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One who acts for another by virtue of an appointment by the latter. Attorneys are of various kinds.
All persons who are capable of acting for themselves, and even those who are disqualified from acting in their own capacity, if they have sufficient understanding, as infants of a proper age and femes coverts, may act as attorneys of others.
The form of his appointment is by letter of attorney.
The object of his appointment is the transaction of some business of the constituent by the attorney.
The attorney is bound to act with due diligence after having accepted the employment, and in the end, to render an account to his principal of the acts which be has performed for him.
Attorney at law. An officer in a court of justice, who is employed by a party in a cause to manage the same for him. Appearance by an attorney has been allowed in England, from the time of the earliest records of the courts of that country. They are mentioned in Glanville, Bracton, Fleta, and Britton; and a case turning upon the party's right to appear by attorney, is reported. In France such appearances were first allowed by letters patent of Philip le Bel, A. D. 1290. It results from the nature of their functions, and of their duties, as well to the court as to the client, that no one can, even by consent, be the attorney of both the litigating parties, in the same controversy.
In some courts, as in the Supreme Court of the United States, advocates are divided into counsellors at law and attorneys. The business of attorneys is to carry on the practical and formal parts of the suit. In general, the agreement of an attorney at law, within the scope of his employment, binds his client as to amend the record, to refer a cause, not to sue out a writ of error, to strike off a non pros, to waive a judgment by default, and this is but just and reasonable. But the act must be within the scope of their authority. They cannot, for example, without special authority, purchase lands for the client at sheriff's sale.
The name of attorney is given to those officers who practice in courts of common law; solicitors, in courts. of equity and proctors, in courts of admiralty, and in the English ecclesiastical courts.
The principal duties of an attorney are, 1. To be true to the court and to his client; 2. To manage the business of his client with care, skill and integrity; 3. To keep his client informed as to the state of his business; 4. To keep his secrets confided to him as such.
For a violation of his duties, an action will in general lie and, in some cases, he may be punished by an attachment. His rights are, to be justly compensated for his services.