There are plenty of definitions of professions out there, but most of them boil down to sharing these characteristics:
- Use of a skill and knowledge acquired as a result of prolonged training which enables a person to render specialized services.
- A sense of responsibility to the public (society) as result of the person’s possession of the specialized knowledge and skills.
- A sense of group identity and a system of internal (self) administration based on a body of ethics and standards of performance.
Historically, the first recognized professions were physicians, lawyers and religious ministers. Looking at the characteristics noted above, it is easy to see why this was the case. In the case of lawyers:
- The knowledge of the law and the skill in its application to a wide variety of circumstances to avoid or resolve problems is gained through training extending for 3 years beyond the undergraduate level, with an additional period of supervised “articling” (akin to apprenticeship) to an experienced lawyer and a lifelong commitment to continuing education and development.
- The sense of duty to serve those in need of legal advice and representation is deeply ingrained throughout the training and services of lawyers. This is why most lawyers provide some of their legal services on a pro bono (no fee) or “low bono” (reduced fee) basis. (For example, at Patriot Law Group we have a long history of providing basic legal services free of charge to World War 2 and Korean War veterans. (That is part of why we use “Patriot” in our law firm name.)
- The group identity is maintained through our system of regulation by a Law Society (in Alberta, the Law Society of Alberta) which includes strict standards of performance and a code of ethics (the Code of Conduct in Alberta).
As society has progressed and become more complex, additional professions have been recognized. For example, all of our lawyers at Patriot Law Group have had earlier careers as commissioned officers in the Canadian Armed Forces, part of the military profession.
Other well-recognized professions today include (to name just a few):
So, professions have a long history. At Patriot Law Group, we take our responsibility as professionals seriously. We regularly apply our professional experience and knowledge gained as military officers to our work as legal professionals. We think it makes us better professionals. It helped us define our approach to everything we do as lawyers: Do the right thing for the right reason.