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Fifty Resolutions in Regard to Professional Deportment

David C. Hoffman (1836)

1. I will never permit professional zeal to carry me beyond the limits of sobriety and decorum,

but bear in mind, with Sir Edward Coke, that "if a river swell beyond its banks, it loseth its own


2. I will espouse no man's cause out of envy, hatred, or malice toward his antagonist.

3. To all judges, when in court, I will ever be respectful. They are the law's vicegerents; and

whatever may be their character and deportment the individual should be lost in the majesty of

the office.

4. Should judges, while on the bench, forget that, as an officer of their court, I have rights, and

treat me even with disrespect, I shall value myself too highly to deal with them in like manner. A

firm and temperate remonstrance is all that I will ever allow myself.

5. In all intercourse with my professional brethren, I will always be courteous. No man's passion

shall intimidate me from asserting fully my own or my client's rights, and no man's ignorance or

folly shall induce me to take any advantage of him. I shall deal with them all as honorable men,

ministering at our common altar. But an act of unequivocal meanness or dishonesty, though it

shall wholly sever any personal relation that may subsist between us, shall produce no change in

my deportment when brought in professional connection with them. My client's rights, and not

my own feelings, are then alone to be consulted.

6. To the various officers of the court I will be studiously respectful, and specially regardful of

their rights and privileges.

7. As a general rule, I will not allow myself to be engaged in a cause to the exclusion of, or even

in participation with, the counsel previously engaged, unless at his own special instance, in union

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29. Having received a retainer for contemplated services, which circumstances have prevented

me from rendering, I shall hold myself bound to refund the same, as having paid to me on a

consideration which has failed, and, as such, subject to restitution on every principle of law, and

of good morals, and this shall be repaid not merely at the instance of my client, but ex mero


30. After a cause is finally disposed of, and all relation of client and counsel seems to be forever

closed, I will not forget that it once existed, and will not be inattentive to his just request that all

of his papers may be careful arranged by me, and handed over to him. The execution of such

demands, though sometimes troublesome, and inopportunely or too urgently made, still remains

a part of my professional duty, for which I shall consider myself already compensated.

31. All opinions for clients, verbal or written, shall be my opinions, deliberately and sincerely

given, and never venal and flattering offerings to their wishes or their vanity. And though clients

sometimes have the folly to be better pleased with having their views confirmed by an erroneous

opinion than their wishes or hopes thwarted by a sound one, yet such assentation is dishonest and

unprofessional. Counsel, in giving opinions, whether they perceive this weakness in their clients

or not, should act as judges, responsible to God and man, as also especially to their employers, to

advise them soberly, discreetly, and honestly, to the best of their ability, though the certain

consequence be the loss of large prospective gains.

32. If my client consents to endeavors for a compromise of his claim or defense, and for that

purpose I am to commune with the opposing counsel or others, I will never permit myself to

enter upon a system of tactics, to ascertain who shall overreach the other by the most nicely

balanced artifices of disingenuousness, by mystery, silence, obscurity, suspicion, vigilance to the

letter, and all of the other machinery used by this class of tacticians to the vulgar surprise of

clients, and the admiration of a few ill-judging lawyers. On the contrary, my resolution in such a

case is to examine with great care, previously to the interview, the matter of compromise; to

form a judgment as to what I will offer or accept; and promptly, frankly, and firmly to

communicate my views to the adverse counsel. In so doing no lights shall be withheld that may

terminate the matter as speedily and as nearly in accordance with the rights of my client as

possible; although a more dilatory, exacting and wary policy might finally extract something

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