Bucks Writs - Summer 2019 - 28

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THE GOLDEN AGE FOR BUCKS COUNTY LAWYERS,
CIRCA 1960S - 1970S. Upon my graduation from Temple
Law, I received the relatively new juris doctorate degree.
Lawyers before then received a Bachelor of Law degree.
Law schools changed their bachelor degrees to JD degrees
because the federal government paid lawyers with JD
degrees more than lawyers with Bachelor of Law degrees,
even though the degrees were identical.

While waiting for Bar examination results,
an applicant to the Bar was first required
to have a practicing member of the Bar
serve as a preceptor for a period of 90 days.
My preceptorship was with Congressman
Willard S. Curtin of the Morrisville Firm of
Curtin & Heefner and my salary was about
$75 a week, better than most preceptorships
which paid much less or nothing.

For the most part, law school graduates entering the legal
profession had little or no student loan debt. Summer jobs for
college and law students were readily available. For example,
as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, I was
able to earn about one half of my tuition and room and board
by working in the shipping department and later in the quality
control lab at the Falls Township plant of Stauffer Chemical
Company which manufactured phosphate products. My
father and a modest partial scholarship paid the rest of my
college costs. Many college students had well-paying union
wages at summer jobs at the Fairless Works of U.S. Steel and
therefore did not need to incur huge student loan debts.

Court Bar (the Commonwealth Court did not yet exist), and
I had to specifically apply for admission to the Bars of Bucks
County, Montgomery County, Lehigh County, and Philadelphia County. In December of 1969, I was admitted to the
U.S. Eastern District of Pennsylvania at a session in Philadelphia at the old Federal Courthouse. My later admissions
to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Commonwealth Court
of Pennsylvania were by mail. Multiple choice multi state bar
examination questions did not yet exist because multi state
bar admissions were not yet allowed.

While waiting for Bar examination results, an applicant to
the Bar was first required to have a practicing member of
the Bar serve as a preceptor for a period of 90 days. My
preceptorship was with Congressman Willard S. Curtin of
the Morrisville Firm of Curtin & Heefner and my salary was
about $75 a week, better than most preceptorships which
paid much less or nothing.

While I was practicing law in Newtown with Stuckert, Yates,
and Krewson, Ward Clark hired me as a part time assistant
district attorney. This was consistent with my career plan to
get trial experience and the part-time salary made it financially
feasible for me to set up my own law firm in Morrisville.

1968 graduating law students predated the baby boomer
generation. With an expanding industrial economy and a
residential and commercial building boom in Bucks County,
most law school graduates easily obtained employment
with private law firms, governmental legal departments,
and corporate legal departments, even before admission to
the Bar. Most law firms granted interviews, even if they had
no position available. This predated the multi state big law
firms of today. While interviewing for jobs in D.C., I called
Congressman Pete Biester who immediately treated me
to lunch in the Congressional Dining Room in the Capitol
Building. Biester advised me to stay in Bucks County (which
at that time favored the admission of lawyers who grew
up in Bucks County) and get trial experience. After his
years in Congress, Biester became the Attorney General of
Pennsylvania and then, as his father before him, became a
Bucks County Judge.

In 1968, legal advertising was prohibited. A minimum legal
fees committee of each county bar association met annually
to set value billing amounts for most legal transactions and
the preparation of legal documents. The generally accepted
minimum hourly rate was about $20 per hour. Most
lawyers did not keep time records and therefore charged
the minimum value billing fee amounts. Written fee letters
were rare and clients were happy to be told that they
would be charged a minimum fee for specific transactions.
As a result, legal fees were rarely contested or objected to
because of the ascertainable standards of the fee schedules.
It was an ethical violation for lawyers to charge less than
the minimum fee schedule amounts. Legal malpractice
cases were rare and legal malpractice premiums were a
relatively minor cost of practicing law.

Upon passing the Pennsylvania bar examination consisting of
two consecutive 8-hour days of all essay questions and after
my admission to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Bar, I also
had to be admitted in person to the Pennsylvania Superior

Any discussion about changes in the practice of law requires
an understanding of the economic conditions in Bucks
County in the late 1960s and early 1970s, during which
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https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/BucksWritsSpring2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Winter2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Fall2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Summer2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Spring2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Winter2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Fall2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Summer2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Spring2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Winter2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Fall2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Summer2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BucksWrits/Spring2017
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