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  Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106-43BC, a lawyer widely respected for his philosophical writing, understanding of Greek philosophy and the structure that his analyses gave to Roman law. He viewed justice as the highest human virtue, and his work is a cornucopia of percipient observations about law. He was murdered as an opponent of Octavian.

  Domitius Ulpianus, AD160-228, an outstandingly thoughtful jurist and prolific writer whose influence upon the theory and practice of law has been extensive. He forged the systematisation of rules, and the exposition of legal principles, in a way that has since shaped the law of more than 60 countries. When the Emperor Justinian published the unprecedented Digest of Roman Law in AD533, one third of it was extracts from Ulpianus' work.

  Sir Thomas More, 1477-1535, a barrister of Lincoln's Inn in the 16th century, and later Lord Chancellor. A very successful commercial lawyer, and legal writer. Perhaps best known for writing Utopia (Greek for nowhere) a marvellous book depicting a society that rules itself by reason, and in which there are no lawyers!

  Helena Kennedy, QC 1950 -, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, ennobled in 1997, was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn in 1972 and took silk in 1991. Her juridical prowess has been combined with a breathtaking range of book writing, and legal campaigning on behalf of women, children, crime victims and other groups. The benefits of her technical legal accomplishments ramify into many areas through work as varied as being chairwoman of the British Council, and chairwoman of the Human Genetics Commission.

  Louis Dembitz Brandeis, 1856-194, deeply concerned with issues of social justice, and the originator of what became a ubiquitous form of legal argument, the “Brandeis brief”. In a US Supreme Court case in 1907 about a state statute, Brandeis, who later became a Supreme Court judge, innovated a form of legislative interpretation by introducing social study reports to assist the court in construing the law.

  William Henry Thompson, 1885-1947, a solicitor from Preston, Lancashire, who qualified in 1908, was imprisoned as a conscientious objector, and became the country's leading expert on working people's compensation. A supporter of the suffragettes and co-founder of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty), he established a law firm in 1921 to act for workers. Today, Thompsons is the largest personal injury and employment rights firm in the UK with 50,000 cases being run at any time.

  Nelson Mandela, 1918 -, a Nobel Peace Prize-winner and former President of South Africa who has helped to shape modern history. He was the only black student in his law faculty. He set up his own practice in 1952 and acted for clients who were victims of apartheid. He insisted on using the “whites only” entrance to courts, and campaigned relentlessly for an end to apartheid. He successfully resisted an attempt by the Transvaal Law Society to have him struck off the rolls of attorneys.

  Lord Denning of Whitchurch, 1899-1999, a man of monumental influence on the development of English law, both in its substance and style. His time at Oxford as a mathematical scholar was followed by legal study, and then a highly successful career as a barrister. During his forty years as a judge he reformed many areas of English law including the law of contract, of unmarried partners, and of judicial review. Not, though, an unblemished record of greatness as his views on racial issues were somewhat contentious.

  Clarence Darrow, 1857-1938, celebrated American defence lawyer and formidable orator, committed to defending freedom of expression and opposing the death penalty. He defended war protesters charged with having violated sedition laws, and in 1925 defended John Scopes, a high school teacher who had broken state law by presenting the Darwinian theory of evolution. In 1926 he won an acquittal for a black family, that of Dr Ossian Sweet, who had resisted a savage racist mob trying to expel it from a white district in Detroit.

  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1869-1948, the world-famous advocate of non-violent social reform qualified as a barrister and joined Inner Temple, London. His practice flowered in South Africa and became more socially angled after he was asked to take off his turban in court. He refused. He was later imprisoned in South Africa and India for his activities. A superb exponent of the arts of negotiation and mediation.

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