In Defense of Lawyers

A Lawyer Is An Advocate In A Complex And Confusing Arena
A Lawyer Is An Advocate In A Complex And Confusing Arena

Kill The Lawyers

William Shakespeare suggested that the way to improve society was to "kill the lawyers." Many Americans today believe that Shakespeare was right. There is a sentiment by both Republicans and Democrats that lawyers are greedy crooks who manipulate the system for their own benefit and for the benefit of their rich guilty clients. Many also believe that Lawyers are the cause of high health care costs, insurance costs and why criminals roam the streets at night committing crimes and killing innocent victims.

In many cases, lawyers are greedy and manipulate the law for their own benefit and the benefit of their clients. Lawyers do work hard to find technicalities to get criminals off the hook. Many lawyers live up to the horrible names people call them. And guess what? You wouldn't want it any other way.

Despite The Rhetoric, Most Lawyers Never See The Inside Of A Courtroom
Despite The Rhetoric, Most Lawyers Never See The Inside Of A Courtroom

What Is A Lawyer

To define what a lawyer is one must first declare what a lawyer is not. Despite what is shown on television and in the movies, most lawyers are not rich and powerful people. Most lawyers do not drive fancy cars and live in big fancy houses. Most lawyers are hard working people just trying to get by and live paycheck to paycheck with much of their salaries going to paying off hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. Take for instance those lawyers that work for the public defenders' office and non profit groups that have student loans to pay off and make (where I live) about $38,000 a year.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a lawyer as: "One whose profession is to give legal advice and assistance to clients and represent them in Court or in other legal matters." This hardly defines the many different roles a lawyer plays.

First, lawyers are advocates. They advocate on behalf of their client. Lawyers have a duty, as defined by law, to zealously advocate their client's position. The American legal system is an adversarial system. Each side to any lawsuit has its own lawyer whose sole job to advocate their given position. This is why each side points out the flaws in the other sides arguments. It is their job to point out weaknesses, no matter how trivial, in order to gain any advantage in favor of their client. Because there is an attorney on each side, in theory, the system is fair. One of the reasons people hate lawyers is they are willing to say the thing nobody else wants to talk about. They do this not because they enjoy it but because it has to be done to advocate for their client.

Second, lawyers are counselors. Despite what is shown on television, most lawyers never see the inside of a courtroom. Instead, they counsel clients on various areas of the law, including estate planning, taxation, business entities and regulation. And many lawyers work for the government protecting the environment or working for other government agencies advising government officials on the law. Lawyers spend most of their time in their office staring at a computer or a book. In reality, it is not the glamorous life portrayed on television.

Third, lawyers are advisers. Many lawyers advise corporations and the government on the legal effects of a contract, a treaty or newly passed legislation. Lawyers keep up with the state of the law to help guide these organizations through legal channels. By law lawyers have to be creative while at the same time ethical.


Despite The Rhetoric, Tort Reform Is More About Arbitrarily Capping Damages Paid By Insurance
Despite The Rhetoric, Tort Reform Is More About Arbitrarily Capping Damages Paid By Insurance
Many Claim That Trial Attorneys Are To Blame For Lawsuits Filed Against Corporations And Professionals
Many Claim That Trial Attorneys Are To Blame For Lawsuits Filed Against Corporations And Professionals

What Tort Reform Really Means

Republicans have made "tort reform" a major issue in America. Generally, what tort reform means is putting caps on punitive damages for torts committed by corporations, doctors and even lawyers. As a part of this campaign, Republicans have demonized "trial attorneys" and the personal injury attorney and claim it is their greed that has caused this problem in America. The charge is that lawyers are to blame for increasing insurance costs and hurt small business.

First, there are few actual trial attorneys left in America. It is reported that only 2% of all cases filed in America actually go to trial with most being dismissed in pre-trial hearings. Second, the number of lawsuits filed between 1995 and 2003 fell by 79% according to the Department of Justice under George Bush. Yet it is the Republicans that claim that "trial attorneys" are causing an explosion of lawsuits and forcing insurance companies to raise their rates.

Punitive Damages are awarded to a Plaintiff when the Defendant is guilty of malice or oppression. There is a myth that they are awarded for all tort cases. This simply is not true. Punitive Damages are not available for negligence cases. This means they cannot be awarded for car accidents, slip and fall, and even malpractice cases where there was no intent to harm committed by the Defendant. Yet, so much goes into making the American Public believe that punitive damages are overly awarded. The fact is punitive damages are rarely awarded and have been limited by the Supreme Court and by legislatures across the Country. Last, insurance companies for the most part are not liable to pay punitive damage awards because most states do not allow individuals or corporations insure against intentional conduct. So even if punitive damages were being handed out like candy, the insurance companies are not paying those damages. So why do they case insurance rates to rise?


There Is A Myth That Millions Of Groundless Lawsuits Are Filed Every Years That Result In High Punitive Damage Awards
There Is A Myth That Millions Of Groundless Lawsuits Are Filed Every Years That Result In High Punitive Damage Awards

Summation

A lawyers' job is to advocate on behalf of their client. A lawyer has knowledge of a legal system that is confusing and difficult to navigate. And yes, this knowledge demands a premium in market and lawyers are expensive. But if you are on the hook for your life, or the life of your business and livelihood, you want someone who is researching every technicality to get you every advantage. You know the other side will be doing the same. That is the American way.

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Comments 10 comments

Iconoclast profile image

Iconoclast 7 years ago from Chicago, IL

A lot of people who berate criminal defense attorneys overlook some important facts. First, the prosecutor is an attorney also. As the prosecutor works for the government, he is usually better paid, better informed and better resourced than the defense attoney who, if a public defender, receives about 35% less in pay (national average) and has to rely on the prosecutor's resources ( not exactly a recipe for fair play). Second, the prosecution record for malfeasance is much worse than that for defense attorneys. Prosecutors are normally elected with career minded underlings at their disposal, so it behooves all of them to win either for future electability or career progression. Third, because of the way this system is set up, with obvious advantage to the prosecution, it is rather easy for the prosecution, with greater resources and the moral authority of the state, to present a version of events that does not reflect the truth.


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

All very good points Iron. Add to that the prosecution has the police to do their investigation where the public defender has to conduct their own. But most PDs do it for a noble reason. They are underpaid, overworked and outmatched and yet very professional.

But many DAs are doing that job for noble reasons as well.

Thanks for the comment


John Hestand profile image

John Hestand 7 years ago

"There is a sentiment by both Republicans and Democrats that lawyers are greedy crooks who manipulate the system for their own benefit and the benefit of their rich guilty clients."

That bit made me laugh. If people don't like the way the legal system works, they should take it out on Congress or their state legislature. If they were to try, they might discover that ther Congressmen are greedy crooks who manipulate the system for their own benefit and the benefit of their rich campaign contributors.


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

I was being a little tongue and cheek, thus "sentiment." But your point is valid. Statutes dictate many of the decisions made by attorneys in litigation. Bad law, bad outcome.

Thanks for reading.


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

Interesting topic for a hub, bgpappa! Are you, by any chance, an attorney? Or do you play one on TV?

Clearly, most people's views of attorneys are shaped by what they see on TV and in movies. Those are the lawyers involved in criminal cases. But the vast majority of practicing attorneys are not Perry Mason or Denny Crane!

I worked at a major Sacramento law firm for four years. I was intrigued with the variety of practice areas. There are laws governing pretty much every area of our existence. And where there are laws, there are lawyers!

In my experience, lawyers are extremely bright people. Most of them are decent, not corrupt. Some of them are even nice:-)!


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

Why yes I am MM. I worked for a majory Sacramento Law Firm for years. Perception is reality, and I was tired of the perception.

Thanks for the comment


girly_girl09 profile image

girly_girl09 7 years ago from United States

Good article. I'm currently taking pre-law courses and eventually plan on attending law school. I have several friends who are extremely successful attorneys; they've gotten where they are because of years of hard work. I have nothing but the highest respect for them. Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma that all lawyers are greedy and conniving little devils. ;) I've met a few, of course, but the majority of them are dedicated to their jobs, their clients and producing results that would otherwise be impossible with a good attorney.


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

GG, good luck on your endeavors. Law School is both challenging and frustrating, but well worth the time and committment. The stigma is undeserved in most cases.

Thanks for reading.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I don't blame lawyers who, in our capitalist society, are meeting demand with supply.  As with most things in decline in our nation, it is really a matter of hearts. 

Our citizenry has become extremely litigious.  I think a simple change in the laws that makes it to where the loser pays all costs—even if it is the plaintiff—will help end lawsuits of the frivolous variety. 


bgpappa profile image

bgpappa 7 years ago from Sacramento, California Author

James, Thanks for your comment. The amazing thing about frivolous lawsuits, there really are not that many. Most "frivolous" cases reported in the media are, legally speaking, meritorious cases under the law. People just don't like the outcome. Those frivolous cases that do see a courthouse are generally thrown out quickly and many times, the party who brought the case is forced to pay and the attorney is reported to the State Bar. I know it seems there are millions filed every day, but in reality, very few cases without any merit see the light of day. The problem may be that legislatures around the State have codified everything, so almost anything violates the law. Doesn't make the cases frivolouis, it makes legislators trying to win favor by codifying everything making it a case idiots.

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