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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 20, no. 508: December 8, 1877

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Estate Record AND BUILDERS^ GUIDE. Yol. XX. NEW YOEK, SATUEDAT, DECEMBEE 8, 1877. No. 508. Published Weekly by W'^t %ml €'BMt %uoxti %%Bat:mimx, TERMS. ONE YEAR, in advance....$10.00. Oommunicafcions should be addressed fco C. W. SW^EET, Nos. 345 Ann 347 Broadway. PROFESSIONAL CHARGES AND PROFES¬ SIONAL HONOR. The tone of a community is said to depend upon the inteUigence of the masses, but with equal cei-tainty, we think, it may be averred that the inteUigence of the masses depends largely upon the dignity, abUity and purity of the learned professions. With all our boasted advantages of free education and the extensive diffusion of inf oi*mation among the people, ifc is certain that large numbers of our mercantUe and manufac¬ turing classes f aU to attain the benefits of a liberal and enlightened education, and, in point of fact, are lacking in du-ecfc sympathy -with it. The limitations and exactions of mercantUe, manu¬ facturing and mechanical calUngs seem to pre¬ clude the indulgence or gratification of any aspi¬ rations for a broad and comprehensive cul¬ ture outside of the technics of the particular sphere in which the individual's acti-vity may be exercised. The system of subdivision into spe¬ cialties, which seems to be so rapidly extending in aU callings, favoi's this exclusion of breadth and substance in education, and the inteUectual life of the mosfc active workers in the community is graduaUy di-if ting into narrower and narrower grooves. To the great professions, such as law, medicine, divinity, journalism, architecture and kindred degrees, is conceded the privUege of enjoying a really wide horizon of inteUectual view. The high discipUne and broad culture belonging to the learned professions so exclu¬ sively are active forces for good or evU; for the highest good if devoted to noble purposes, but terribly productive of evil if superior knowledge and enUghtenment are used to hamper the inter¬ ests and antagonize the welfare of the dependent and comparatively ignorant classes. It is a deplorable and unwelcome reflection that the learned professions faUed to escape the maUgn and demoraUzing influences of the recent period of inflation and extravagance, which worked such tremendous havoc in the lower spheres of finance and trade. There are not lacking in this community instances of financial madness on the parfc of clerics who have caUed their flocks to the assumption of staggering debts, which have, in the end, crushed and weU nigh annihUated many a prominent city congrega¬ tion. There are few heads of famiUes in the middle or upper walks of lif© but know the terror of the fashionablo physician and the mag¬ nitude of his annual biUs. Arohiteots, journaUsts and kindred professions have had their peculiar indulgences in fanciful and exorbitant charges. But, in the largest degree, we believe the ques¬ tionable distinction belongs to the legal prof es- sion of haviag part£ik9& of the fullest fruits of the prolonged ersirof 6Spaaded aud specuktiTO values and charges. The public has been made familiar of late with some of the vagaries of professional charges in the atfcempted collection, by suits at law, of bUls for single services repre¬ senting the fabrdous amounts of $60,000^- .$75,000 and $100,000. It has been facetiously said of one profession thafc its diplomas are, in too many cases, merely legal Ucenses to kiU. In the light of recent developments, it would seem war¬ rantable to conclude of another that its diplomas ai-e construed as legal licenses to rob. The interests of real estate dealers and ope¬ rators ai-e intimately and vitally concerned in the proper administration of the legal profes¬ sion. Scarcely a step can be taken, certainly no large or important contract can be entered into or consummated, without the assistance or advice of competent legal counsel. It is of signal im¬ portance to dealers to know that their interests when once confided to counsel wUl be inteUi- gently and faithfuUy dealt with, and of no less importance that the charges for such services wiU be fail-, reasonable and even moderate. It is provocative of serious apprehension and painfid comment that the divergence and deflection of the legal profession from its primitive and well recognized standards of practice have been prin¬ cipaUy in the direcfcion of a discreditable cupidity and a sordid and reckless overreaching after gain. There are no present indications of a lack of professional culture or a diminution of the intel¬ lectual status of the profession. On the contrary, efforts have been constantly made duilng the past few years to elevate the standard of requirements for admission to the bar. In cases that have come under our observation, the older and more respected members of the profession are the more readUy contented with moderate fees, whUe it is the juniors and sub¬ ordinates that have engaged persistently and heartUy in the race for extravagant fees. But stiU, so largely and generaUy has this propensity for extravagant charges been indtdged that the whole prof ession may be said to have been inoc¬ ulated with the virus of a fatal poison. Counsel too frequently come to regai'd their cUents as victims rather than as wards, and their estates as fit subjects for depletion—very much as the old style physician would regard the circulation of a fever-stricken patient. With counsel fees in general we have little to do, and care to have less to say, inasmuch as these are private individual concerns, interesting principaUy to the counsel and his cUent. In the interest of real estate dealers at large, we do feel caUed upon to criticize fuUy and frequently the subjects of professional charges in real estate transactions. These belong to our special pro¬ vince* and affect not two individuals alone, but the hundreds and thousands who are accustomed yearly to embark in real estate ventures. It is to the prominent and influential members of the profession that we would address our expostula¬ tion and complaint. That the profession at large has unconsciously descended from the high plane upon which it was accustomed to stand, and has tacitly discredited those nobl© Haaxims of pro¬ bers. AU this might be accounted for as a legiti¬ mate product of the times in which our lot is cast, and ultimate recovery might be expected and confidently ijredicted. But there is a res¬ pect in which this evU example may have a last- . ing effect and perpetuate itself through stUl an¬ other generation. In every oflfice in this city a generation of young men has been trained un¬ der the influence of erroneous and extravagant ideas, and under the still more pernicious influ¬ ence of the predominant spirit of gi-eed. The rule of conduct impressed upon their minds has been that compensation outranks honor and dis¬ tinction, and to whatever extent these false con¬ ceptions have been adopted, so far has the next generation of the legal profession been contami¬ nated and compromised. For the professional success and welfare of these rising young men— the counsellors of the future—it is desu-able that a new code of practice should be immediately in¬ stituted, or that the old sfcandard of honor before compensation shoiUd be restored. We know that the customory arguments advanced in favor of high charges, increase in the cost of Uving, de¬ mands of cUents for more sumptuous and luxuri¬ ous legal headquarters, and more exacting and devoted ser-yices in great speciUative transactions, have aU seemed to justify the expansion of fees ; but the excuse and the provocation have both subsided, and the profession will consiut its own dignity, honor and usefulness by readapting its scale of charges to the present altered circum¬ stances of the people. As a proof that the rule of high charges is not being perpetuated or per¬ sisted in, we cheerfuUy give our testimony thafc in many of the leading offices in this city the fees exacted for examination of real estate titles and preparation of papers connected with real estate have been made of late perfectly satisfac¬ tory to cUents who frequent those offices. In fact if we were caUed upon to give the information we should be compeUed to say that the most careful examinations, together with the most moderate charges are to be found in the office of a firm whose chief is also a high officer of the Federal Government. We are well aware that in saying as much as this we run the risk of incurring the displeasm-e of the estimable and modest gentle^ man who presides over the real estate departs ment of that office. It is eminently more than .creditable to a profession when gi-eat learning and reputation go hand in hand with great for^ bearance in the matter of charges. This is no more than the ancient rule and practice, and one that however seriously departed from must I again assert itself and become predominant in ' the most reputable and influential offices. The [ honor and good name of the profession are I deeply concerned in this matter of the prop- ' er adjustment of legal charges. We shall faU in our estimate of its amour propreit there is any lack of effort on the part of leading and con¬ servative counsel to regain the vantage ground already lost and to recaU more youthful and in¬ experienced members back to those ancient and revered practices and rules of action which have 80 largely moulded and governed the professional fesaionaJ.duty set up by Blackstone and Kent, ' careers of mea aow gray with age ancl covered -will be freely and sadly admitted by older mem-' "tnt^ honors.