Alexander Hamilton Did Not Need BarBri to Pass the NY Bar – he wrote his own Outline!

June 15th, 2010

Right now many of my friends are enduring the grueling process of cramming for the bar exam. The Conviser Outline, perhaps more than any other item, embodies the pain and suffering that is bar preparation. But how did aspiring attorneys study for the bar before the advent of the Conviser?

Alexander Hamilton, who studied law at Kings College (now Columbia Univeristy) following his service in the Revolution War, sought entry to the New York Bar. While he was preparing for admission to the Bar, he found that there were no resources to adequately prepare him, so he took matters into his own hand. He wrote a treatise on New York law, that was later published as Practical Proceedings in the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

To synthesize the vast amount of material, [Hamilton] found there was no manual of proper legal procedure to expedite his studies. So Hamilton wrote one, the first handbook for the use of practicing lawyers ever written in America. He summarized proper procedures and the essence of the laws in 177-page manuscript of some 40,000 words . . . [Hamilton’s research was] so accurate and thorough . . . that modern scholars have found only eight minor errors in the work.”

I am reading this book for my article, Outfoxed: Pierson v. Post and the Natural Law–which I hope to submit this August–as  I research how law existed in early 19th century New York Courts.

Hamilton’s treatise is a fantastic glimpse into procedure in New York Courts as our young republic weaned away from British law and began to develop American common law.

Some great quotes from Hamilton:

Hamilton criticized the inconsistencies of New York court pleadings as “among the absuridites with which the law abounds”

He derided the law of trespass and ejectment as “a creature of Westminster Hall [that] subsists chiefly upon fiction.”

What a brilliant legal mind. Legal fictions? In the 1780s. Indeed.

Update: Fixed a few typos. H/T Steve R.