Tiberius Coruncanius, date of birth believed to be 281 BC, and died 241 BC, started off his career as a military commander but later became the first non-aristocrat (plebian) chief religious officer of the Romans, the post being called Pontifex Maximus.

As Pontifex Maximus, Coruncanius began something then totally novel.

In spite of the written Twelve Tables, he, according to Oxford law professor Patrick Cumin:

"... introduced the practice of giving legal advice.

"Others followed his example and hence arose the jurisprudentes or jurisperiti, who walked the Forum and acted as advocates. They accompanied their clients to the magistrate and stated their opinions as to the law.

"... no doubt, it was a development of the principles laid down in the Twelve Tables."

Roman togaMuirhead wrote of:

"... the practice adopted ... by Tiberius Coruncanius, the first plebian chief pontiff, of giving advice in law in public (and which) had a greater effect in popularising it.

"From this time onward there was a series of jurists (prudentes) gradually increasing in number and eminence....

"They occupied themselves in giving legal advice to clients, teaching, pleading (in Court), framing ... contracts, testaments and various other deeds of a legal character."

A profession was born; Coruncanius is thus credited as being the first recognized law teacher and the first lawyer.

In regards to the development of Roman law, he was much emulated and the first lawyers - jurisprudentes - found their work very lucrative. The lawyers would teach others, sometimes in groups; thus, the first law schools. Through the representations on the law of the jurisprudentes to the Roman courts, the-then static Roman law as struck in stone upon the great Twelve Tables began the unmistakable shift of gradual change and evolution.

REFERENCES:

  • Cumin, Patrick, A Manual of Civil Law (London: Stevens and Norton, 1854), page xi.
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Timetable of World Legal History
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Law's Hall of Fame
  • Muirhead, James, Historical Introduction to the Private Law of Rome (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1899).