The Law: End of a Custom

When Chief Justice Earl Warren ran the Supreme Court, he particularly enjoyed an old ritual: the formal welcoming of lawyers newly admitted to practice before the nation's highest tribunal. The lawyers loved Warren's warm remarks, which papered over the fact that admission is a relatively meaningless honor. All it takes is two sponsors, three years' good standing before the highest court of a state, and a $25 fee. Few lawyers actually practice before the Supreme Court, but those who are admitted proudly receive a suitable-for-framing certificate to adorn the office wall for all potential clients to see.

Warren Burger doubtless shared his...