Saturday, July 22, 2017

Kill the lawyers

Many before me have written about the possibility of eliminating lawyers. It was Shakespeare who wrote in Henry VI, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

It's an impractical goal in an age of specialization, and in which the lawyers have insinuated themselves into every aspect of modern life. The necessity of lawyers is bonded to our national ideals, as a nation of laws and not of men; or a nation of laws and not of church authority. Lawyers are indispensable artifacts of the way we live and what we value. Looking on the bright side, it is lawyers and the judicial system which allows us to resolve disputes without bloodshed. Not like the old days.

But, giving lawyers their due does not require total capitulation. There are, in fact, many lawyers who are interested in noting more than to line their own pockets at anybody's expense. That is just a fact, and it is not intended as an indictment of all honest hard-working lawyers. But, the ancient question, "How many lawyers does it take to skin a client?" has always been answered, "Two. One of whom is supposedly working for the client."

Lawyers are expensive, and paying for lawyers is a game for the affluent. The less affluent suffer, or do without. Win or lose, it is always expensive in one way or another.

Just as you don't need a doctor for every little cut or scrape, you don't actually need a lawyer for every trifling legal matter. This is assuming you can tell the difference between when you do need a lawyer and when you do not, but there is an inherent danger in any system that is structured so that defending one's own vital interests is dependent upon pricey outside assistance.

The legal self-help movement has a long history, going back at least to 1845, when Thomas Wooler published his Every Man His Own Attorney. Wooler wrote, 
"When attorneys are employed, they must be paid; and their charges are not always regulated either by their abilities, or their service to a client, but by their own desire to make as much as they can. This evil can only be remedied by making their clients well informed on common subjects, and able to see what course they are taking in matters of more intricacy."
The lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct reflect an idealistic goal of the profession pursuing legal education of the public, but the extent of what education that actually happens does not go beyond pointing out the need to hire an attorney. The Canadian legal system recognizes that Lawyers "share responsibility for ensuring that broader society has a knowledge and understanding of the law and an appreciation of the values advanced by the rule of law." Robert Bell & Caroline Abela 
"The question of whether lawyers have an ethical duty to perform public service--and, in particular, whether the obligation requires that a percentage of time be devoted to providing free legal services to the poor has a disjointed and uneven history. Leaders of the bar, espousing various and often conflicting views of morality, compassion, noblesse oblige, and individual autonomy, have contributed to this state of affairs, creating a complicated web of vague ideals that today jeopardizes the legal profession's sense of its own public obligations. On the one hand, the legal profession remains dedicated to the traditional view that public service is a matter of personal charity, to be performed at the discretion of the individual attorney. And yet, despite the prevalence of this dominant notion, an undercurrent of thought rejects the relativistic approach to public service, arguing instead that lawyers have a professional responsibility to help assure that legal services are available to all, including those who cannot afford to purchase representation on the open market. The Code of Professional Responsibility and the Model Rules of Professional Conduct reflect both notions of public service, sending mixed signals to members of the bar as to whether their professional duties include the obligation to render free legal services to those in need." - The lawyer's duty of public service: More than charity? - 96 W. Va. L. Rev. 367, Winter, 1993/1994

Tom Fox, J. D.
Southern Specialty Law Publishing Company
Louisville, Kentucky

A division of Accountable Kentucky Incorporated
a Kentucky Non-profit corporation

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This is not legal advice and I am not a lawyer.

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