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Five things your attorney won't tell you

Updated on March 6, 2012

The attorney is not a lawyer.

While people use the terms interchangeably, even attorneys, they're two very different things.

The formal term for a lawyer is a counselor in law. We live in the law, and understand it well enough to counsel others about it.

The formal term for an attorney is an attorney at law. Attorneys live outside the law, and because of this they stand at law rather than in law. They claim to practice law professionally, though how they can do it from a chosen position outside the law is beyond me.The more traditional term for someone who is outside the law is an outlaw. I wonder how well attorneys would do if they put that on their business cards.

The word attorney comes from the Old French word "atourner", which means to transfer property from one party to another. More specifically, it historically refers to someone who acquaints a tenant to a new landlord. Amusingly, it has a nominal tertiary meaning from Greek which means "to twist".

Attorneys receive the British title of nobility "Esquire". The Esquire was the person who carried his knight's shield for him. As you'll find, this is the function attorneys have today as well. In the States, we threw out British rule over two hundred years ago. It crept right back in using legal doubletalk, systematically applied by attorneys in conjunction with legislators.

You don't have the right to an attorney.

When an officer reads you the Miranda Rights, he tells you that you have the right to an attorney. Not so! You have the right to counsel, but as we've seen attorneys are not counselors. (I'd have to check, but I don't know of anything that guarantees you the right to be lied to about the law by an outlaw.) Your right to a lawyer is typically denied because a) you're misled into thinking you have the right to an attorney, and b) because over the course of the past two hundred years attorneys have befuddled the citizenry about what a lawyer is, and so there are almost no true lawyers left these days.

The attorney's duty is to the court.

"His first duty is to the court, not to the client, and wherever the duties he owes to the client conflict with the duties he owes to the court, as an officer of the court in the administration of justice, the former must yield to the latter". Corpus Juris Secundum, Attorney & Client, Sec. 4, pg 802.

His first duty then is as an officer of the court. His second duty is to the public, meaning the status quo adopted by fifty percent of the citizens. Only after those two duties are satisfied does his duty to you ever come into play. So when you go to court you have two agents of the court haggling back and forth over the case in legalese, in front of a judge (or more properly, magistrate) that is an attorney who has outgrown the larval stage, and the point is the convenience of the magistrate. Part of that convenience is to convince you that justice is being done, that you have received a fair trial. But when this doesn't happen, often it's only the attorneys and magistrate who are educated enough to know it.  (That being the case, we have a distinctly admirable number of honest judges left in the U.S..  What other profession does so well purely on the honor system?)

When the attorney represents you, the court considers you mentally incompetent.

CLIENT. A client is one who applies to a lawyer or counselor for advice and direction in a question of law, or commits his cause to his management in presenting a claim or defending against a suit in a court of justice; one who retains the attorney, is responsible to him for his fees, and to whom the attorney is responsible for the management of the suit; one who communicates facts to an attorney expecting professional advice. Clients are also called “wards of the court” in gard to their relationship with their attorneys. Corpus Juris Secundum, 1980, Section 4.

There is an old maxim, or truism, of law which states, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." That is because under the American common law, you were free to do anything you liked so long as you didn't harm anyone else's life, liberty, or property, and so long as you abided by any contracts you chose to make. Obviously anyone who couldn't grasp that very simple premise was a mental invalid.

Today, the American common law has been wallpapered over with all kinds of bogus legislation. But the maxim remains unchallenged. Thus, when you go to court and have an attorney represent you because you do not know the law, the judge takes silent notice of this and presumes you to be mentally incompetent. As such, it's the court's duty to care for invalids, and thus you are considered to be a ward of the court - specifically, a ward of your attorney for the purposes of the trial. This ends up being very convenient for the court indeed, as the attorney - one of the officers of the court, you'll recall - is considered to be your legal guardian. Now that the court has adopted you, all that remains is the verdict.

"Legal" is not "lawful".

Law has to do with authority, justly expressed and in harmony with a greater authority.

Legal, legislation, and legalism come from "legis". They're terms of bureaucracy. Today most people think that if there's a piece of legislation or a court ruling, it's automatically valid law. Not so! If all the forms are dated, signed by the right parties, sent in on time to the right people, then you have legality. But to also have law, it must have the valid authority behind it.

In the U.S., the government was created by the People, and the People delegated a small amount of limited authorities to the government. Anything the People didn't give to the government, the government didn't have. Over the last two hundred years, government has been purporting to have authorities we never knowingly gave it. Now, when a legislator signs a bit of legislation prohibiting people from smoking downtown for instance, people tend to assume that it's valid law. But he could have signed anything, even an article from The Onion, and his signing it wouldn't make it law. Without valid authority from the People, our legislator hasn't created new law. He's just added yet another piece of dead legislation to the pile.  The problem is that today's citizens now believe whatever he's just signed is valid law, and so the public outcry is minimal.

Legal is defined as something which "has the form and appearance of law, without necessarily having the substance of it". Indeed! Counterfeit law, in other words. This is why attorneys constantly argue whether something is legal or illegal. "Did it seem lawful, or did it seem unlawful?" I don't care whether something's legal or illegal, whether it seems lawful or not... I care whether or not it's actually lawful!


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    • SarahJClemens profile image

      Sarah Clemens 

      7 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      As someone who has worked on both sides of the criminal justice system, in prosecution and defense. I feel like this simply highlights the negative aspects of an "attorney at law," and groups all attorneys under one umbrella. Yes, you do have the right to an attorney, and that right extends to say that you have the right to a competent attorney who assists in your defense. If not, that matter will come up on appeal and can lead to a conviction being overturned. Spending several years working in a prosecutor's office, believe me when I say we wanted a defendant's attorney to not only be competent but to work in his or her client's interest because if that was not the case, we knew we were wasting our time and would shortly be retrying the case on appeal with an attorney who was properly representing the client.

    • profile image

      Bill Hilly 

      7 years ago

      Most important thing you left out ......... ALL of them are

      "Free"Masons. Lawyer-Attorney-JUDGE-sheriff et al.

      The court room is a DOG & PONY show.

      WHAT are you going to do about it?

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      Some of the vilest, most contemptible people I have ever known were lawyers. I used to work for a worldwide tobacco giant. From me to the CEO there were four layers of management ... ALL lawyers. I am not one but I learned a lot from their tricks -- enough to protect myself and educate others. Thanks for writing this.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      The Picture is clear --Great Job-Great Comments-Great Site

    • Laura in Denver profile image

      Laura Deibel 

      9 years ago from Aurora, CO

      Awesome commentary on the entire idiocy of the system. Most people can work things out, but "attorney"s are well known to frighten them.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 

      10 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Very insightful thank you!

    • A Little TRUTH profile image

      A Little TRUTH 

      10 years ago

      Very good to meet you too, Satori. I just discovered you have some hubs that are far more awesome than this one. I’m looking forward to taking the time to read them, as they are much longer. Thanks much for the encouragement and recommendation.


    • Satori profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from California

      VERY good to meet you, A Little Truth. Your illustration's certainly appreciated. So are your Hubs. They provide accurate, clear, well-researched information with a very easily readable, enjoyable format. My readers are encouraged to enjoy your Hubs if they've enjoyed mine.

      Be well,

      - Satori

    • A Little TRUTH profile image

      A Little TRUTH 

      10 years ago

      Nice Hub! It's good to get people thinking about the meaning of words, especially ones like lawyer, attorney, in-law, at-law, out-law, legal, lawful.

      I like to use this illustration: If you're IN the lake, you are wet; if you're AT the lake, you're not wet; and if you're OUT of the lake, you're also not wet. If you're AT the lake, you're near the lake. If you're OUT of the lake, you must also be near the lake or you wouldn't be talking about being out of it. So being at the lake or out of the lake is really the same.

      So, you're right, at-law and out-law have essentially the same meaning.

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 

      10 years ago from Illinois

      Glad for the inside information about lawyers, and attorneys. They are arms of the court and we have a lot of cases because they provide work for the attorneys, and lawyers.

    • hitdev profile image


      10 years ago

      Excellent article.Lawyers and doctors are money making machines in this country

    • onlinelawyer profile image


      10 years ago

      Yes, this article highlights the way in which lawyers could be accused of deceiving their clients because of the potential for the conflict of duties to the court, the client and other practitioners. Lawyers need to be more forthright about disclosing their interests to clients before taking a retainer.

    • Satori profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from California

      Thanks for your comment, John. And that link is boffo! I had already known about informed juries, but many people don't. That kind of thing is probably a good use for HubPages. If you write Hubs on topics like these, let me know and I can include links to them in mine. We can get a li'l community of know-your-rights going on here.

      Be well,

      - Satori

    • aguasilver profile image

      John Harper 

      11 years ago from Malaga, Spain

      Excellent expose of a worn out and abused system.

      People should take a look at the rights a jury has to NOT find us guilty also:

      How many folk end up criminalised because they lack knowledge.

      Greta hub, thank youª

      Voted up.... John


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