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#1
Old 10-03-2000, 05:00 PM
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We've all heard myriad lawyer jokes. Most of us have heard Shakespeare quoted out of context about "first off kill all the lawyers" as a slam against attorneys (in reality the full context of the quote suggests attorneys are quite important to society).

So let's settle it here (if we can).

Evidence for Pondscum:

- They are a decidedly self-serving bunch. The very laws they craft that are important to the functioning of society also serve to separate them from that society. When buying my house I was reading some of the TONS of documents my attorney passed along for me to sign (Def. Attorney: a person who writes a 10,000 word document and calls it a brief.). I'm college educated and well read and I had a hard time muddling my way through these documents. I asked my attorney what they said and she explained them clearly and succinctly in regular english. I asked why these documents aren't written that way in the first place and she just stared at me with a weak smile. The answer is, of course, I'd have less cause to hire her if I could read the documents on my own.

- Lawyers are, afterall, business people. They're out to make money. As a result they may find cases that most wouldn't consider worthy of bringing to trial. Ok, so the good attorneys may be able to stand on the moral high ground by taking the justifiable, needful cases but they are still guilty because they do nothing to reign in their lower brethren. Anyone heard of Tort Reform? Anyone see anything approaching reform happen? Can anyone count how many attorneys are in Congress and how much money the Trial Lawyers Association gives to political groups?

- I'm tired of attorneys using the Constitution as a pillow so they can sleep comfortably at night. I think the US Constitution is one of the finest documents ever written and I understand the need for its guarantees but c'mon. How do some attorneys manage to work HARD to get lowlife scum off the hook and back out on the streets (make the assumption here that the attorney knows the client is guilty as hell)? While it can be argued that getting them off because the police screwed up is really a protection for me works to some extent but still...it goes too far sometimes.

- For people trained in the justice system it is odd that justice is the last thing any attorney is ever concerned about. Their only concern is for the welfare of their client. Truth and justice be damned. Certainly, attorney's aren't supposed to knowingly lie to the court but that doesn't mean they can't dance around the issue of actually lying enough to put anyone's tongues in knots. If an attorney finds evidence that would (justifiably) trash their clients case will they stop everything and say, "Hey man...you ARE guilty...just pay your dues like a good citizen."? Hell no, if at all possible they will bury or otherwise ignore that evidence. Justice my ass...


Evidence for Defenders of Freedom:

- Let's face it. You really can't have a decent society without a good rule of law and fair justice system to back it up. This isn't to say the US Justice system is 100% fair and good but it could be MUCH worse. Naturally, attorneys are a BIG part of that justice system. Indeed, they are responsible for the US Constitution. Also, look to US Supreme Court decisions. While you may disagree with that court here and there I think you'd be amazed at the overall level of scholarship the justices display as well as get a profound respect for their importance in shaping our country. All attorneys at one point or another.

- As many attorneys will point out you may think they are pond scum till you need one. At that point you'll give thanks for their presence to pull your bacon out of the fire.

- Sometimes big bad bully corporation/government does come along and stomp all over the little guy. Who's going to crusade for you? An attorney (and not always for compensation).



Man...this is getting long. The winner?

While the downside list is longer the upside list is stacked with powerful stuff (pillars of society and all that). I'll call it a draw for now (how's that for equivocation?). Seriously, I'm split in my own head on this. I know attorneys are necessary. I know some of them are really good (people, citizens, whatever) and some are true scumwads. I also know they refuse to seriously police themselves in any way that might impact their business so there you have it. I'm split (hence this reason for this post).

So, anyone wanna try their hand?
#2
Old 10-03-2000, 05:27 PM
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*shrug* Lawyers are human, they have good ones, bad ones and the majority of them are somewhere in the middle.

Try this sometime, take your favorite lawyer joke and change lawyer to some minority group and change the setting to be appropriate for the minority and see how funny it is. You get the idea.
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#3
Old 10-03-2000, 05:37 PM
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Well, Jeff I think you probably know where I stand on this issue but let's look at the facts shall we? First your argument for being pond scum was alot longer than the defenders of freedom argument so what does that tell ya?

Secondly as far as needing one you wouldn't need one if there weren't any now would we?
#4
Old 10-03-2000, 05:50 PM
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Freyr...

I hear what you're saying and I agree. Certainly we can and do regularly run into lowlife auto mechanics, computer technicians, doctors, etc..

However, none of those groups have quite the impact that attorneys do on my life. The financial cost to society is huge. My insurance rates are higher because of them. They cost me money when closing on my house. They may put me in jail for the rest of my life or they may save me from jail.

Certainly some of the cost to society is necessary. The cost to me when closing on my house is likewise necessary if I wish to avoid future hassles. And certainly sometimes people are extremely justified in suing and collecting money. If an insurance company pays out then so be it.

I believe we live in a litigious society and believe that is becoming a problem. So lucrative was being an attorney that when my friend was in law school in the early 90's there were more law students then there were actual attorneys already in existence (in the US). If we assumed they all graduated and passed the Bar exam (which I know is false...just for the sake of argument) then the number of attorneys more than doubled in the 1990's.

All these attorneys need work. In Chicago they advertise on TV. Stuff like, "Do you get headaches? Stiff muscles? Nausea? If so then you might work in an unclean environment that is a hazard to your health. Call XXXX for a free consultation. You may be entitled to compensation." (This example is made up but it is not far at all from the truth...I did see one similar to this that shocked me in its vagueness).

So this is the reason for my post. It's fun to poke fun at attorneys. They make an easy target. The question is how justified are people for taking pot shots at them. It'd be nice down the road if a lawyer claims that they've had enough of the lawyer jokes and I can justifiably say, "You deserve it." (Or, conversly, "You're right...these jokes really are unfair to you and your profession.")
#5
Old 10-03-2000, 06:41 PM
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1) It is not correct that we need lawyers only because we have them. We need lawyers because the resources of each individual are not infinite and because we have chosen the rule of law rather than the exercise of force as a means to decide issues of contention.

2) This need would be minimal if our society were extremely simple and the manners in which we could interact were extremely limited. That is not the case.

3) The need for lawyers would also be minimized if, as a society, we had a lesser appreciation for the rights of the individual. It is only our choices as a society that guarantee counsel for an accused man or the rights of any citizen to seek redress through the courts.

4) Please name for me the other professions in our society that place as much priority on the donation of work and/or work product to those who cannot pay as a matter of professional ethic. Then we can call those folks names as well.

5) Before adding up the "cost to society" for the practices of lawyers, please remember to parcel out the responsibility of judges and juries. I, for one, am happy that anybody, crackpot or not, has the right to make his case. I would much prefer it, though, if those who were empowered to judge the issue were more adept at recognizing the odor of BS from across the room.
#6
Old 10-03-2000, 07:51 PM
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Woulden't it be better if we just made the people who accused or defended could only represent themselves. It would probably stop frivilous lawsuits and would remove a big cost to society.
#7
Old 10-03-2000, 07:58 PM
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Lawyers are a byproduct of having Law.

I believe very firmly in Law. I'm not a big fan of anarchy, nor of despotism.

Our legal system might stand reworking. Revocation? Puh-leeze.

To call all lawyers scum is the height of ignorance and is undeserving of a response.
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#8
Old 10-03-2000, 08:18 PM
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I vote for pond scum.

Actually, for this post I vote for the pond scum designation. It just so happens that, come November, I will also be voting for pond scum since most of the candidates are lawyers.
#9
Old 10-03-2000, 08:22 PM
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This is not a flame. I think you have laid out some important conceptions (and mis-conceptions) fairly well, and you deserve a measured response.

Quote:
- They are a decidedly self-serving bunch. The very laws they craft that are important to the functioning of society also serve to separate them from that society.
Well, hereís the thing. I have about half a dozen attorneys whom I employ for various business and personal reasons. Not one of them has ever crafted a law. Legislators craft laws. Now of course, lawyers are over-represented in legislatures, but each and every one of them won an election in which almost all of the voters were non-lawyers. The current Senate has doctors, bug exterminators, and who knows who else? Heck, my state assemblyman was a muni-bond salesman. If electorates choose to find that lawyers are best suited to crafting laws, I donít really have a problem with that.

Quote:
I asked my attorney what they said and she explained them clearly and succinctly in regular english. I asked why these documents aren't written that way in the first place and she just stared at me with a weak smile. The answer is, of course, I'd have less cause to hire her if I could read the documents on my own.
Well, no. The answer is that your attorney explained what will happen in almost all cases. The complicated gobbledygook explains what the contract specifies in all foreseeable circumstances. It also defines exactly (as opposed to casually) the rights and obligations of each party to the contract. Trust me, if contracts say stupid stuff like "party of the first part," itís because some guy weaseled out of a contract that did not say that. To be fair, many common documents can be simplified. Your credit card agreement, for example is much more simple that it was 10 years ago, despite being a fairly complicated revolving loan arrangement. The legislation that both allowed and forced the credit card companies to simplify the language? It came from those lawyer-dominated legislatures. Your mutual fund prospectus is moving in that direction, too. Actually, Iím often amazed at the ability of contract lawyers to put complex concepts in fairly simple terms.

Quote:
- Lawyers are, afterall, business people. They're out to make money. As a result they may find cases that most wouldn't consider worthy of bringing to trial.
If a case "isnít worthy of bringing to trial, a contingency lawyer will make no money from it. An hourly lawyer will, but it is his clientís money. If the client is willing to put up good American bucks to pursue his case, and if a court accepts it, who are we to say otherwise? That said, I agree that some form of tort reform is appropriate at this time.

Quote:
- I'm tired of attorneys using the Constitution as a pillow so they can sleep comfortably at night. I think the US Constitution is one of the finest documents ever written and I understand the need for its guarantees but c'mon. How do some attorneys manage to work HARD to get lowlife scum off the hook and back out on the streets (make the assumption here that the attorney knows the client is guilty as hell)? While it can be argued that getting them off because the police screwed up is really a protection for me works to some extent but still...it goes too far sometimes.
Not to me. Iím a real adherent to the "better 10,000 guilty men go free" school of thought. The State has enormous power. It is the protection of laws and lawyers that prevents the only check on the Stateís power from being violence.

Quote:
- For people trained in the justice system it is odd that justice is the last thing any attorney is ever concerned about. Their only concern is for the welfare of their client. Truth and justice be damned.
This is just not fair at all, and reflects, I think, a misunderstanding of the adversarial process. A lawyer may not lie or suffer his client to lie in court. Ever. But the big picture here is that the system is designed to provide justice. Likewise, the economy is designed to produce competition. My lawyer is under substantially more obligation to assist the systemís goals than I am to aid my competitor in the name of competition, but yes, his role is to assist me in [/I]my[/I] search for justice. The other partyís lawyer has the same job.
#10
Old 10-03-2000, 08:37 PM
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<minor hijack>

The U.S. legal system is based on an "adversarial" approach to justice..It's my understanding (please correct any potential ignorance here..) that some other countries have other kinds of systems that don't automatically become adversarial.

Does this kind of system contribute to the kind of atmosphere that may surround some parts of our judicial system....is there a better systme than the adversarial system? I think I can guess an advantage of an adversarial system....probably tends to promote a more vigorous defense

How do non-adversarial systems work..do they try to build consensus...?
#11
Old 10-03-2000, 08:51 PM
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manhatten, great job analyzing the OP. I guess I'll take care of some of the other pond scummers, then.

Quote:
Originally posted by Wildest Bill
Well, Jeff I think you probably know where I stand on this issue but let's look at the facts shall we? First your argument for being pond scum was alot longer than the defenders of freedom argument so what does that tell ya?

Secondly as far as needing one you wouldn't need one if there weren't any now would we?

Bill, Bill, Bill. I believe that Jeff cleared up that first point in the OP, no? "While the downside list is longer the upside list is stacked with powerful stuff (pillars of society and all that)."

As for the second point, I think I'll address it at the same time as Asmodean, who said:

"Woulden't it be better if we just made the people who accused or defended could only represent themselves. It would probably stop frivilous lawsuits and would remove a big cost to society."

Neither of thos points are true. Bill, let's imagine for a second that ther weren't any lawyers. As a result, people would take it upon themselves to represent themselves in court. But, most people don't have enough knowledge of the legal system to know all the twists and turns that are there. But, you say, they would learn.
Well, considering that not everybody has the time to learn all that stuff, probably only a few would. Then, they would realize that they could help out the other people who didn't know the stuff out, for a price. And voila, you have lawyers again. To quote andros: "Lawyers a biproduct of law."

As for letting people represent themselves in court? As I just stated, there's just too much in law for everybody to know enough to represent themselves well in court. Therefore, lawyers are needed, as "guides" of a sort, helping people through all the mumbo-jumbo that is, in fact, necessary.

Also, in no way are all lawyers money-grubbing sharks who advertise on tv. Once again, we have a case of the minority also being the loudest. Since the crappy lawyers are out there in the media the most, people only see them, and therefore assume all lawyers are bad. Also, bad lawyer stories are generally the only ones that get told. When was the last time you heard a joke about a good lawyer?
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#12
Old 10-03-2000, 09:49 PM
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Jeff_42 said:
Quote:
I also know they refuse to seriously police themselves in any way that might impact their business so there you have it.
This is a comment that could only be made by a truly ignorant person. As a matter of fact, law is one of the few professions that does successfully police itself. The states don't regulate the practice of law - the Bars do. Ever heard of lawyers' rules of ethics? Guess what - we periodically get together and try to decide what rules we should work under to protect our clients and promote justice. These rules impede our ability to make money - they prohibit representation of certain clients, regulate our relationships with those clients, and require certain behavior with respect to the courts and our opponents. Please check your facts the next time you throw out a snide comment in support of your pre-conceived notions.

Also, in addition to what manhattan so brilliantly said, I noticed a fallacy in most of your argument: you assume that all lawyers are either criminal defense attorneys or smarmy personal injury lawyers. Just because these bad apples are featured in the media, you take for granted that they represent all lawyers, and disregard the vast majority who are simply business people at worst, and who at best conduct themselves with more honor, integrity, and compassion than most other workers in any field.
#13
Old 10-03-2000, 11:13 PM
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Aeryn, you wrote "Ever hear of lawyers rules of ethics?" I will ask you: Ever hear of a Bar severely disciplining an attorney? Back when I was intimate with the legal profession (Attorney girl friend) during the late 80's in California, the Calif Bar had NO disciplinary actions. That seems to indicate that everything any attorney was doing was okay with the rest of them.

If that is the case, take your well deserved dislike from society. Or sue us.
#14
Old 10-03-2000, 11:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by mipsman
Aeryn, you wrote "Ever hear of lawyers rules of ethics?" I will ask you: Ever hear of a Bar severely disciplining an attorney? Back when I was intimate with the legal profession (Attorney girl friend) during the late 80's in California, the Calif Bar had NO disciplinary actions. That seems to indicate that everything any attorney was doing was okay with the rest of them.

Mipsman, you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. Every year, my state (Illinois) disciplines attorneys. The disciplinary agency's report (which I read every year) lists disbarments, supensions, censures and cases where an attorney surrenders his license in the face of a charge. I personally have reported someone to my state's disciplinary agency. He no longer has a license to practice law. In fact, it is a disciplinary violation not to report a fellow attorney when you witness an ethical violation. Some years ago, an Illinois lawyer was suspended merely because he failed to comply with this rule.

I wish other professions regulated themselves like lawyers so. Instead, cops, doctors and others are known for their codes of silence. With rare exceptions, members of these professions who report or testify against their fellows are ostracized. Not attorneys.

As for your amazing California claim, I suspect you misunderstood what your girlfriend said. Do you have a cite?
#15
Old 10-04-2000, 12:53 AM
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Spiritus Mundi, manhattan, Jester, AerynSun, and Random have covered it all very well, so I don't have to. But let me emphasize one thing.

Spiritus Mundi said:

Quote:
Please name for me the other professions in our society that place as much priority on the donation of work and/or work product to those who cannot pay as a matter of professional ethic.
Absolutely right. For the lawyer-bashers here--do your professions have anyrequirement for pro bonowork?
#16
Old 10-04-2000, 01:27 AM
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address those misconceptions!

Why don't lawyers get together and try to change all these negative opinions that you get from watching "The Practice" or "Law and Order"?

I mean, wouldn't it do the legal profession good in the long run to have a better educated potential pool of clients?

And, for the Defense League here... Address the "Ambulance Chasers" that you see on TV advertising to help you sue for everything from legimate needs to "Sick Buildings". Why are they allowed on TV? (I've seen the disclaimers) And isn't their behavior in some way responsible for all the hatred of lawyers? If you have a portion of your group working to muddy up the court system because Joe Doe has a cold and thinks his building gave it to him so he's suing... I mean, it isn't doing the profession any good.

Oh, and Manny... let me ask you a quick question.
Quote:
Not to me. Iím a real adherent to the "better 10,000 guilty men go free" school of thought. The State has enormous power. It is the protection of laws and lawyers that prevents the only check on the Stateís power from being violence.
So if one of those 10k commits a crime against my family, can I bill you for it? I don't think you're really saying that you'd let 10k felons and the like back out cause they "might" be innocent, but I would like some clairfication.
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#17
Old 10-04-2000, 01:37 AM
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Normally, I try to refrain from the whole 'piling on' part of the posting experience. The previous posters have covered just about all the areas upon which I would have commented so I really don't have any new knowledge to impart.

But over the last few days, in several different threads, I've seen a surprising amount of venom unleashed towards the profession and I'm at somewhat of a loss to explain it. Granted, there are people who have been hurt by what they construe to be the actions of lawyers. But why are the lawyers the ones being blamed in the first place? If your ex took you to the cleaners when you were divorced, it wasn't the lawyers idea to divorce you in the first place. The lawyer was simply doing his or her job. To represent the client to the utmost of their ability. I realize that it's an emotionally charged situation and the there is probably anger to spare, but it doesn't make much sense to me.

We've all heard of cases where the suit was brought and won, even though there was, in our estimation, no foundation to it. My personal hobby-horse is the breast implant controversy. But that is hardly and indictment of all or even most lawyers. Hell, it can't even be stretched to cover many of what seems to be the most dispised group, the dreaded Personal Injury Lawyer.

Personally, if I ever find myself staring at the results of the gross negligence of a company or corporation, I'm going to want to get the same guys who managed to take out Dow Corning. I may not agree with the basis of their suits, but by damn, I want someone that good to work for me.
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#18
Old 10-04-2000, 02:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jeff_42

- For people trained in the justice system it is odd that justice is the last thing any attorney is ever concerned about. Their only concern is for the welfare of their client.
Damn right it is. When you hire a lawyer to represent you in court, are you going to want to hire someone who is going to want to find a reasonable compromise, or are you going to want to hire a vigorous advocate for your position, whether it is defending you in a personal injury suit, sueing the guy who injured you when his car rear ended you, defending you for the crime you've been charged with (whether you're guilty or not), or your attempt to collect on a bill that one of your customers/clients didn't pay?

The legal system here is an adversarial system. You don't hire a lawyer to acheive justice, you hire a lawyer to achieve your goal, which when litigation is involved, is to win your case in court.

You say you're college educated. You no doubt have specialized training in your field, whatever it may be, and if I should need something done in your field I could hire you to perform whatever tasks your specialized training makes you more qualified to perform those tasks than myself.

I'm a lawyer. I've spent years of my life and thousands of dollars getting my Juris Doctor degree and passing the bar exam so I can represent people like you in court, explain all those documents to you at your real estate closing, draft contracts so people and corporations can do business, and numerous other things necessary for living in a country with over over 400 years of common law legal history, going back to English common law.

Do I intend to charge you money for what I do? Durn right I do. And I'm going to charge you whatever the market will bear. Am I going to give you the best possible representation I can? Durn right I am. Am I a "hired gun"? Maybe I am. But you're the one who's hiring.

If you don't like lawyers, feel free to represent yourself. You can do that. At a trial, at a real estate closing, hey, draft your own contracts. I suppose if you had appendicitis you could perform surgery on yourself too, if you don't like doctors. Just don't be surprised when the other party uses a lawyer to clean your clock. And don't bitch after the fact about the damn lawyers because you were too stupid to hire a specialist to get the job done right.
#19
Old 10-04-2000, 03:49 AM
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I must admit that I am often impressed at the high quality of our judicial system (though I must also admit that overnight delivery also impresses the shit out of me, so maybe I'm easily impressed) in theory. I have a fairly concise legal dictionary on my bookshelf, and a couple legal research sites bookmarked on my computer, all for my own enjoyment. Note that I have less than zzero intention of ever practicing law.

In practice, I find the legal system still impressive, but obviously flawed. I still admire the vast majority of lawyers who work hard, keep rigid ethics rules, and have the remarkable ability to construct logical arguments in favor of either side of a propostion. Even if I had the ability and inclination to do the work of a lawyer, I cannot imagine that I could maintain my sanity doing so.

I suppose that is at the heart of many people's resentment of lawyers. They fail to believe that the benefits of the adversarial system outweigh the costs of having to vigorously defend even the guilty. Even as strongly as I believe in this system, the constant moral dilemmas would probably break me like a little twig. Contrary to most people's reaction, I see that as weakness on my part, rather moral bankruptcy on the lawyers'.

So, specifically excluding the handful of lawyers who truly are rotten individuals (and I will concede that the legal practice is probably attractive to such types), I give a hearty salute and thank you for keeping us a free and honest society.
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#20
Old 10-04-2000, 04:23 AM
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Quote:
... you assume that all lawyers are either criminal defense attorneys or smarmy personal injury lawyers. Just because these bad apples are featured in the media...
A court of law is a method of determining the truth. By definition the truth is not known before the case goes to trial. As was pointed out earlier, it is neither the defense attorney's nor the prosecutor's job to determine the defendant's guilt or innocence. They have a very specific role to play in the entire process: They are two people specifically charged with assuming the defendant's innocence or guilt, respectively, and arguing the facts from those perspectives.

Every defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Every defendant who is aquitted was done so because a jury found that given the evidence, they could not determine his guilt within a reasonable doubt. Not because some "bad apple" defense attorney worked "too hard" to get a "scumbag" back on the street. Likewise, every time someone is awarded a big personal injury it is because under the laws enacted by the representatives you voted for, a jury (not lawyers) found that the preponderance of evidence showed that the defendant caused actual harm to the plaintiff, and the judgement was necessary to correct the harm and possibly punish the defendant to prevent others from causing similar harm.

Every time a defendant is aquitted, the defense attorney has protected your rights, your freedoms, by ensuring that in each and every case, regardless of superficial impressions, the State must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt before it may punish you. People do get falsely accused. People sometimes are, despite the best efforts of the system, wrongly convicted. You might very well be next, in which case you will want the baddest apple of the bunch, someone who will vigorously defend you with every legal technique.

People do get injured, and the responsible party does often try to escape, evade or simply ignore their responsibility. If you are hit by a car, rendered unable to work, suffer constant pain, and the driver's insurance company just wants to give you a thousand bucks, you will damn straight go for the guy who will call them on the carpet, ask them the tough questions, present your case in the best light possible, and get you the compensation you deserve.

These people are not bad apples. They are not pond scum. They are the people, directly or indirectly, that will keep your ass out of jail, that will make sure that if someone injures you they will not be able to avoid responsibility. It's a damn tough job, physically, mentally, emotionally and sometimes morally. I have nothing but respect the people who choose to enter this bruising and challenging career. Especially the "bad apples."
#21
Old 10-04-2000, 05:49 AM
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see, Joe, we can also agree. Good post.
#22
Old 10-04-2000, 07:49 AM
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Regarding disbarred Lawyers

Here in Massachusetts, the BOSTON GLOBE just reported that over 90% of disbarred lawyers were back in practice within 10 years of their disbarment. The article examined the cause of most disbarments-they causes were things like misrepresenting clients, stealing from clients, and other serious crimes.
Doesn't seem to me that the Mass Bar assn. does much to curb its errant members!
#23
Old 10-04-2000, 08:03 AM
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Ten years of not practicing law seems to be a pretty serious method of curbing abuses of the system. I can't imagine any of the disbarred lawyers who reentered the legal practice ever getting comparable fees to what they otherwise would have. I mean, who's going to hire a lawyer who got disbarred a few years previous.
#24
Old 10-04-2000, 08:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by waterj2
I mean, who's going to hire a lawyer who got disbarred a few years previous.
Those who cannot afford anyone else, and those who cannot afford anyone at all. I found this site when debating in a death penalty thread.
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#25
Old 10-04-2000, 09:30 AM
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Certainly not all, or even a significant percentage of lawyers are pond scum. (Not sure I've met too many I would accurately describe as "Defenders of Freedom", either.) As I've posted elsewhere, I consider the majority of lawyers I know to simply be doing their jobs, hopefully ethically and competently. Nothing more or less than I would expect of my plumber, fireman, or garbageman.

A couple of observations, tho. I think it is an unfortunate societal trend to believe all transactions must be entered into with an eye to adversarial proceedings upon either party's dissatisfaction with the other's performance.

I think it is unfortunate that, in some situations, individuals pursue on litigation following "accidents," or instead of taking personal responsibility for their actions.

I think it is unfortunate that certain actions, say an uncontested divorce, or a simple residential home purchase, are viewed as essentially requiring the assistance of counsel.

Finally, while the rule of law and the availability of competent counsel are good things, I think there might be such a thing as "too much of a good thing." And the U.S. does have quite a large number of attorneys. My understanding is that other civilized countries consider themselves to be governed by laws, but manage to muddle through with significantly fewer lawyers. I think having a tremendous number of lawyers might tend to emphasize the "legal" aspects of situations and relationships, while at times sacrificing the "human/social" aspects.

Must wimp out, tho, and admit I have no prescription for improvement.

I'm not a fan of pro bono requirements (and Illinois does not have any such requirement). Nor am I a fan of self regulation. Will certainly discuss either of these to whatever extent anyone wishes, but don't want to hijcak this any further.

Hey, any of you who are in Chicago and want a good laugh should stop by the 7th Circuit this morning at 10:30 and see me take a bullet for my client!
#26
Old 10-04-2000, 09:33 AM
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Sturgeon's Law

90% of everything is crud.

lawyers don't really produce anything useful. they have to make money off people who do produce something useful. many of the people who produce something useful are smart enough to outthink the lawyers. the lawyers have to deliberately cause confusion to force us to need them.

Dal Timgar
#27
Old 10-04-2000, 09:58 AM
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Perhaps a mite, cynical dal.

But I agree that at least a significant portion of lawyering can be viewed as parasitic. In many instances the discrete added value certain lawyers' services contribute to a given product or service may not be clear. Often the lawyers' contribution must be viewed more as of value because it upholds the integrity of the system within which business and human interactions take place.

Another view might be to consider legal services unavoidable overhead. If taking this approach, you must examine what an entity can do to minimize this portion of his overhead.
#28
Old 10-04-2000, 10:21 AM
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To echo Dal, I see the leagal industry as essntially non-productive. In this sense, it is like advertising-it does not add value to a product or service. In the broader sense, the legal industry is harmful to innovation, because it removes incentives to improve or invent new products. Talke the development of new vaccines, for example. There is now only one US pharmaceutical firm that makes vaccines for humans (MERCK). All of the others have dropped the business, because of the immense liability risk (human vaccines cause bad reactions in about 2-3 PPM of the population. To my mind, that is a "reasonable" risk. To the lawyers though, it is unreasonable.Anyway, MERCK was on the verge of dropping their vaccine lines, only the US Govt. strongarmed them into keeping it. So I would say that the US legal Industry exerts a deleterious effect on innovation.
#29
Old 10-04-2000, 10:23 AM
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First, let me apologize to Joe and all defense attorneys. What I meant was that most of the public perceives lawyers as either dishonest personal injury lawyers who encourage frivolous suits or dishonest criminal defense attorneys who somehow use dirty tricks to allow guilty people to go free.

Actually, both personal injury attorneys and criminal defense attorneys serve laudable goals in our society, and I'm sure most of them are honest and ethical. The problem is that the public only hears about the dishonest ones, then assumes that all personal injury/criminal defense lawyers are crooked, and that all lawyers fall into one of these two categories, and therefore all lawyers are crooked.

Random, I think this is what you were talking about. But despite problems with the California system, generally there are plenty of disciplinary actions by State Bars (e.g., http://ncbar.com/disact.htm ).

Saint Zero, I think you will find that most, if not all, bar associations have programs committed to improving the relationship of the legal community with the public, in addition to the myriad volunteer programs that serve the public, thus giving us "good press" as a byproduct.

dal_timgar, according to your own assertion, 90% of your commentary is crud. This is borne out by your obvious ignorance, in that most people would agree that laws, enforceable contracts, wills, living wills, powers of attorney, etc. are useful things. If you think that the legal profession purposely obfuscates to perpetuate our own employment, you clearly have no grasp of the complex implications of even the simplest business transaction.
#30
Old 10-04-2000, 10:41 AM
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AerynSun, you suggested to dal timgar "If you think that the legal profession purposely obfuscates to perpetuate our own employment, you clearly have no grasp of the complex implications of even the simplest business transaction."

Is it possible many people resent lawyers to some extent because they represent something not entirely respectable about human nature?

Why are the simplest business transactions necessarily so complex? Is it because folks enter into obligations with an eye towards how they will get out of the obligation if it becomes inconvenient? Do people gravitate towards an adversarial solution because they are unwilling to compromise? Do some people wish to externalize costs created by their actions? Do some people wish to avoid pesonal responsibility for their actions or shortcomings?

So, do we dislike lawyers because they represent an aspect of human nature we are not all that comfortable with?

(Got my panel for my argument this morning. Manion, Evans, and Williams. Not nearly as bad as it could have been. Course I should probably be preparing instead of hanging around this board!)
#31
Old 10-04-2000, 10:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dinsdale
Is it possible many people resent lawyers to some extent because they represent something not entirely respectable about human nature?

Why are the simplest business transactions necessarily so complex. [/B]
I think lawyers are necessary because there can be valid disagreements in simple human interactions. I believe laws are so complex because they attempt to cover every concievable point and possible angle. Humans, being the wiley, creative creatures we are, keep coming up with new angles.
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#32
Old 10-04-2000, 10:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by 2nd Law
You don't hire a lawyer to acheive justice, you hire a lawyer to achieve your goal, which when litigation is involved, is to win your case in court.[/B]
To be honest, if me winning wasn't justice, I'm not sure I'd want to win.
#33
Old 10-04-2000, 11:29 AM
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Incurable Cynic

i will concede to being what most people regard as a cynic, tho i am inclined to regard it as objective. had an english teacher call me cynical more than 30 years ago in highschool.

i cannot recommend the book THE SCREWING OF THE AVERAGE MAN by David Hapgood highly enough. it has an entire chapter devoted to the legal profession. having worked for IBM and in other areas, most professions want their customers to have delusions of about how great and glorious the profession is. IBM never talked about benchmarks and von Neumann machines. the less the suckers know the better.

the cynical, Dal Timgar
#34
Old 10-04-2000, 02:18 PM
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Entertain this little scenario.

I have my argument this morning. My client has an position that can technically be advanced, but just because the arguments can be made, doesn't mean they should win (if you know what I mean.) The other party has a VERY strong case, and a very sympathetic position.

My opponent's lawyer presents an extremely weak argument, stressing two easily refutable misstatements, and downplaying the issue on which my position is technically arguable, but extremely unconvincing.

So I get to style my argument by responding to those 2 softballs. In fact, one of the judges asks me a question concerning the second of the 2, which allows me to prtesent my position more persuasively than I could have hoped for. Meanwhile, the court appears not terribly interested, possibly somewhat confused, and asks no questions about what I consider the glaring weakness in my case.

So, I did my job as an attorney. Won't know the outcome for days/weeks/months. But what would your opinion be if my client wins, simply because I am a better oral advocate, even though many if not most fully informed observers would think a decision for the other party would be the "right" outcome?
#35
Old 10-04-2000, 02:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ankh_Too
Granted, there are people who have been hurt by what they construe to be the actions of lawyers. But why are the lawyers the ones being blamed in the first place? If your ex took you to the cleaners when you were divorced, it wasn't the lawyers idea to divorce you in the first place. The lawyer was simply doing his or her job. To represent the client to the utmost of their ability. I realize that it's an emotionally charged situation and the there is probably anger to spare, but it doesn't make much sense to me.
I, for one, certainly understand why the lawyer gets a heaping helping of blame. The loser feels (whether justifiably or not) that some injustice has been perpetrated upon him, and that the one doing the perpetrating is a lawyer. "Just doing my job" isn't an excuse in someone's eyes if that job means "screwing me unfairly." Heck, a hit man does his job, but it's not going to endear him to the person on the receiving end. I'm not saying this perception is fair or deserved, mind you, just that it makes sense for someone to feel that way.
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#36
Old 10-04-2000, 03:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dinsdale
Entertain this little scenario.

...snip...

So, I did my job as an attorney. Won't know the outcome for days/weeks/months. But what would your opinion be if my client wins, simply because I am a better oral advocate, even though many if not most fully informed observers would think a decision for the other party would be the "right" outcome?
My opinion would be that you served your client's interests, that the rule of law was kept, yet justice was not done. This is an example of one of the imperfections inherent in the system. The quality of one's lawyer has more to do with the outcome than justice or fairness. I don't know of any way to correct this within an adversarial system though.
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#37
Old 10-04-2000, 05:42 PM
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To me, the most telling sentence in Dinsdale's post was:

Quote:
Meanwhile, the court appears not terribly interested, possibly somewhat confused, and asks no questions about what I consider the glaring weakness in my case.
I fail to see any way to place the blame for this at the feet of either the adverssarial system or the lawyers. No system of justice can funstion properly when those empowered to judge fail in their duties.
#38
Old 10-04-2000, 05:50 PM
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Re: address those misconceptions!

Quote:
Originally posted by Saint Zero

Oh, and Manny... let me ask you a quick question.
Quote:
Not to me. Iím a real adherent to the "better 10,000 guilty men go free" school of thought. The State has enormous power. It is the protection of laws and lawyers that prevents the only check on the Stateís power from being violence.
So if one of those 10k commits a crime against my family, can I bill you for it? I don't think you're really saying that you'd let 10k felons and the like back out cause they "might" be innocent, but I would like some clairfication.

Absolutely I'd rather suffer 10,000 guilty men free than 1 innocent man incarcerated. The power to deprive a person of freedom is enormous. The barriers before imposing such a sentence ought be equally enormous. To be fair, I'm all for some "innocent error" exceptions (putting the address on the wrong line in a warrent, &ct.). But I am completely in favor of attorneys using what many people refer to as "technicalities" to assist their clients. The "technicalities" are the rules the State must play by to impose its enormous power. If they can't play by the rules, than the electorate should get mad enough to insist on a government that can.
#39
Old 10-05-2000, 12:19 AM
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My my...

...Sorry for my absence today in this thread (unavoidable).

To Aeryn, 2nd Law and all the rest taking me to task as a lawyer hater with no understanding of the legal system.

FTR: My father is a lawyer and a damned good one (and that's not just my opinion as at some point in the 80's he was named as one of the ten best attorney's in Chicago by the Chicago Tribune [I think...whatever it was it was a real deal). He is easily one of the most upstanding, righteous, honest people I have ever known (and that's harder for me to say than you might think...whatever other problems I have with the man are my own but as reagards the law and being a 'citizen' he is golden).

Also, my dad instilled a deep respect for law (as a concept) as well as a fair amount of understanding of how it works in the US. I do not claim to be an expert in legal theory by a long shot but neither am I totally uninformed.

If you actually read the OP you'd see that I lay credit where credit is due. Lawyers certainly are a fundamental basis of our society. That said it is disingenuous to hold that lawyers are given a purely bum rap. The collective bad taste in society's mouth regarding attorneys did not evolve in a vacuum. I submit that part of this problem is that lawyers do not police themselves as well as they should. Certainly the Bar exists to smack those who step out of line but I don't believe it really gets the job done except to stop the most blatant of offenses.

manhattan suggested that letting 10,000 people off on a technicality is preferable to further restricting what rights we do possess as citizens to be free of wrongful prosecution. While I understand exactly what he is speaking of I still have a problem with some of it. What he derided as 'technicalities' sometimes are just that (technicalities). If a search warrant is served and the house is described as tan but the lawyer gets his murdering client off because the house is really beige THAT is a technicality (BTW...that example is made up to illustrate the point--I think got that one from some movie). Justice is clearly not served and I do not believe manhattan's fears are realized if that particular scumbag is put in jail anyway.

This might be changing the gist of the OP but here it is anyway.

It seems that there is a divide between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. As manhattan pointed out much of the loopiness in legal documents came about because some clever attorney wiggled through a loophole in the document that was bearing on his/her client.

As a serious question to the lawyers reading this thread: How often do you argue against another attorney trying to squirm through a minor hole in the law when it should be clear to all that the opposing client is trying to avoid what was obviously expected them (from society, the contract, whatever)? (Anyone have children do something wrong and then claim that no one actually said they couldn't do that? Kinda along those lines.)

As someone mentioned earlier I too make no claim to having the answers. I doubt even the lawyers reading this would claim our justice system is without fault but they are right to challenge anyone to think of a better one. It's hard...any system you are likely to dream up will have those that will take advantage of it. The current system, faulty as it may be, seems to strike the best balance between individual rights and society.

In the end, however, it seems to be a common perception that the last thing you get in the justice system is justice. Yes, yes...I'm sure there are thousands of cases where everything went as it should. Nevertheless, it goes wrong FAR too often. Look at Illinois recently, 12 innocent people put on death row. While 12 people may be a tiny fraction of all cases it speaks to hugely manhattan's '10,000 guilty go free' bit to avoid one wrongful prosecution. All too often we see that the best attorney wins (usually--but not always--equating to the most expensive attorney) instead of justice really being served.

Is that really a false perception?

If justice really works why should I have to hire an expensive attorney? If my cause is just shouldn't any attorney do?
#40
Old 10-05-2000, 01:49 AM
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Re: My my...

Quote:
Originally posted by Jeff_42
If justice really works why should I have to hire an expensive attorney? If my cause is just shouldn't any attorney do?
Shall we rephrase this question a bit ....
"If the judicial system really works why should I have to hire an exceptional attorney? If my cause is just shouldn't any attorney do?"

The judicial system is made of fallable humans. A legal decision is based on the application of the law to a set of facts. Reconstruction of historical events (i.e. the facts) is difficult to acheive, and the law is constantly in a state of flux. In an ideal world, any attorney would serve, but this isn't a perfect world, and if your defense is going to be determined by a specific determination as to what the historical events were, or to a reinterpretation of the existing law, you may need an exceptional attorney to win your case.
You may notice that I replaced "expensive" with "exceptional." While all exceptional lawyers are not expensive, most people who are exceptional in their field expect to be paid more than those who are average. As I once heard it put, "when you have cancer, you don't go to the free clinic." At least not if you can afford to go to a specialist (or if your insurance covers it).
#41
Old 10-05-2000, 02:42 AM
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This has been mildly interesting to read how you attorneys are saying you are not so bad. I flashed back to the Elephant Man when he was combing his hair. However, that scene had the pathos of somebody who had no control over his fate. You folks went WAY out of your way and spent a lot of time to become outcasts.

Random, I do know what I am talking about. The girl friend did not bring up the info about CA Bar inactivity. It was in the LA Times.
#42
Old 10-05-2000, 03:30 AM
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Lawyers did not go "WAY out of [their] way and spent a lot of time to become outcasts." They perform a vital and difficult service for society, one that is generally misunderstood by society, and have to live with getting pilloried for it. I have never seen any of the lawyers or legal students on this board ever do anything to become an outcast.

Certainly the legal practice is not free of bottom feeders, and may even attract them, but that is by no means a significant portion of them. For every baseless lawsuit brought to court, or obviously guilty person defended in court, not only is there a lawyer doing it, there is a person paying a lawyer to do so. Yet, the legal profession, which must try to represent both sides, bears the blunt of the criticism. Somehow, society expects that where there is demand for a service, supply will not naturally occur. This is patently absurd.

Is the legal system perfect? Certainly not. However, will blaming the entire legal profession help anything? To think so is as stupid as standing on the side of the road swearing at your car instead of looking under the hood to see what the problem might be. The question should not be whether all lawyers are pond scum, because if you've ever seen a post by Jodi or Bricker here, that is impossible to believe. Rather, specific problems ought to be debated, such as "does the California Bar not take appropriate action to prevent misconduct by lawyers?"

To claim that lawyers must be the cause of society's scorn for their profession is as stupid and unreasonable as claiming that blacks were the ones responsible for them being discriminated against. Yes, they have control over their fate (in both cases). That does not mean that they are responsible for society's irrational beliefs about them.
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#43
Old 10-05-2000, 04:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Biffer Spice
To be honest, if me winning wasn't justice, I'm not sure I'd want to win.
Biffer, if your goal is to lose, I'm sure you can manage that without the assistance of a lawyer.

Mipsman, the California Bar did have some problems back in the 1980's due to a huge backlog in its disciplinary system, which since has been reformed.

As for attorneys going out of our way to be "outcasts", the difference between attorneys and non-attorneys is a specialized education and passage of an examination. That should make us "outcasts"? With that kind of reasoning doctors, accountants, plumbers, electricians, and engineers should be "outcasts" as well.
#44
Old 10-05-2000, 09:23 AM
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I use the term "outcast" because people do not like you. How high above used car salesmen do attorney rank in the polls? If society in general does not take the time to understand the lovable, fun-loving, inner attorney within you it might be because they are turned off by the pools of slime that form whenever you stand in one place for a while.
#45
Old 10-05-2000, 09:31 AM
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So, not too many takers on my suggestion that what people resent is not lawyers per se, but the fact that the legal aspect of interaction seems to often take precedence over the human dimension.

Also, you might be able to have a system of laws, without quite as many lawyers as the U.S. "enjoys".
#46
Old 10-05-2000, 09:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by mipsman
I use the term "outcast" because people do not like you. How high above used car salesmen do attorney rank in the polls? If society in general does not take the time to understand the lovable, fun-loving, inner attorney within you it might be because they are turned off by the pools of slime that form whenever you stand in one place for a while.
This has got to be one of the dumbest things I've ever seen posted in Great Debates. Unfortunately, responding fully would require starting a whole Pit thread to express my opinion of this accurately, which I really don't have the inclination to do. So for now I'll just bite my tongue and hope one of the lawyers rightfully offended by your comments (and what do you do for a living anyways?) takes it to the Pit so I can voice my disgust in the language it deserves.

Or perhaps you'll succeed in driving the rest of the lawyers off of the board. Congratulations on getting rid of Jodi guys. But it looks like Billdo returned recently, so I don't think the slime factor will go down.

Dammit! my tongue hurts from being bitten so hard.
#47
Old 10-05-2000, 07:04 PM
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obsolete system

is it possible we need to modify the system because it no longer copes with current technology.

if MOST jurors don't know enough about science to deal with DNA evidence and computer simulations does that mean we need qualification tests for jurors or maintain a cadre of jurors. pay $1000 per year, if they qualify, to be called to jury duty. we end up with people on death row who are later PROVEN innocent by DNA!!!! there is incompetence somewhere.

Dal Timgar
#48
Old 10-05-2000, 09:12 PM
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When I read the lawyer threads in the BBQ Pit last night I vowed that I was going to stay out of this debate. However, after reading what's been said in several of these threads I find that I can't. I'm not going to address anyone's posts specifically, but I would like to share some of my thoughts.

DISCLAIMER: The word "you" is used in a general sense and is not directed at any poster in particular.

I am a third-year law student who will graduate next July, and quite frankly, it's not something that I'm anticipating. I'm not stupid -- I know how some people feel about lawyers, and there have been many days when I've actually broken down crying because of the horrible thoughts I've had about myself for entering this field. I regret that I've allowed someone else's negative opinions to affect my self image to this degree.

Contrary to what some people may believe, I did not go to law school so I could get rich by suing people. At this point I'll be happy as long as I can earn enough to pay off my student loans (I'm paying for school myself, just as I did in undergrad). Though I did want to try and help people who needed help, my real motivation for going back to school was that I was bored at my job and I felt I needed a challenge.

Unfortunately it seems that the real challenge is convincing some people that I'm not a money-grabbing, scum-sucking leech who's out to inflict pain on as many people as possible.

Anyone who knows me in real life will tell you that I am one of the most non-confrontational people you will ever meet; people who knew me from undergrad were shocked to find out that I went to law school at all. However, when some people find out that I'm in law school, it seems as though their opinion of me changes completely. Some of them smirk and say things like "oh, you're gonna go sue big companies and make millions, huh?" Others glare at me like I just told them that I eat kittens on a regular basis. Then there's the ever-popular, "oh, but I'm sure you'll be one of the few honest lawyers." It upsets me that people feel they can make snap judgments about my character just because I happen to be studying law.

Just for the record, most of my classmates probably will not end up with six-figure salaries or get new cars every year. It's true that I have friends who earned large sums of money for their summer internships in fields like taxation, but it's also true that I know people who were paid significantly less for government work.

Not everyone who goes to law school is there to get rich. Hell, not everyone in law school is there to be a lawyer. I happen to be one of those people. I don't plan to practice law because, as I already stated in another thread, I'm already having serious health problems because of the stress. Luckily there are many alternative careers for someone with a law degree, and they are becoming increasingly popular with students.

Even though the distinction has been made between various types of lawyers, I find this distinction to be just as insulting. I resent the implication that I (and a few others on the board) may be the exception in a profession of crooked people.

In my 25 years of life, I have met good people and bad people. I have met good doctors and bad doctors, good cops and bad cops, good teachers and bad teachers ... I could list every occupation here, but this thread would go on forever. My point is that I would never judge an entire profession, or a subsection of a profession, for that matter, based on my experiences with one member of that group. For example, when I was suffering from severe fatigue, a general practitioner told me that my symptoms were all in my head and that I was just a hypochondriac. Another doctor later diagnosed me with hypoglycemia and determined that to be the cause of the fatigue. Does that mean that most doctors are good, but all GPs are idiots? Absolutely not -- it just means that the one doctor that I saw was incompetent.

It sickens me that people think such a classification is acceptable for lawyers, and I resent being told that I'm just oversensitive or that I can't take a joke or that I'm slime by default so I deserve whatever I get.

I always get to know someone before I form any opinions about that person's character. All I'm asking is that you extend me the same courtesy.
#49
Old 10-06-2000, 12:14 AM
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Ladybug, there are a lot of people out there who think that they can do no wrong. Let's say one of those people is a business owner who disregards equal opportunity employment laws. Let's also say that he is not very bright, inarticulate, but nevertheless convinced that he knows the law and how to run his business better than anyone else, including his attorney.

Because of these personal flaws and the way they cause him to run his business, he gets sued for discriminatory practices. His attorney sees that the business owner has exposure, and that he would make the world's worst witness, because he is kind of dim, and won't take advice. The attorney therefore recommends settlement.

Now, at this point, someone with average sense would change his business practices. Not our guy. He insists that he knows best and gets sucessfully sued ten more times for similar violations. He finally quits the business in frustration.

Human nature being what it is, he of course doesn't blame himself for his failures. Instead, it's all the fault of the employees' attorneys, his own attorney, and the legal system as a whole.

Sound familiar?

Sure, there are bad attorneys out there. In my experience though, the people that scream about lawyers and the legal system are those that have done something wrong and been spanked for it. The loudest complainers are those that have an almost pathological inability to admit that they have done something wrong.

I have a few clients that fall into this category. They are both the best of clients and the worst of clients.

They are the worst, because they never take advice, are excessively combative, and are always getting into trouble as a result.

They are the best, because they never take advice, are excessively combative, and are always getting into trouble as a result.

I also have clients who quietly and competently run sucessful businesses year after year. After getting them started with the appropriate business form and necessary contracts, years may go by with no serious issues arising.

Guess which type of client I enjoy working with more, and which type generates more fees?

You are entering a profession where you can cause great harm, but you can also help people in trouble, or who want to accomplish something in life. Don't let people like Wild Bill make you give up before you start.
#50
Old 11-07-2000, 12:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dinsdale
Entertain this little scenario.

I have my argument this morning. My client has an position that can technically be advanced, but just because the arguments can be made, doesn't mean they should win (if you know what I mean.) The other party has a VERY strong case, and a very sympathetic position.

My opponent's lawyer presents an extremely weak argument, stressing two easily refutable misstatements, and downplaying the issue on which my position is technically arguable, but extremely unconvincing.

So I get to style my argument by responding to those 2 softballs. In fact, one of the judges asks me a question concerning the second of the 2, which allows me to prtesent my position more persuasively than I could have hoped for. Meanwhile, the court appears not terribly interested, possibly somewhat confused, and asks no questions about what I consider the glaring weakness in my case.

So, I did my job as an attorney. Won't know the outcome for days/weeks/months. But what would your opinion be if my client wins, simply because I am a better oral advocate, even though many if not most fully informed observers would think a decision for the other party would be the "right" outcome?
Update: I received a favorable, unpublished per curiam decision yesterday. And, what is in my opinion the most significant portion of the case is addressed superficially in a brief final paragraph of a 7 page decision, and the court's analysis (in my client's favor) is absolutely incorrect.

I'm so proud. Whoohoo!
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