Philadelphia Court. He would later be chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the author of a text upon which the rules of professional conduct would be based. Under Sharswood's direction, the university created an undergraduate law department and a two-year law program for part-time students. As a practical matter, the law department courses supplemented rather than replaced law office training. For most Philadelphians it was difficult to acquire even a high school education. Philadelphia had only one public high school, Central High School, which had just moved from the present site of the Wanamaker Building north to the corner of Broad and Green streets.

Lawyers' offices were in their homes, usually within walking distance of the courts located at Fifth and Chestnut streets. The parlor served as a reception area. Behind the parlor was a room occupied by a law clerk or law student with a desk or table and files. The lawyer had a small office in the back of the house. When no clients were in the office area, it was common for members of the family to use that space. The close proximity of the home offices of Philadelphia's lawyers brought those lawyers, their law clerks and their families into frequent social contact. Lawyers were, in effect, a family.

Philadelphia lawyers of this era also made their marks in distant locales. Richard Rush went to England as an agent of the United States and guided the will of James Smithson through the Court of Chancery. He returned to Washington with the bequest and helped to establish the Smithsonian Institution. In the new state of Texas, a community on the Trinity River was named after Philadelphia lawyer George Mifflin Dallas who was then Vice President of the United States.

Workshop of The World
1852-1902

John Christian Bullitt was admitted to the bar in Kentucky. But Bullitt recognized the opportunity for lawyers in Philadelphia, where capital-intensive industries were taking root and business corporations were creating new law. Before long, Bullitt was joined in practice by a former librarian of the Law Library Company, Samuel Dickson. Corporations needed counsel with respect to organization and reorganization. The practice of law was moving out of the courtrooms and into lawyers' offices. Philadelphia's industrial capability became even greater during the Civil War. Philadelphia was the northern city closest to the Confederacy. It was a natural manufacturing and supply point for the Union's war effort. But in Philadelphia's business community there was substantial sympathy for the Confederate cause, and that sympathy was shared by many lawyers. Bluntly stated, it was good business. Robert D. Coxe, an active member of the Law Association, in a retrospective tribute praised lawyers Edward Hopper, George H. Earle, Sr., William S. Pierce and Charles Gibbons for their anti-slavery leadership, and noted that: "The championship of so desperate and so unpopular a cause demanded physical, no less than moral courage on the part of its advocates. The bar, as a body, conservatively gave it the cold shoulder, and Mr. Hopper and his associates were, in truth, the victims, frequently, of positively uncivil treatment at the hands of their brother lawyers."

Lawyers in the antebellum era left something to be desired when dealing with a moral issue that had adverse economic consequences.

When the Confederate army moved north into south central Pennsylvania in 1863, the reality of war hit home. The Confederates were spoiling for a fight. There was a genuine fear that General Lee's battle-hardened army would veer to the east and make an all-out attack on Philadelphia, less than 100 miles distant. The lead element of Confederate General Ewell's army was just a few miles west of Harrisburg, approaching the Susquehanna River. Defending the state capital was none other than a contingent of Philadelphia lawyers.

A reserve unit created at the urging of Horace Binney in 1844 (to help maintain the peace after violent anti-Catholic riots) had been reactivated in 1861 as Battery A, First Pennsylvania Artillery. It was staffed by volunteers from the Philadelphia bar, among them George Washington Biddle, William Henry Rawle, Charles E. Morgan (who would later form a partnership with Francis D. Lewis and later still be joined by Morris Bockius), Clement B. Penrose, C. Stuart Patterson, Charles Chauncey, Henry D. Landis, and James T. Mitchell, who would become chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. But the most interesting of all was a tall, slender 21-year-old who seemed out of place in such elegant company, Private John Graver Johnson.

People like Johnson were not supposed to be lawyers. His father had been a blacksmith. His widowed mother took in sewing to make ends meet. Johnson worked day and night to help support his mother and two younger brothers. In his last year of high school, Johnson was offered a job by lawyer Benjamin Rush, a grandson of the colonial doctor. What Rush had in mind was employment as a messenger, not as a law student. By sheer persistence of will, Johnson worked himself up to law student status. When Benjamin Rush retired, Johnson went to work for Rush's brother, J. Murray Rush and, upon Murray's death, Johnson went to the office of another Rush kin, Henry J. Williams. Johnson's weighty domestic responsibilities seemed to explain why he labored day and night on an ever-increasing number of real estate leases and small decedent's estates. It helped that Johnson was a quick reader. He also had a photographic memory.

Williams' most important client was the Pennsylvania Company, which, in 1842, had foreclosed on and taken possession of a small (one league in circumference) island in the Delaware River at the southern tip of Philadelphia. For more than a quarter of a century, the Pennsylvania Company tried to unload its unwanted island. Then someone came up with the idea that Philadelphia should give League Island to the federal government for use as a modern naval base. It was an offer that the federal government could not refuse. The Pennsylvania Company looked to its lawyers to oversee the transaction quickly through to closing. Johnson handled all aspects of the transaction with apparent ease.

Not long after the Navy Base transaction, Dr. James Rush died. His will named his brother-in-law, Henry J. Williams, as his executor and awarded the residue of his estate to the Library Company of Philadelphia for the express purpose of building a library as a memorial to his late wife, Phoebe Ann Ridgway. Philadelphia newspapers were ecstatic at the prospect of a million-dollar gift for public use. The Library Company was ecstatic at the prospect of a magnificent new building. But then Henry Williams disclosed that on his deathbed, James Rush insisted that the library be built on the property at Broad and Christian streets, a full nine blocks south of Center Square. The Board of the Library Company had in mind a location closer to the hub of the city.

The Library Company Board included the most prestigious judges and lawyers in Philadelphia. The Board accepted the bequest and then filed a Bill in Equity to enjoin the construction of the library at Broad and Christian streets. The court granted an injunction, and Williams appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Attorneys for Williams were former Chief Justice George W. Woodward, George Junkin and John G. Johnson. Representing the Library Company were William Henry Rawle, the brilliant but acidic Richard McMurtrie, and former Secretary of the Treasury William M. Meredith. The argument extended over the course of three days. Williams was portrayed as a present-day Don Quixote, pursuing a quest that no one else could understand. In marked contrast to the emotional presentations of the senior advocates was the calm, steady, high-pitched voice of the much-younger John G. Johnson, whose great height and slender build gave him a unique courtroom presence. Johnson's argument made sense. Absent fraud or incapacity, the court should not interfere with the discretionary authority of an executor. Johnson repeatedly hammered home the undeniable good faith of Williams and the equally undeniable fact that he was acting in the express interest of the testator. The Supreme Court reversed the decree and removed the restraint on Williams. Ninety years after its construction, the Ridgway Library was sold to the City of Philadelphia. Its imposing facade of Doric columns now serves as the frontispiece on Broad Street for the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, a remnant of nineteenth-century fancy preserved by twentieth-century respect for the past. Precious few passersby recognize it as a memorial to the advocacy of John G. Johnson.

The Chestnut Hill blacksmith's son was the most sought after lawyer in Philadelphia. There were now about 1,000 lawyers in Philadelphia, only 400 of them members of the Law Association. When lawyers died, their clients tended to migrate to the offices of friends or relatives of the deceased. In a world of sole practitioners and two- and three-lawyer partnerships, a long life span almost assured the success of a competent lawyer who had the proper family connections. Only about 100 Philadelphia lawyers earned more than $5,000 per year. At the top were a handful that included John C. Bullitt, his partner Samuel Dickson, and John G. Johnson, each of whom was reportedly earning more than $100,000 annually. Charles E. Morgan and George W. Biddle were not doing badly either.

In the meanwhile, the locus of the legal community was moving west from Independence Hall. In December 1872, the Law Association moved its offices to a third-floor location on Walnut Street, west of Sixth Street. Four years later, it moved one block south to the Athenaeum Building on South Sixth Street. The city's prime residential area had already moved west of Broad Street to the neighborhood surrounding Rittenhouse Square.

The Constitution of 1873 created four courts of general jurisdiction, Common Pleas Courts Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4, each having three judges, one of whom was the president judge. This system of numbered 3-judge courts would last for ninety-five years, and the separate courts reached a total of ten. Philadelphia's courts were crammed into whatever space was available in and around Independence Hall. The courtrooms were in deplorable condition. George W. Norris, who covered Philadelphia courts for the newspapers while studying for admission to the bar, observed: "It would tax the imagination of the practitioners of today [1937] to imagine how bare and dingy these rooms were. There were no draperies, no marble or hardwood ornamentations . . . Most of the rooms were heated by stoves, and gas was the only illuminant." It was in the late 1880s that it became customary for the judges to wear black robes on the bench, a symbol of decorum and respect. Typical court practice involved a five-and-one-half day week. Trials were conducted on Monday through Friday, and motion lists were heard on Saturday mornings. On the other hand, courts closed after the May term and did not reopen until September. Successful lawyers in those days had real summer vacations.

It was becoming painfully evident that the emerging corporations could wreak harm as well as confer benefit. Congress took steps to regulate abusive practices in public service industries. The government guaranteed monopoly power but imposed strict governmental regulation on those businesses. Public service regulation began with the railroads. In 1887, the Interstate Commerce Act was passed. New concepts emerged in regulatory law. "Operating rights," i.e., formal authority to participate in a regulated business, became not only a concept of law but also a valuable commodity that could be bought and sold. Regulation of rates gave rise to juridical economics and concepts of "fair rate of return" on the "fair value" of assets "used and useful" in the public service. Hard economic reality was blended with hypothesis and legal theory. And, of course, public utility regulation expanded the work of lawyers.

New laws were also enacted to apply juridical economics to private enterprise. On July 2, 1890, Congress enacted the Sherman Antitrust Act to protect trade and commerce from the predatory practices of monopolies. It was not long before the Justice Department saw an opportunity to flex its Sherman Act muscle. In March 1892, four Philadelphia sugar refiners merged into the American Sugar Refining Company. The merger gave the resulting company complete control of the manufacture of sugar in the United States. The attorney general brought suit to enjoin the combination of sugar manufacturers popularly known as "The Sugar Trust." Defending the case was Philadelphia lawyer John G. Johnson. No longer slender and now sporting a bushy mustache, Johnson followed his classic courtroom approach, selected a major point and drove it home with clear, forceful argument. Johnson convinced the court that manufacturing is different from commerce, and that only monopolization of commerce is proscribed by the antitrust laws.

Johnson represented a large number of clients. Still, he remained available to the average person. Lawyers shook their heads in disbelief when Johnson refused to travel to New York City to consult with J.P. Morgan. He was too busy to leave his office. So Morgan came to Johnson's office in Philadelphia-and waited his turn while Johnson met with the everyday clients who were first in line. Johnson represented the tobacco industry, Northern Pacific Railroad, U.S. Steel and Standard Oil Company. Johnson also represented Peter A.B. Widener and George Elkins in obtaining the right to operate electric trolleys in Philadelphia. The bar's admiration for Johnson was offset by its consternation over his billing practices. In those days no one kept time records. Fee bills were submitted at the end of the case. Johnson is reputed to have billed the Sugar Trust only $3,000 for the defense of its antitrust case. Co-counsel were often embarrassed to learn that they had billed amounts significantly higher than the lead counsel had.

In 1898, the courts, the Law Association and the Law Library completed their move into Philadelphia's present City Hall. The South Portal of City Hall is dedicated to the theme of justice. It includes a sculpture of the face of Horace Binney, one of only three sculptures of real people on the exterior of the massive building. The other two people so depicted are William Penn and Benjamin Franklin.

Lawyers' office buildings changed, too. With the development of fireproofing for steel girders and with the availability of electric-powered elevators, tall buildings sprouted up near the new City Hall. In 1897, the sixteen-story Land Title Building at Broad and Chestnut streets was built as a speculative office building. Five years later, a taller second tower was added. Lawyers flocked to offices in the new skyscrapers, particularly the Land Title Building. The days of the home law office were over. Law offices now were strictly places to work. Philadelphia's most desirable residential area was no longer Rittenhouse Square. In fact, it was no longer in Philadelphia. Affluence followed the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad to the spacious areas with old-world names, Bryn Mawr, Berwyn, Strafford and Devon.

Advances in technology also changed the face of Philadelphia's law offices. The typewriter made professional scriveners obsolete almost overnight. Appellate briefs were usually printed, an expensive, time-consuming process that was virtually monopolized in Philadelphia by Allen, Lane & Scott. And then there was the telephone. The telephone was relatively slow in gaining acceptance by lawyers. It is easy to understand why lawyers would be resistant to using a contraption that required the speaker to shout into a mouthpiece, thereby sharing the conversation with anyone within earshot.

As the Law Association of Philadelphia reached its 100th year, it showed signs of age. Nothing was in obvious disrepair but there was a trace of mild decay, a suspicion that the venerable institution might be ill suited to the gathering demands of the twentieth century. An estimated 1,500 lawyers practiced in Philadelphia, less than half of them were members of the Association. The Bar Association of the twentieth century would evolve from the interaction of the traditional practice of law with intensive academic thought, legislative process, law-making power, industrial change, technological advances and continuing social progress, all wrapped in two world wars and tempered by a Great Depression. The Bar Association that emerged from that unrelenting process would scarcely have been recognized by Jared Ingersoll or any of the other charter members of the Law Library Company.

Turbulent Times
1902-1952

In many respects, the turn-of-the-century Bar Association was its own worst enemy. The Association was largely the product of Philadelphia's privileged class. The Old Philadelphia character of the bar began to change as full-time law schools assumed the primary role in the preparation of new lawyers. Full-time law schools also enabled scholars to devote themselves to the principles underlying the law in an industrial society in which courts of the separate states act independent of each other. William Draper Lewis, the energetic dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, insisted that law professors devote full time to teaching and improving the law. He eliminated from the faculty the practicing lawyers and judges. In 1914, Lewis ran for governor of Pennsylvania. He lost, but his campaign proposals for a Child Labor Law and a Workmen's Compensation Law were enacted by the Legislature the following year. Lewis was also active in the Association of American Law Schools. He was secretary of the Committee on the Establishment of a Permanent Organization for the Improvement of the Law. That committee recommended an American Law Institute to provide guidance to lawyers and judges throughout the land. It was created in 1923. William Draper Lewis was its founding director, which resulted in ALI being located in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia and its lawyers were also affected by changes emanating from Washington. In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution empowered Congress "to lay and collect taxes on incomes," thereby creating a new species known as the tax lawyer. In 1914, Congress continued its efforts to regulate the economy with the adoption of the Federal Reserve Act. The Federal Highways Acts, beginning in 1916, gave a great boost to lawyers who specialized in personal injury actions. The establishment of a nationwide network of highways, however, eventually brought to an end Philadelphia's predominant manufacturing power. The highways freed manufacturers from their dependence on railroads and enabled businesses to relocate in other geographic areas. The decline was imperceptible at first. It would take nearly fifty years for the full effect to be felt. But eventually, manufacturing plants would be abandoned, lingering environmental hazards would be discovered, and Philadelphia neighborhoods would be left without their traditional source of economic support.

Closer at hand, the career of Philadelphia's greatest trial lawyer moved inexorably toward the end. On April 16, 1917, John Graver Johnson died. The United States Steel case was on appeal to the Supreme Court. Johnson's death was reported in newspapers across the country. The New York Times stated that he was "in the opinion of some well-qualified judges, the greatest lawyer in the English-speaking world." Johnson's magnificent art collection of about 1,300 paintings (he was a self-taught authority) was left to the City of Philadelphia. It is the premier collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. John G. Johnson's courtroom record remains for posterity. Johnson is credited by his biographer with handling an incredible 168 arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court (few lawyers today have handled as many as ten). Also, he handled about 2,000 cases in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 198 cases in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, 83 cases in the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and more than 200 cases in other courts, while maintaining a substantial corporate and securities law practice. Like most lawyers of his day, Johnson was a sole practitioner. His law practice was appropriated by his associates who then formed the firm of Prichard, Saul, Bayard & Evans. In 1923, that firm split into Evans, Bayard & Frick, and Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul.

Sole practice was giving way to the big law firms. John C. Bullitt recognized the need for continuing legal advice, but it was his partner, Samuel Dickson, who brought in Henry S. Drinker and continued the metamorphosis of Bullitt's practice to today's Drinker Biddle & Reath. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius has had the same firm name since Morris Rex Bockius became a "name" partner in 1908. Duane, Morris & Heckscher began as a firm in 1904. Lawyers named "Rawle" have practiced in Philadelphia since the early 1700s but Rawle & Henderson began in about 1917. Messrs. Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll were all in the same firm by 1920. George Wharton Pepper's two-lawyer partnership slowly became Pepper Hamilton. Roberts, Montgomery, and McKeehan continues today as Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads. And a background in genealogy is helpful to anyone trying to trace the ancestors of Dechert, Price & Rhoads. In the 1920s, these were the Old Philadelphia law firms. Typically, the "big firms" of the 1920s ranged in size from four to six partners. And typically, each of those firms had at least one outstanding courtroom lawyer.

George Wharton Pepper was one of the best-known Philadelphia lawyers. Pepper had a prodigious memory. He never spoke from notes. And he loved to quote at length from Gilbert & Sullivan. In 1922, Pepper was appointed to the U.S. Senate upon the death of Boies Penrose. Pepper then won a general election to fill Penrose's unexpired term. "Senator George Wharton Pepper," it had a prestigious ring. Pepper enjoyed being at the source of power and he also enjoyed the opportunities to display his broad range of interests and his knowledge of competent individuals, as he did in the matter involving Salt Creek.

Salt Creek, Wyoming, was the site of one of three federal petroleum reserves. Very few people recognize the name Salt Creek. It is more commonly known by reference to a local geological formation as "Teapot Dome." The federal oil reserves were valued in excess of $100,000,000 and questions were being raised about the reserves having been leased to private interests without public disclosure and without competitive bidding. The Senate needed an independent special counsel to conduct an investigation; but who would have the confidence of the nation? Senator George Wharton Pepper suggested a Philadelphia lawyer.

Owen Josephus Roberts was the son of a Germantown hardware merchant, and he had been a law student when Pepper taught at the University of Pennsylvania. Teapot Dome was the major political scandal of the 1920s. The attention of the nation was riveted on the investigation and the prosecution. Owen J. Roberts emerged as a national hero. In 1930, President Herbert Hoover nominated Roberts as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. His approval by Congress was a foregone conclusion.

Philadelphia lawyer William A. Schnader, a protégé of William Draper Lewis, in 1922 became a special deputy to the attorney general of Pennsylvania for the express purpose of drafting the legislation necessary to carry out the reorganization of the state government. Between 1923 and 1935, the Pennsylvania Legislature adopted a new Administrative Code, a Fiscal Code, a new Business Corporation Law, a new Non-Profit Law, a new Banking Code, a new Department of Banking Code, a Building and Loan Association Code and an Insurance Code. After returning to private practice in 1935, Schnader took the lead of the Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and, working with the American Law Institute, led the effort that resulted in the nationwide adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code.

Schnader was joined in private practice by Deputy Attorney General Bernard G. Segal. At their first meeting in Harrisburg, Segal made it a point to tell Schnader that he, Segal, was a Jew, explaining that "in eminent Philadelphia law firms there are no Jews, and . . . the firm with which you were connected is one of them." Segal's concern was not new. Mayer Sulzberger felt that way forty years earlier. Sulzberger was born in Baden, Germany, in 1843. His father was a teacher; his grandfather a rabbi. His parents came to Philadelphia in 1848. Mayer Sulzberger attended high school and later worked in the law office of Moses Aaron Dropsie. He was admitted to the bar in 1865. An intelligent and thorough lawyer, he was a rising star in the Philadelphia courts and was prominent in the American Jewish community. Unexpectedly, in 1894, Sulzberger cut short his career as a lawyer. He accepted a position as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas No. 2. George W. Norris was of the view that Sulzberger took the judicial office in the hope that the prestige of the position would reflect favorably on other Jewish lawyers and make easier the career paths of future generations. When he retired from the bench in 1916, there were still no Jews in the firms of Old Philadelphia lawyers. Sulzberger may well have wondered if his sacrifice had been worth the effort.

Sulzberger need not have wondered. Horace Stern knew and admired Sulzberger. Stern was one of eight children in a North Philadelphia family that struggled mightily to make ends meet. He won a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1899; and then won the one scholarship offered by the university's law school. After graduating summa cum laude, Stern stayed on at the law school as a lecturer. In the fall of 1903, he formed a law partnership with Morris Wolf. By the 1930s, their firm, then called Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen, was the Jewish law firm in Philadelphia. But Horace Stern had chosen a different path. In 1920, Stern accepted an appointment as judge of the Court of Common Pleas No. 2, which many Philadelphia lawyers referred to as the "Jewish Court." It had been Mayer Sulzberger's court. However, Stern was not content to stay in C.P. No. 2. In 1935, Horace Stern was elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; and in 1952 he became chief justice, taking the quest of Mayer Sulzberger to new heights.

Lawyers without social or economic ties to existing business often turned their attention to the growing field of personal injury practice. With the rapid growth of public utilities, the expansion of public transportation and the widespread use of motor vehicles, the number of negligence claims was skyrocketing. Entrepreneurial lawyers set out to capture this growing segment of business in a fashion that offended traditional lawyers. For example, they used representation agreements in which fees were stated as a percentage of the recovery and were contingent upon there being a recovery. In March 1928, the Law Association instituted an investigation of "the practice of the solicitation of contingent fee accident cases," a subject often referred to as "ambulance chasing." The investigating committee was prestigious. Henry S. Drinker Jr. was the chairman. Members included Franklin E. Barr, Frederic L. Ballard, John Arthur Brown, Francis A. Lewis III, Benjamin H. Ludlow, William Clarke Mason, Lemuel B. Schofield and Richardson Dilworth, who served as assistant to the chairman. The committee found that "a contingent fee agreement is necessary for the protection of the general run of injured persons." Taken as a whole, the report was straightforward and well reasoned. However, it has played an unfortunate role in the history of the Bar Association.

Social historians view the "ambulance chasing" investigation together with the subject of standards proposed for admission to the bar as part of a well-orchestrated effort to prevent immigrants from practicing law. Invariably, this view is supported by quotes, such as that attributed to Henry S. Drinker that purports to explain that the solicitation network was the result of lawyers "who, having come 'up out of the gutter . . . were merely following the methods their fathers had been using selling shoe-strings and other merchandise.'" The same historians also quote Robert McCracken as crediting preceptorship rules with reducing the number of immigrants who applied for admission to the bar in Pennsylvania. The "ambulance chasing" investigation also gave the appearance of being a vendetta carried out by the Association at the behest of the Old Philadelphia firms against less-affluent Philadelphia lawyers; the acrimonious relationship of these two groups within the Association would persist for more than fifty years. Legal Philadelphia was an adversarial place, and those who shared a common enemy tended to band together.

One such band was the "Caveat Club." It began with a small group of Irish Catholic lawyers who regularly challenged each others' statements. It was the proponent's obligation to prove the accuracy of the disputed matter. After losing a few challenges-and enduring the jibes that went with the losses-speakers were advised to "beware" or "caveat," lest the experience be repeated. Thus, the name "Caveat Club" came into being. From that humble beginning, the group expanded its membership beyond Irish Catholics. The Caveat Club brought a new weapon to bear upon the established leadership of the Bar Association: humor. It was a quality that Peter F. Hagan, James P. Crumlish, Joseph S. Lord III, John P. Boland, Nochem Winnet, Charles Klein and many other Philadelphia lawyers had in abundance. Eventually the energy of the club was focused on the Bar Association elections, and the Old Philadelphia hold on the office of Chancellor was broken. The Caveat Club's unofficial "chairman," Walter B. Gibbons, served as Chancellor in 1943 and 1944, the first non-establishment Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

While the lawyers of the Caveat Club struggled to achieve parity with Philadelphia's big-firm lawyers, African Americans struggled just to get a foot in the door. Blacks have been a part of Philadelphia since the time of William Penn. Their experience has been varied. It includes elite families who, in many respects, were a mirror image of "Old Philadelphia" society. They valued education, music and art. The Pyramid Club regularly presented art and cultural events featuring the work of black artists and performers. The Philadelphia Cotillion Society annually sponsored formal, invitation-only cotillions that rivaled the Assemblies of "Old Philadelphia." Like other Philadelphia groups, African Americans were adversely affected by an influx of lesser-educated "newcomers." But there were also major differences between the African-American experience and the experience of immigrant groups. Eighteenth and nineteenth century African Americans did not have economic or social clout. None of Philadelphia's blacks owned a dominant business or commanded widespread public allegiance so as to be able to marshal the resources of the black community, much less the community as a whole.

And then there was the specter of racism that has always been present in American society. Philadelphia as a whole did not support slavery, and Pennsylvania was among the first states to abolish slavery altogether. Nonetheless, the rules of everyday life were tipped decidedly against blacks, especially in employment, housing and the enforcement of penal laws. It was not an environment conducive to the development of black lawyers. Students of the subject differ as to when the first black Philadelphia lawyer appeared on the scene. Geraldine R. Segal, in her study of the black legal community, cites Henry Johnson and Isaac Parvis, who were identified as "lawyers" in the Census of 1850. Over the next fifty years, only thirteen black lawyers appear to have practiced in Philadelphia. Only a few of those lawyers could afford to devote full time to the practice of law in a system in which the outcome of disputes depended exclusively on determinations made by white judges and white juries. Even black businessmen tended to retain white lawyers.

In 1888, Aaron Mossell became the first black to graduate from the Law Department of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1921, Mossell's academic achievement was eclipsed by his daughter Sadie, who became the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1923, Sadie Tanner Mossell married Harvard law student Raymond Pace Alexander, a member of one of the "Old Philadelphia" black families. Not to be outdone by her husband, Sadie Alexander then obtained a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, the first black woman to do so, and joined her husband in private practice. Their office was located on South 19th Street; major Philadelphia office buildings did not lease space to blacks.

The years between 1910 and 1930 saw the first major surge of black migration into the city. Most of those migrants were sharecroppers and agricultural laborers who toiled in the fields, often for a subsistence living. In 1890, Philadelphia had a population of 39,371 blacks. By 1930, the number of blacks had increased to 219,599. They came to Philadelphia pursuing a dream of industrial employment. The dream was an illusion. They arrived unwelcome, unemployed and ill prepared for the hostile urban environment that awaited them.

That hostile environment was almost enough to make J. Austin Norris give up the practice of law. Norris, who was born in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, graduated from Yale Law School in 1917. After a two-year stint in the segregated U.S. Army, Norris settled in Philadelphia and began a criminal defense law practice. Norris quickly recognized the plight of black lawyers. More important, he formulated a response to that plight; he would develop political power. "Power respects power" was the way that one of his partners described the outlook of Austin Norris. In 1932, Norris became the political leader of the Seventh Ward, which ran from Spruce Street to South Street and from Seventh Street to the Schuylkill River. In 1937, he was appointed to Philadelphia's Board of Revision of Taxes. At about the same time, a handful of blacks, including Harvey N. Schmidt, Thomas Reed and Eugene Clarke, were working at the post office by day and attending Temple Law School at night, anticipating the opportunity to enter the practice of law.

The challenges that confronted women who wanted to practice law bore similarities to those facing African Americans. Women were excluded from the practice of law by a deep-seated cultural bias that was built into the established rules and that would be overcome only with great effort, beginning in the 1880s and extending into the latter part of the twentieth century. Caroline Burnham Kilgore had to fight for the opportunity just to sit in on the lectures at the law department of the University of Pennsylvania. She first applied in 1870 and was refused. She read the law in her husband's law office, sought admission through the Board of Examiners in 1874 and was refused on the ground that women were not eligible to practice in the courts of Pennsylvania. After unsuccessfully pressing the Legislature for a remedy, she reapplied to the university in 1881, and the request was granted. Upon completion of the two-year course, Kilgore applied to each of the Philadelphia Courts and was admitted only to the Orphans' Court and C.P. No. 4 on the order of Judge Thayer. Her applications were also viewed favorably by Common Pleas Judges William S. Pierce and Thomas K. Finletter, albeit in dissenting opinions. Full admission to the bar finally came in 1886, after the Legislature amended the prior law.

For a while, it appeared as though Carrie Kilgore's efforts on behalf of women had gone for naught. Few women entered law schools, and the ones that did obtain a legal education sought employment outside the law. But gradually, other women entered the profession. In many cases, those women were wives of practicing lawyers, and they appear to have had little interest in their own practice. Bar Association publications often referred to them as "Portias," a term that many women lawyers consider demeaning. It was difficult for women lawyers to survive in an environment where they were not accepted as equals by commercial clients, by other members of the bar and by the judiciary. As a result, women lawyers often looked to government employment and to the practice of domestic relations law.

Sadie Alexander took a part-time position as an assistant city solicitor. In 1932, Hazel Hemphill Brown gravitated naturally to the Domestic Relations Division of the District Attorney's Office. Not only did Brown have an academic and occupational background in social work, but she also was at home in the Municipal Court. In 1914, her father, Judge Charles L. Brown, helped establish the Municipal Court and became its president judge. Hazel Brown also maintained a private practice in the office of Caroline K. Kenworthy. Lois G. Forer graduated from Northwestern University Law School in 1938. She came to Philadelphia and found employment as a clerk for Judge John C. Biggs in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

The bar was changing. New laws, new administrative agencies and new rules of procedure were increasing the demand for lawyers. But the supply did not keep pace with the increasing demand. It was a matter of hard economic fact. The Great Depression put the legal profession out of reach for most of the population. Few jobs were available. Savings were depleted or lost entirely. The cost of college and law school education was prohibitive. Until the Depression passed, the supply of lawyers in Philadelphia would not increase significantly, regardless of what happened on the demand side of the equation.

The cure was worse than the Depression. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sounded the alarm in a dramatic address that has become a significant part of American history: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941-a date which will live in infamy-the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." The attack was devastating. Pearl Harbor, the principal naval base in the Pacific, lay smoldering, along with eighteen war ships sunk or badly damaged, more than 200 aircraft destroyed or damaged, and more than 3,500 Americans dead, missing or wounded. The country wanted to know why it had happened. To answer that question, Roosevelt turned to a Philadelphia lawyer, Owen J. Roberts, then an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

Compared with the extensive Teapot Dome investigation and prosecution, the work of the Roberts Commission was very brief. But the subject matter was of extreme importance, and the proceeding took place under circumstances of emergency wartime mobilization. The Commission found that the commanders of the Army and Navy were derelict in failing to consult and confer with each other to assure the defense of Pearl Harbor. It did not delve into the complex and sophisticated questions of changing military technology or the need for new diplomatic and military attitudes and procedures. That was left for a later day. Once again, Owen Roberts answered the call of his country. After hostilities ceased, two other Philadelphia lawyers were called upon by the President for exceptional service: Francis Biddle to serve as a judge on the Nuremberg War Crimes Court; and Earl G. Harrison to report on the treatment of Jews who had survived their internment in Nazi concentration camps.

A lingering image from the Second World War is that of six U.S. Marines in February 1945, reaching upward, straining to unfurl the Stars and Stripes into a stiff wind atop Mount Suribachi on the small volcanic island called Iwo Jima. Three decades later, Philadelphia lawyer James J. McEldrew Jr. would reluctantly recall Mount Suribachi, but his memory was not of a flag, but rather a large iron drainage pipe that ran down the slope to the Pacific Ocean. McEldrew thanked God for that iron pipe. A 19-year-old Marine rifleman, just two years removed from Philadelphia's West Catholic High School, McEldrew pressed his back hard against that drain pipe. It was his only protection from the blizzard of bullets and artillery shells bursting around him. Then, he leaned forward, grasped his broken leg, and slid inch-by-inch back down the slope. He thought he was going to die; he thought he would never reach the small, slow landing craft that could ferry him a mile or more out to the hospital ships. It was McEldrew's lucky day.

When McEldrew returned to Philadelphia, he learned of the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, popularly known as the "G.I. Bill of Rights." It provided veterans with stipends that could be used to pay for tuition, books and living expenses. It made college education available to veterans of every income level. Jim McEldrew was the first member of his family to attend college; and when he graduated from college, there was enough benefit remaining to pay for law school. But it was tough to get into a law school. Thousands of war veterans now had the economic wherewithal to meet the pent-up demand for new lawyers. Penn and Temple had no available space, and there were waiting lists for the next three years. McEldrew found an opening in the law school at Rutgers in New Jersey. After graduation, he returned to Philadelphia and became one of its best-known insurance defense lawyers. The bar was now accessible to people of moderate means. And the G.I. Bill would be reenacted, albeit at lesser levels of educational support, during the Korean and Vietnamese wars.

The judiciary, too, was changing. In 1947, Herbert E. Millen became the first African American on the bench with his appointment to the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Millen had sought that office on five separate occasions beginning in 1935. Four years later, Hannah E. Byrd was appointed to the office of magistrate, becoming the first African-American woman in the minor judiciary. In 1952, Hazel Brown was appointed the first woman judge of the Municipal Court; and from 1954 through 1959 she served as president judge, the position that her father held for thirty-three years. In a reorganization, that court was designated as the "county court," and in 1968 it became the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas.

Philadelphia was changing. In 1951, a Home Rule Charter was adopted, conferring on the city the authority of self-government including the power to impose taxes. The Charter Commission included Philadelphia lawyers William A. Schnader, Robert T. McCracken, Robert J. Callaghan, Abraham L. Freedman, Thomas B.K. Ringe and Herbert E. Millen. Redevelopment of Philadelphia's historic center was undertaken with the active support of Municipal Court Judge Nochem Winnet and lawyer Walter M. Phillips. The political climate shifted for the first time in a century, and Philadelphia lawyers Richardson Dilworth and Joseph S. Clark were at the crest of the change. Dilworth showed leadership by example when he moved his family from Chestnut Hill into Center City, next door to the Athanaeum, the former home of the Law Association. And in Washington, Philadelphia lawyer James P. McGranery was appointed U.S. attorney general, the last Philadelphia lawyer to hold that office in the twentieth century.

As the Philadelphia Bar Association approach-ed its 150th year, its membership was about 2,500 lawyers. Record numbers of law school graduates were entering the legal profession. And the Philadelphia Bar Association elected its first Jewish Chancellor, Bernard G. Segal.

Coming of Age
1952-2002

On the morning of March 12, 1952, a Red Mass at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul marked the start of the 150th anniversary of the Philadelphia Bar Association. The Saint Thomas More Society of Philadelphia sponsored the event, under the leadership of former Chancellor Walter B. Gibbons. That evening, a formal dinner was held at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. The toastmaster was Owen J. Roberts. The principal speaker was George Wharton Pepper. It was "The Last Hurrah" for the Old Philadelphia age of the Association; a new age was coming to birth. The call went out to all Philadelphia lawyers that they were needed in the Bar Association. When a group of nine local communist leaders was unable to find lawyers to defend them against charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government, a blue-ribbon team of Philadelphia lawyers acting under the auspices of the Bar Association provided the defense. The Association also renewed its efforts in support of an independent judiciary, working to support the "Sitting Judge Principle," which had been in effect since the turn of the century. That principle provided that after a person was appointed or elected to the bench, he or she was then a "sitting judge" whose seat on the court would not be challenged in subsequent elections. In 1953, the Association found it necessary to campaign for the re-election of six sitting judges.

Ten years later, Bernard G. Segal and Jerome J. Shestack took the lead in marshaling support from the legal community for the admission of black students to the University of Alabama. Ultimately, their efforts led to the establishment of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which, in turn, opened an office in Jackson, Mississippi, that was staffed by volunteer lawyers. Philadelphia lawyer William M. Marutani was one of the more interesting volunteers. Marutani is a Nisei, a first generation Japanese-American born in the United States. In 1942, along with 110,000 other Japanese-Americans, he was incarcerated behind barbed wire in the hysteria that followed the Pearl Harbor attack. Later, Marutani served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army's historic "Nisei Regiment." In 1983, as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas, he made the decision that required Philadelphia's previously all-male Central High School to admit female students.

A new breed of Philadelphia lawyer was entering the scene. In an earlier time, Judges John Innes Clark Hare and Craig Biddle thought women incapable of the toughness required of trial lawyers. It was now too late for Judges Hare and Biddle to preside over a trial handled by Mary Alice Duffy. However, twentieth century judges fell all over themselves trying to avoid confrontations with Mary Alice who, with her sister Sara, started Philadelphia's first all-woman law firm. Lisa Aversa Richette served as an assistant district attorney and wrote on the subject of juvenile justice before assuming a position on the Court of Common Pleas bench. Norma L. Shapiro served a clerkship with Judge Horace Stern and then practiced in a major Philadelphia law firm, achieving partnership before becoming a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In 1979, Dolores K. Sloviter was appointed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals; a dozen years later, she became the chief judge of that court. Present-day lawyers can scarcely imagine the difficulties faced by the women who practiced law in the 1950s and 1960s when there were virtually no women judges on the bench, no women partners in big law firms and no women executives of major businesses.

In Temple Law School's evening class in the Gimbel's Department Store building at Ninth and Market streets was another new breed of Philadelphia lawyer, Master Sergeant Cecil Bassett Moore. Born and raised in West Virginia, his father was a doctor, his grandfather a minister. Moore was a "Montford Point Marine," a survivor of the special boot camp set up for black Marines at Montford Point in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. It was a difficult and often denigrating experience. In Philadelphia terms, Montford Point Marines had an "addy-tood." After he was admitted to the bar in 1953, Moore developed an extensive criminal defense practice-and he still had his Montford Point attitude. That was the attitude the public saw when Moore was elected president of Philadelphia's branch of the NAACP in 1962 and when he was on the streets in 1965, leading protests outside Girard College.

Some Philadelphians point to Moore's aggressive protest tactics as the precipitating factor in bringing Girard College back into court. Stephen Girard's school for orphans fared well in the century after Horace Binney's successful defense of the bequest, but there was increasing focus on the testamentary words "poor white male orphans," particularly as the neighborhood surrounding the school became a poor black ghetto. In 1954, African-American lawyers William T. Coleman Jr. and Raymond Pace Alexander filed a petition seeking an order to admit two poor black orphans into Girard College. Similar petitions were filed for the Commonwealth by Attorney General Thomas D. McBride and his deputy Lois G. Forer, and by Abraham L. Freedman for the City of Philadelphia. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that the City Board of Trusts, as an agency of the state, could not lawfully discriminate on the basis of race. But on remand, the Orphans' Court appointed private trustees for Girard's estate, and the exclusionary policy remained unchanged. The Supreme Court refused certiorari. Matters then ground to a halt-until Cecil B. Moore hit the streets. In 1966, William T. Coleman Jr. and Old Philadelphia lawyer Charles J. Biddle petitioned the federal court to order Girard College to admit seven black orphans. The case was assigned to Judge Joseph S. Lord III. On July 5, 1967, Judge Lord granted the petition, and his ruling was affirmed the following year.

In the meanwhile, black Philadelphia lawyers were making significant strides. On two occasions, the Philadelphia Bar Association conducted investigations of alleged racial discrimination in the grading of bar examinations. The first investigation was in 1952 by a special committee, under the leadership of Judge William H. Hastie of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The second occurred in 1970 under the leadership of Peter J. Liacouras, then professor of law at Temple Law School. The investigations were inconclusive, but they focused public attention on the unexplained disparity of results in the bar examinations. In 1955, J. Austin Norris became the senior partner in the firm of Norris, Schmidt, Green, Harris, Higginbotham & Associates. From that firm came Circuit Court of Appeals Judge A. Leon Higginbotham Jr., District Court Judges Clifford Scott Green and Herbert Hutton, U.S. Magistrate Judge William F. Hall Jr., Commonwealth Court Judge Robert W. Williams Jr., Court of Common Pleas Judges Harvey N. Schmidt and Doris Harris, and chairman of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission William H. Brown III. In 1958, lawyer Robert N. C. Nix Sr. won a special election for Congress; his son would later become chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In 1959, Juanita Kidd Stout became the first black woman in America to be elected to the bench; she was later appointed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In 1960, Raymond Pace Alexander was elected a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. But it would be another thirty-three years until André L. Dennis was elected as the first African-American Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

In the late 1960s, applications to law schools increased. Starting salaries for lawyers increased. Barriers to practicing in suburban counties were lowered with the establishment of a statewide judiciary. And by the start of the 1970s, women accounted for nearly fifty percent of the area's law students. Business corporations increased their in-house law departments. Law firms increased the use of nonlawyer "paralegal" assistants. Duplicating machines almost overnight expanded the ability to communicate and, together with word processing equipment, brought about an end to the use of printed briefs. When personal computers became available in the last decade of the twentieth century, instantaneous global communication was in place, and the world became smaller.

In the meanwhile, the business regulation of the industrial era was relaxed and sometimes eliminated entirely. Businesses that once dominated Philadelphia-Pennsylvania Railroad, Wanamaker's Department Store and Baldwin Locomotive Company, among others-faded from the scene. Competition from the increasing number of lawyers for a decreasing quantity of business created difficult economic circumstances for many lawyers and their firms. Law firms created in the 1920s-era were now in their second or third generation of management, and the relationships between the big firms were no longer like a family. Mergers and the movement of significant lawyers and groups of lawyers from one firm to another became common. Law firm profitability was an overriding concern. Increasingly, law firms expanded into new geographic areas. Philadelphia's big firms are no longer Philadelphia firms. They are regional, national or even global entities. And there are discussions about the feasibility of multidisciplinary firms.

In a time of territorial expansion of law firms, the Bar Association sustained a significant loss. On July 1, 1967, the Law Library separated from the Philadelphia Bar Association and incorporated as the Theodore F. Jenkins Memorial Law Library, funded under the will of Madeleine Hart Jenkins. That left the Philadelphia Bar Association as the sole remaining entity under the charter originally granted to the Law Library Company in 1802. But the twentieth-century Philadelphia Bar Association was bigger and stronger than ever before. It had a full-time staff and a membership that would grow to more than 14,000 lawyers. The Bar Association had taken on a life of its own.

The Shingle became the official publication of the Association. It provided many Philadelphia lawyers with an outlet for their literary talent. The Shingle came too late for Philadelphia lawyer Owen Wister, who gave up the practice of law at the turn of the century to write the prototype cowboy novel, The Virginian. However, it provided an outlet for the creative talents of later lawyers. From the writings of Common Pleas (and later Pennsylvania Supreme Court) Judge Curtis Bok, Bankruptcy Judge Emil Goldhaber, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Jake Hart, it would appear that a well-honed sense of humor is essential to a career on the bench. Harold Bornemann, who began his career in the law as an office boy in Samuel Dickson's firm, was the institutional memory of the bar. Seymour (Spence) Toll supplied whatever details Bornemann may have forgotten. In 1992, under the guidance of the Association's first woman Chancellor, Deborah R. Willig, the name of the publication was changed to The Philadelphia Lawyer.

Philadelphia lawyers always prided themselves on working together with the judiciary to improve the administration of justice in Philadelphia. New committees, sections and divisions were established within the Bar Association to give effect to the spirit of Philadelphia's lawyers. The Young Lawyers Division, for example, provides a setting for lawyers under 37 years of age. In 1971, Judges Lois G. Forer and Hazel Brown were concerned about an increase in the number of child abuse cases that were coming before the court. They thought that the children were not adequately represented in those hearings and that young lawyers might be able to help. Forer mentioned her concern to young Philadelphia lawyer Marjorie (Meg) Greenfield. Brown discussed it with another young Philadelphia lawyer, James R. Redeker. In June 1971, at the urging of Greenfield and Redeker, the Young Lawyers Section formed a Committee on Child Abuse. The response was immediate. As volunteers and case referrals increased, it became apparent that there would be a continuing need for child advocates. In 1977, the Support Center for Child Advocates was incorporated to continue this important work on a permanent basis. At the present time, the Support Center has a full-time staff, more than 200 volunteers and is representing the interests of more than 500 children each year.

No one needed to tell Philadelphia lawyers that the backlog of civil jury cases had reached an alarming level, often taking between five and six years before cases could be tried. In June 1991, Philadelphia lawyers attracted headlines when forty of the most prominent lawyers volunteered to serve as judges pro tem in an effort to reduce the backlog of civil cases. Two years later, The Wall Street Journal praised those Philadelphia lawyers for the unprecedented degree "to which they've stepped forward to help." But Philadelphia's lawyers were just getting started.

Over the next two years, the Philadelphia Bar Association saw a five-fold increase in the number of volunteer judges pro tem. Starting with new cases filed in 1995, the court implemented a case management program that now brings most cases to trial within eighteen months of the first filing. A key element of the program is the judges pro tem who conduct settlement conferences after the close of discovery. The Dispute Resolution Center, in Room 691, City Hall, prominently displays a plaque containing the names of the judges pro tem and the settlement masters whose volunteer services helped make the program work.

As the Philadelphia Bar Association celebrates its 200th year, change is still in the air just as it was in 1802. The Association no longer has a law library or a finance committee or a committee of censors. But the Association continues to strive for a qualified and independent judiciary, and it continues to evolve to meet the challenges of twenty-first-century law, society and technology. With 13,000 Philadelphia lawyer-members acting through more than fifty committees, eight sections, one division and nearly fifty affiliated organizations, the present-day Philadelphia Bar Association gives new meaning to the traditional term "Philadelphia lawyer." Present-day Philadelphia lawyers no doubt would agree with Justice Bushrod Washington that "This is my bar." But after a 200-year journey through difficult times, present-day Philadelphia lawyers recognize that, above all, this is our bar.