HD: Esquires and Attorneys
Posted: 30 August 2012 05:04 AM   [ Ignore ]
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A legal chuckle that highlights an interesting lexicographical point.

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Posted: 30 August 2012 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Interesting. I’ve bookmarked that blog, it’s just the kind of thing I like.

It used to be the custom when I was young for kids to style themselves esquire or esq. when writing name and address. OED doesn’t mention this usage specifically but does say:

Similarly, in England the title ‘esquire’ traditionally follows the designation ‘Junior’ or ‘The Younger’, but in Scotland precedes it.

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Posted: 30 August 2012 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’ve added this one to my bookmark list, too.

This particular case was a bit of a no-brainer, as the gentleman not only referred to himself as “esquire” and “esq.”, but also referred to himself as “attorney”, “attorney at law”, “counselor at law” and used the letterhead “law offices of ...”.  In case that wasn’t enough (and I think it surely was) to count as holding himself out as an attorney, he signed a declaration stating he was licensed to practice law in the state of California - a statement that was not true if he was suspended and never applied for readmission.  (I suppose he could argue that his statement was literally true because he “was” licensed to practice law (even if he wasn’t licensed to do so at the moment that he signed the declaration) but that would be a ludicrous argument that nearly rivals the “esquire magazine subscriber” argument).  [EDIT: according to the opinion, he actually stated “I am an attorney licensed to practice law..."].  BTW, “declaration” is a clipping of a longer phrase, “declaration under penalty of perjury”, and perjuring oneself through a declaration would be grounds for sanctions in and of itself.

A closer question would be presented, I think, if he repeatedly called himself “esquire” and “esq.” in correspondence and other documents, but never used the phrases “attorney”, “at law”, or “law offices of” (and never stated that he was licensed to practice law, of course).  I tend to think that such usages, in the US, at least, would get a suspended attorney in hot water, but it would not be the slam dunk that this one was.

The closest equivalent I can think to somebody using a “title” based on something as silly as a magazine subscription is Rimmer of Red Dwarf fame, who supposedly referred to himself as Arnold J. Rimmer, B.S.C., without telling anyone that BSC stood for “bronze swimming certificate”.  This example, drawn from the world of absurdist comedy, is perhaps less ridiculous than the “esquire” argument mentioned here.

[ Edited: 30 August 2012 02:15 PM by Svinyard118 ]
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Posted: 30 August 2012 07:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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“The world is a big place and anything you can think of, someone has probably has already done.”

I believe that in parts of the world it is not uncommon in CVs to see, “ XY Bloggs BA (failed),” or a variation of this theme.  I suppose this might be considered as a form of ‘truth in advertising!’ ;-)

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Posted: 31 August 2012 12:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I seem to remember South African lawyers labelling themselves Esq. in the 60s.  My lawyer, a partner in a legal firm, simply signs himself “Andy”, probably more an indication of how much money he’s made from me than anything.

Nice blog, though.  I’m also bookmarking it.

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Posted: 31 August 2012 03:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I believe that in parts of the world it is not uncommon in CVs to see, “ XY Bloggs BA (failed),” or a variation of this theme.  I suppose this might be considered as a form of ‘truth in advertising!’ ;-)

IIRC, practitioners of law in British India would sometimes use such a title, when appropriate. I suppose it was meant to indicate that at least, they’d studied the law, and had a go at the exam.
One of the immortal authors of 1066 and All That (I don’t remember if it was Sellars or Yeatman) styled himself “failed M.A.” on the book’s title page.

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Posted: 31 August 2012 03:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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lionello - 31 August 2012 03:29 AM

One of the immortal authors of 1066 and All That (I don’t remember if it was Sellars or Yeatman) styled himself “failed M.A.” on the book’s title page.

The story behind that is that Sellar (or Yeatman) read at Oxford, where the only requirement for obtaining an MA was that the person in question was enrolled for 9 terms (3 years) after their bachelor’s degree, and paid a small sum of money (£25 if I remember right) to the University. Sellar (or Yeatman) had no financial reserves and could not afford the fee. Thereof MA (failed).

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Posted: 31 August 2012 05:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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1066 and All That is:

By Walter Carruthers Sellar
Aegrot: Oxon:
and Robert Julian Yeatman
Failed M.A., etc., Oxon
Illustrated by
John Reynolds, Gent:

The “Aegrot.” indicates that he was prevented from taking the final examinations due to illness.

The “Gent.” may be pertinent here, too.

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Posted: 01 September 2012 10:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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My father would always address letters to his Freemason mates as Basil Throgmorton, Esq. I’m pretty sure he didn’t with other people, certainly not me. I don’t bother with any title (Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss). My grandfather would address letters to the callow me as Master VB which I always thought sounded ludicrous. He probably used Esq for all males, perhaps a Victorian custom.

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Posted: 02 September 2012 05:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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My father would always address letters to his Freemason mates as Basil Throgmorton, Esq. I’m pretty sure he didn’t with other people, certainly not me. I don’t bother with any title (Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss). My grandfather would address letters to the callow me as Master VB which I always thought sounded ludicrous. He probably used Esq for all males, perhaps a Victorian custom.

I checked with my other half, who is the curator of a museum of Freemasonry (though not one himself), and he says that judging by the archival material in the collection there isn’t and doesn’t ever seem to have been any special convention of using Esq. when writing to all brother Masons. If your father didn’t use it when writing to anyone else, perhaps he considered his lodge brothers to be the only gentlemen he knew? Or at least the only men who might feel disrespected if not so addressed?

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Posted: 02 September 2012 06:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Around 30 years ago there was some correspondence in The Times * about whether gentlewomen should not also be entitled to use ‘Esq.’ after their names (as I believe female lawyers in the USA do, or at least some of them).  One respondent pointed out that the word ‘esquire’ was inapplicable to ladies as an armigerous lady does not display her arms on a shield, but a lozenge. If women in the last quarter of the 20th century really felt it appropriate to signal their class status in this way, he suggested that the appropriate word to coin was lozengiste, and that the form for addressing envelopes should thus be ‘Jane Smith, Loz.’. (Lozengier, the precise equivalent formation to esquire, was not available for use, as in medieval French it meant ‘someone who spies on lovers and informs on them to the lady’s husband’ - not a happy association.)

* The London one, of course.

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Posted: 03 September 2012 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Thank you for that last posting of yours, syntinen laulu - I loved it. You have a delightful way of calling up, at one and the same time, both the splendid and the ridiculously comical aspects of British history --- in the tradition of Sellar and Yeatman, Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon (does anybody still read them, I wonder?), and A.A. Milne’s “The Knight whose Armour didn’t Squeak” (most of which I can still recite by heart, so many, many years after receiving “Now We Are Six” as a present on the appropriate birthday).

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Posted: 08 September 2012 08:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I am, in my day job, a paralegal working in a law office in the U.S.  I routinely both read and write legal pleadings and correspondence.  The use of “Esquire” (or the abbreviation “Esq.") is utterly commonplace, and universally understood to mean the person is an attorney-at-law.  I also subscribe to the usage that it should not be applied to oneself.  This is neither here nor there for correspondence over my own signature, as I am not an attorney, but I also apply it to documents I draft for my employer’s signature.  The convention is by no means universally recognized.  I also routinely make explicit that I am not an attorney by adding, below my name, “Paralegal for [boss’s name].” I still occasionally get incoming correspondence with “Esq.” tacked onto my name, but what can one do?

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Posted: 08 September 2012 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Clearly this is a local issue. The use of “ESQ.” as a title for lawyers appears to be peculiar to the U.S.A. Thanks anyway - from now on I’ll remember not to address letters to American friends “ESQ” (I have no lawyer friends in the U.S. --- nor anywhere else, either.....)

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