Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Lawyer Edward Fontaine Nicolds moved to Texas in 1888 and needed to be admitted to practice there. At that time, there was no formal bar exam. Instead, each aspirant had to interview with the Texas Supreme Court.

"[T]hey asked him only four questions: Had he studied Blackstone? Did he read the Bible? Did he know his Shakespeare? And could he play poker?

"The first three questions were easy to understand. Blackstone's Commentaries was the basic reference book for lawyers everywhere.... The Bible and Shakespeare, of course, were essential to understanding human nature.... But the poker question made him nervous.

"Still he had to answer honestly. The lawyer reluctantly admitted that he was a more-than-occasional seven-card stud player. ... To his relief, however, they admitted him to practice on the spot.

"Once he was safely sworn in, the young lawyer got up the nerve to ask the court about the poker question. 'Your Honors...I know why you inquired about Blackstone, Shakespeare, and the Bible, but what on earth does poker have to do with the practice of law?'

"The chief justice looked down from the bench and sternly replied, 'Young man, how else do you expect to make a living during your first three years as a lawyer?'"

(S. Lubet, Lawyers' Poker: 52 Lessons Lawyers Can Learn from Card Players (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 3-4, 255.)

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