We have all heard the oft cited statistic that lawyers rank just above used car salesmen in respectability/honorableness in the public's eyes. (I tried to find the survey link but couldn't - anyone got it?) And as a lawyer, personally I struggle with that every day.
Now, I enjoy a good lawyer joke as much as the next guy. But I cannot pretend the constant attacks don't get to me at times. Beyond the stress of dealing with people in their toughest moments over at times truly heart wrenching issues, which is tough enough, it seems that one can't even turn on the television or open the newspaper without reading another attack on the "excesses" of lawyers. Or maybe I just read too many business newspapers and physician blogs.
Seriously, though, I would say in my 3 years of small town practice, where I actually deal with an individual client on a daily basis, I have gotten cross with maybe 1% of my clients. I have certainly disagreed with clients more often, but I'm talking to the point where we both go our separate ways and neither have anything good to say about the other - although given the privilege issues I usually just end up telling myself. But am I deluding myself? Do the majority of my clients leave thinking I completely screwed them over?
Now, I knew the deal going in, and usually I'm able to rationalize my frustration/anger/disappointment by remembering the clients who did appreciate what I was able to do for them, and realizing the motives of some of those who are on the attack. And I understand that when people come to a lawyer, it's not because things are going well, so their time with me is generally not associated with good times.
Yet I have to ask myself, if for no other reason than because Dr. Charles and Aporkalypse Now over at Woopig accuse me of it regularly, am I blind to my own role and that of my colleagues in this? Self examination is always necessary, and if you do this for a living you know that in any bad situation, there is plenty of blame to go around. If nothing else, the criticisms do make me question my professional actions regularly and consider their perception in a larger arena than just the courts.
At any rate, for those of you interested, Legal Underground, has a discussion on the subject here. A few choice lines from the comments are below and a very strong criticism can be found here.:
"there has been a real erosion of law from a profession into a business, and that is widely known. Lawyers have a unique relationship to the law, and to the Courts, and therefore their use of them is everyone's business. In a former era, at least 30 or more years ago, this was taken much more seriously."
"I hate lawyers because I'm just generally filled with self loathing."
"1. people see us acting for people or companies they dont like (criminals, multinationals etc) even though the public will generally not understand in any detailed way the issues in the case (ie someone says the multinational poisoned the lake, it must be true). So guilt by association"
If you wander to LU, by the way, you'll quickly notice it is a much nicer site than my own, and the writer is more in the St. Nate and Dr. Charles vein in that it's less stilted and far easier to read than mine. My own writing skills have been permanently damaged by the law, I'm afraid. I should sue my Legal Writing professor. Just kidding.