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Since the title of Esquire is said to denote a minor member of the nobility, for a woman lawyer, the appropriate title therefore, would be Lady, or maybe Dame?

For myself, I have always preferred to be referred to as Lady Warren. Judges have declined to honor my request. Friends have been somewhat sensitive to the issue, however, and one, in fact, gave me a name plate inscribed "Ms. Esquire," which I still have, even though it has been 30 years since it was given to me.

Christine Warren, Esq.


I, like letter writers David Carter and K.P. Perryman, feel that my blood, sweat, and tears (three and one-half years of law school and two bar exams--Maryland, 1967, and Florida, 1989) have earned me the right to place "Esq." after my name, until I die or give it up or you (the Bar) take it away.

However, I feel the need to correct the historical notes of my colleague, Paul S. Cherry, as to the derivation of the term.

As information, the term "attorney" is a corruption of the Middle English Latin phrase "Ad Tournam," which meant one who had the right and privilege (and often the duty) to enter the tournaments or "Lists"--on horseback, with lance, shield, sword, and mace--in the 12th-16th centuries. In essence, he was the knight, usually a knight errant (one serving a sovereign or manorial lord on some mission or errand--whether war or special service). The knight was a member of the landed gentry, especially after the imposition of feudalism and socage tenure by the Normans after 1066. As a knight he was entitled to have the service of a lesser official (then known as a squire) to assist him. This assistance usually consisted primarily of cleaning, repairing, and polishing the knight's armor, and helping the knight put it on before tournament or war usage--especially in the later 13th and all of the 14th and 15th centuries, when plate armor weighing over 80 pounds replaced chain mail.

The squire was not necessarily a landed "gentleman," but often was the second or third son of an elder landed gentry knight, and had to perform such service to earn the right himself to enter full-fledged knighthood, since he could not inherit the elder knight's title directly. His only other options might have been to become a church official (deacon, priest, abbot, bishop, etc.), or merchant, or a knight mercenary, in service to some foreign sovereign. Often the squire was raised up from the ranks of the nonlanded gentry because of physical prowess and/or technical skills (blacksmithing or armorial ability).

At any rate, it was this privilege (of having a squire to serve him) that gave the knight the term "Esquired" (meaning one having a squire in service), which has been shortened to "Esq." As such, Sir William de Godfrey was formally addressed as "William de Godfrey, Esq." The term does not derive from "scutum" (or shield), and it reflects the original knighthood status not the squire in service.

We, as the modern form of "knights errant," go into the present day Tournament Lists (aka the courts) to fight our clients' battles, although most of those clients are not sovereign, nor even landed gentry themselves. And we use our wits and tongues, rather than sword or lance or mace. We bear the Old English term of "attorney" and the title "Esq." for that purpose (and right). It is the historical-military equivalent of "doctor" or "Dr.," which we do not use--even with JDs--unless and until we enter academia as adjunct or assistant or full professors.

To my distaff brethren (or "sisterhood"), I say welcome; and you may use "Esq.," and need not feminize it to "Esquette" as one of our past female colleagues tried. Just keep your swords sharp and your shields sound.

Richard Clinton Keene, Esq.

Atlantic Beach

Several recent informative letters in the News about the history and use of the "Esq." suffix to denote attorneys at law piqued my interest.

As a long-standing attorney in Ohio, perhaps nothing in the practice makes my blood boil more than an opposing attorney's misuse of "Esquire" as an expression of self-recognition and entitlement. This abomination is seen when they sign themselves in as esquires on formal correspondence, authorization of pleadings and even letterhead designations.

The word "Esquire," derived from the English practice, is purely and exclusively to be used in salutation format to formally greet and recognize another attorney. The practices of these self-declared, i.e., impostor, "Esquires" immediately signifies to me their ignorance of history and perhaps the law.

If the use of "Esquire" remains standard practice, most of those entitled to use it need to learn how to do so.

Frank A. Cellura

Grove City, OH
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Title Annotation:Letters
Author:Warren, Christine; Keene, Richard Clinton; Cellura, Frank A.
Publication:Florida Bar News
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:May 1, 2010
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