When the reformers of the mid-sixteenth century drafted prayers for all conditions of men, they did not overlook the lawyer. How could they? His temptations were obvious:
we most heartily pray Thee … so to rule through the governance of Thy Holy Spirit the hearts of the Lawyers, that they … may without partiality both faithfully give counsel and also indifferently pronounce of all such causes as be brought unto them and by no means suffer themselves to be corrupted with bribes and gifts which blind the eyes of the wise and subvert true judgment.
Of course, many people felt that lawyers were past praying for anyway. The popular agreement that they were interested in fees, not justice, implied something more damning, while moralists said openly that the profession was corrupt. Alexander Barclay, anglicising the Narrenschiff, wrote in 1509:
For howe beit that the lawes ought be fre,
Yet sergeaunt, at turney, promoter, Juge or scribe
Wyll nat fele thy mater without a preuy brybe
and Hugh Latimer had at least two centuries of moral indignation behind him when he savaged the profession in his sermons.
Loo, heare is the mother and the daughter and the daughter's daughter. Auarice is the mother, she brynges forthe brybe takynge, and brybe takynge, peruertyng of iudgement.
Ther lackes a fourth thing to make vp the messe, wyche … if I were iudg, shoulde be Hangum tuum, a Tyburne typpet to take wyth hym! And it were the iudge of the kinges bench, my Lorde Chyefe Iudge of Englande, yea, and it were my Lord Chaunceloure hym selfe, to Tiburne wyth hym!