While in Colombo we had a pretty little encounter with the law students. They had promised to go to Gandhiji's residence to present their purse to him. Later it seems they got jealous of the smaller institutions that Gandhiji was visiting, changed their mind, and gave a sort of notice to the Reception Committee that they should either bring Gandhiji to their college or sacrifice a 'substantial purse'! The threat however was lost on the Committee, and the students thought it discreet to keep their previous promise. So they came, but lodged their complaint against the Reception Committee for taking Gandhiji to private houses and to minor educational institutions and ignoring the Law College! But they had counted without their host. Gandhiji twitted them first with inaccuracy about facts, in that they had stated that Gandhiji had visited private houses, whereas he had called only on Mrs. DeSilva and that as a hawker, and with their inability to understand that Gandhiji should naturally give preference to those who were yet children and fathers of tomorrow over those who in all probability were fathers of today. The joke was enough to put them in proper humour, and they made amends by recognizing the difficulty of the Reception Committee, and proceeded to turn the little time they had with Gandhiji to good account. 'How to spiritualize the legal profession' was the point on which they sought advice which Gandhiji readily gave them:
"I am glad you have put this question. For I may say that if I cannot speak on this subject with authority, no one else can. For throughout my career at the bar, I never once, departed from the strictest truth and honesty. Well, then the first thing which you must always bear in mind, if you would spiritualize the practice of law, is not to make your profession subservient to the interests of your purse, as is unfortunately but too often the case at present, but to use your profession for the service of your country. There are instances of eminent lawyers in all countries who led a life of self-sacrifice, who devoted their brilliant legal talents entirely to the service of their country, although it spelt almost pauperism to them. In India you have the instance of the late Man Mohan Ghose. He took up the fight against the indigo planters and served his poor clients at the cost of his health, even at the risk of his life, without charging them a single pie for his labours. He was a most brilliant lawyer, yet he was a great philanthropist. That is an example that you should have before you. Or better still you can follow Ruskin's precept given in his book Unto This Last. 'Why should a lawyer charge fifteen pounds for his work' he asks, 'whilst a carpenter, for instance, hardly gets as many shillings for his work?' The fees charged by lawyers are unconscionable everywhere. I confess, I myself have charged what I would now call high fees. But even whilst I was engaged in my practice, let me tell you, I never let my profession stand in the way of my public service.
"And there is another thing which I would like to warn you against. In England, in South Africa, almost everywhere I have found that in the practice of their profession lawyers are consciously or unconsciously led into untruth for the sake of their clients. An eminent English lawyer has gone so far as to say that it may even be the duty of a lawyer to defend a client whom he knows to be guilty. There I disagree. The duty of a lawyer is always to place before the judges, and to help them to arrive at, the truth, never to prove the guilty as innocent. It is up to you to maintain the dignity of your profession. If you fail in your duty what shall become of the other professions? You, young men, claiming as you have just done to be the fathers of tomorrow, should be the salt of the nation. If the salt loses its savour wherewith shall it be salted?"