I am sure that you must have heard a Lawyer being addressed as Esquire, or must have seen the word (Esq) before, but have you ever considered it’s meaning? The Word ‘Esquire’ is an unofficial title of respect which is usually in an abbreviated form, after a man or woman’s surname. For example, Tochukwu Anayo-Enechukwu Esq.
In this short article, we will be looking deeply into the origin and reasons why lawyers are called Esquire. I enjoin every Lawyer and Law student to read this carefully because it is going to be very educative.
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Origin of The Word “Esquire”
The word was derived from the old French word Esquier meaning shield bearer, and earlier derived from the Latin word ‘Scutum‘ meaning Shield.
It’s origin can be traced to the middle ages, where it was a title of respect accorded to men of higher social rank, particularly members of the landed gentry (Landowners) above the rank of gentleman and below the rank of a Knight. The Blacks Law dictionary made this clear as stated that the title ‘Esquire’ signifies the status of a man who was below a Knight, but above a gentleman.
From the long usage of this word “Esquire”, it extended from men of high social rank, to other mid-level dignitaries including sheriffs, sergeants, Justice of peace and barristers at Law and as such, from the 20th century downwards, it became of common usage in the Legal profession.
Why Lawyers Are Called Esquire
From the origin of the word, and it’s extension to dignitaries like Justice of Peace and Barristers at law, the word Esquire became commonly exclusive to Lawyers at that time. According to the Ethnics committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, it’s common usage at that time made it that if the title appears after a person’s name, such person may be presumed to be a Lawyer and as such Lawyers adopted the word Esquire.
More so, Esquire became adopted and retained as an indication of professional standing because at that time, Lawyers in the United States of America didn’t have a professional title. For example, Doctors were called Dr, Reverend, REV, but Lawyers lacked a title. The absence of any title for Lawyers and the fact that no professional body was using the title “Esquire” at that time, made it an easy choice for Lawyers.
In addition, the title “Esquire” is a sign of respect, Courtesy and appreciation and as such, it was regarded as a perfect fit for the legal profession.
These reasons and more were why the Word “Esquire” was adopted by Lawyers in USA, Britain and many other countries. Through colonization and reception of English Laws, Countries like Nigeria also adopted the word Esquire and that’s why Lawyers in Nigeria are called Esquire.
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