Thursday, May 07, 2009

Hate Lawyers?

Just stumbled on an article by Andrew Fischer on It's one of those "hate lawyers" stories. Normally I like what I see on that site, and I'd probably agree with a lot of Fischer's other articles, but I have to rip this one apart. Quotes from the article are in italics.

I had three college chums who ... decided to become lawyers simply because it was a way to "make a good living." This says a lot: they had no interest in law whatsoever, no craving for "justice" in either a practical or abstract sense – just a desire to make money. ... Like it or not – and I didn't – my friends were motivated solely by a desire to obtain massive amounts of legal tender. Thirty-odd years later, there's no doubt that they've achieved their goal.

This will be a continuing theme in my critique, but Mr. Fischer seems to be out of touch with the world. First, plenty of college students consider income potential when choosing a career path. Not to mention that there's a lot of 22-year-olds who don't know what they wanna be when they grow up yet. And there are lots of other ways to make a good living. Does Fischer hate actuaries, plastic surgeons and chiropractors?

Second, I've met many law students and lawyers who are not focused on money. This is a good thing, because ...

Third: Getting a law degree is no guarantee of riches. Lots of lawyers struggle. I remember doing a trial years ago. A prospective juror made a nasty comment about lawyers. The lawyer on the other side and I were talking afterward and he said: "If only we made as much money as they think we make." Some lawyers do well, and some don't.

Well, Mr. Fischer actually went to law school himself:

I quickly discovered that my fellow law students were far more interested in becoming lawyers than I was. ... As had been the case with my buddies, their motivation was a craving for "career" rather than justice. I recall being shocked when I ... found that the most important things on Earth to some of my fellow "justice-seekers" [on a questionnaire] were happiness and friendship, as opposed to what I'd selected from the list: truth and wisdom. (Justice was a close third.)

Um ... Mr. Fischer ... You went to law school but you weren't interested in becoming a lawyer?

And ... oh my ... some of the students felt that happiness and friendship were very important? Those bastards! I also love the irony that these other students are rotten because they didn't put justice first ... and Fischer put that third himself. Nice to wear your hypocrisy on your sleeve.

I politely declined to participate when called upon in contracts class. ... I immediately found myself in a petty power struggle with my arrogant and condescending professor, and facing swift expulsion from his little kingdom. Apparently "academic freedom" applied to the faculty but not the students, since my professor was permitted to expel me from his course for any violation of his rules, no matter how absurd.

I'm just picturing how it must go in med school when a student refuses to follow a professor's direction. I've actually represented med students and residents who crossed faculty members. It ain't pretty.

The dean was obviously nothing but a political animal, a glad-handing prevaricator who smiled out of every corner and cranny of his mouth. My professor was a pompous jerk who was concerned about absolutely nothing but winning our altercation. My other professors couldn't have cared less about the entire brouhaha. "These are people I'm supposed to look up to?" I thought. "This is what it means to be a lawyer?"

Aside from the excessive caricaturing, that is what it means to get through law school. Being a lawyer is something entirely different. If you had been paying attention, you would have noticed that most of your law professors were not working as lawyers. They were teachers. And most probably wrote articles too. Some of them worked as lawyers at some point in their lives, but few did that for long.

Being a lawyer is fundamentally about something that never occurred to Mr. Fischer. We help people. They come to us with problems and sometimes we can make things better for them.

Maybe it's something simple like a speeding ticket; they've been accused of a crime; they just found out their spouse is having an affair; they're having problems paying their mortgage and are about to lose their house; they were hurt in an accident, can't work, and are having trouble paying their bills; they want to open a business and can't figure out the town zoning code; they're being audited; they need a visa so they can stay in the US and keep working; they want to buy a house and don't want to get screwed in the transaction; the DMV wants to take their drivers license away for no good reason; the government wants to take their house by eminent domain to put up a shopping mall; ...

There are so many problems people have that lead them to seek legal counsel. Ultimately that's what we do. Lawyers help people.

Are we rewarded for it? Most of us get paid, some of us well, others not nearly enough. Last time I checked, most people work for money. Every time I go to doctors they expect to be paid. I pay them happily. I value their help. Most of our clients seem to value what we do for them.

While I'm doing well financially and I appreciate the money, the real satisfaction comes when you've helped someone. My favorite moments as a lawyer have been when I get a client out of jail. The best day of my career was when I got two clients out of jail on the same day. They didn't teach that to Mr. Fischer in law school. Or maybe he wasn't paying attention.

There is a reason why people hate lawyers. In much of what we do, there's a lawyer on the other side. Our clients tend not to like that other lawyer. That lawyer's client tends to dislike us. It's natural - we're on opposing sides. The victim in a criminal case might hate the defense lawyer. The defendant sure isn't going to like the prosecutor. In half the relationships between lawyers and non-lawyers, the non-lawyer has good reason to dislike the lawyer.

Imagine if it worked like that with doctors. One doctor tries to heal you while the other tries to make you sicker. How popular would doctors be then?


David Sugerman said...

Nice post. I didn't read the cited article, but it looks like the writer has "issues" as my therapist friends would say.

Bradley A. Coxe said...

Nice read. The last two paragraphs could be expanded into a whole other article.

Anonymous said...

Really the people you should be asking about lawyer hate, is clients not other attorneys. I have experienced nothing but corrupt attorneys who are tied into corrupt court systems that run rampant with corrupt judges. Lawyers who drag cases out filing extra frivolous paperwork to get a few extra thousand out of clients, and my favorite the fathers rights attorneys who take cases for abusive scum of the earth and help take kids from their safe parents and get them turned over to the abusive parent. I truly don't know how attorneys sleep at night or what they tell themselves in their minds that helps them delude themselves into thinking that its their job to become manipulative, unethical, good ole boy scum. Well here's a client who has not just lawyer hate but disgust for the entire system. A new attorney once asked me this question at a conference I attended for battered women: "why couldn't you find an attorney to file to have your judge removed for the bias and prejudice?" I laughed and gave her a little lesson about the good ole boys, and why no attorney would touch such a motion(even when it is the right thing to do for a client) to file this against a judge. Legally and ethically in my case it was the thing to do (so I did it myself pro se cause no attorney would touch it and I won). Just how corrupt the system is and the attorneys and judges are seems to directly correlate with where you live and also how strict the review boards are. The more these people know they can get away with this the more likely you are to keep getting screwed. One of the worst states to litigate in: FL where recently a judge tried to blow the whistle on how bad the behind the scenes corruption really is and they made the judge go away. They always do. The people who know what happens go with the flow otherwise they are ousted and blackballed from the community. I'm sure you'll reply with the typical, you have no idea what you are talking about, and thats crazy talk, except I am an expert when it comes to the court systems and how they are working against the very people who are using them for help. Its deisgned this way on purpose as a money making business. If things worked, well then all involved would make less money. Bottom line, no matter what makes an attorney decide to become an attorney really is not the issue here, once they are thrown into a corrupt system, do they do with the flow are swim against the current. What kind of attorney are you? I know the Albany court system very well. In fact I am part of a large group of people who are seeking to prevent the reelection of the corrupt family court judge: Judge Maney.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous 1. I have reversed engineered many schemes. I can honestly state that the whole system known as government and it many subsystems (i.e legal) were designed with the intent to siphon as many resources as possible to a select few and keep the masses subjugated. Each sub-system is set up as a guild where you have to cough up huge amounts of money to get a degree, this way you will be in debt for a long time thus you have a shut-up and go with the corrupt flow as it will be too expensive to go get another degree where the same thing will happen.

Still I do believe that there are a few (very few) people in these professions that are truly trying to do the right thing and they are honestly struggling to stay afloat. They will likely leave and probably go into teach or something else. It is the nature of the beast, the big system and it’s many subparts are designed to wear you down, make you give in, or set you up to take a fall if your try to expose it. All based on lies- That is why most governments are falling apart.

Good Luck! My background Engineer/Inventor/ex Military-same reason I left)