Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



As the twentieth century approached, bar leaders increasingly complained that the open bar, like the open range, had outlived its usefulness. In 1899 the Texas Bar Association began a vigorous lobbying effort for more restrictive regulation of attorneys. The state legislature responded four years later with a bill that required all future bar candidates to take a standardized written examination.The results of this new approach were immediate and gratifying to those who clamored for a more exclusive profession. While approximately four hundred candidates had applied for, and obtained, a license between August 1, 1896, and August 1, 1897, only ninety applicants took the new written tests during the first year they were administered, and sixteen of these failed."The bar regulations of 1903 signaled the end of a frontier-oriented professionalism in Texas, just as the simultaneous discovery of oil at Spindletop ended the state's long history of economic subservience to other regions. In an age of increasing affluence, urbanism, and professional bureaucratization, there was as little sympathy for the "prairie-dog lawyer" as there was for the buffalo.But the rural practitioners of the nineteenth century deserve better treatment from historians. Serious attention to their collective careers cannot fail to enhance our knowledge of regional folkways and of the role of law in reshaping the material environment of a restless and acquisitive people.