Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 9, 2006
LAW: Quote of the Day

From TV producer and ex-lawyer David E. Kelley, on the decline in applications to law school:

The more lawyers there are, the more people are out there to encourage others not to go to law school.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:59 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I think our views of lawyers has remained unchanged from when good ol' Will Shakespeare had Henry V want to kill them all.

When I am at work, as a landlord here in the Occupied Territories of the People's Republic of New York, I despise them, especially those who sue me assuming my insurance company would rather settle (and someone should look at the Bronx for a discrimination suit--the payments are absurd in that one county); when lawyers are willing to defend someone like Padilla, I am proud of our rule of law.

When lawyers constantly give off the air that only they have the secret knowledge, I am angry; when they feel only they can be party to certain agreements (such as insisting that only lawyers can do closings), I want them done.

In the end, we have far too many of the critters, and not nearly enough plumbers, carpenters, pipe fitters, tool and die makers, patternmakers and the like.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 9, 2006 1:28 PM

As a member of the hated profession let me pipe in:

-There are too many of us

-The ABA & it's local "branches" is a monopoly designed to increase legal fees

-Most legislation is written by lawyers & is deliberately arcane, thus perpetuating the need for the aforementioned monopoly.

Posted by: Mike at February 9, 2006 2:06 PM

Mike, why is it that only lawyers, such as you and my wife, use the word aforementioned?

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 9, 2006 2:45 PM

1. Daryl, the sad thing is, I read your comment before I read Mike's and I started looking to see what the aforementioned word was.

2. There are indeed too many lawyers, and the number of lawyers drives the number of lawsuits.

Posted by: The Crank at February 9, 2006 3:17 PM

LOL!!

I'm truly cackling aloud here.

Daryl, we use idiotic words like "aforementioned" because over the course of a career, the extra time required to type such a long, cumbersome word will add hours of billable time.

Ka-ching! ---> The only sound, by the way, a lawyer likes more than that sound a computer makes when he shuts it down.

Posted by: Mike at February 9, 2006 3:32 PM

Blame the Russians for there being too many lawyers. When they shot up Sputnik in the '50s the congress legislated $5000 for every doctoral candidate. Law schools immediately changed the law degree from LLB to Juris Doctor and reeled in a fortune. Then they discovered how cheap it w�s to educate lawyers as opposed to scientists (no labs or equipment). As a result Universities began to see law schools as cash cows. Anyway, this is what my professors told me in the '60s.

Posted by: Edgar at February 9, 2006 4:34 PM

You misread the bard badly (the line is actually from Henry VI, by the way, and the character that says it is Dirk the Butcher, not the King). That phrase is actually lavish praise of lawyers and their role in society. Dirk the Butcher, who says it, is a follower of an anarchist, and he suggests killing the lawyers in order to strip people of their rights and overthrow the government.

>

That said, I hate lawyers (I am one). But Shakespeare didn't.

Posted by: Hugo at February 9, 2006 4:58 PM

Hugo-

Good call. Like many, I wasn't much of a fan of Henry VI back in my Willy Shakes studying days, so I had to go back and check it out just now.

You're right, it's the scene when Cade is gaining momentum for his peasant's revolt (Part II, Act IV, Scene ii), and he, along with Dirk and others set about to kill off the educated and literate.

Don't recall Dirk's fate, but I remember that Cade doesn't end well.

Posted by: Mike at February 9, 2006 5:11 PM

You know, I can't remember what happens to him either. I remember Cade, a supposed anarchist, decided right before the lawyers line that he was actually going to set himself up as a tyrant.

Also, I'm an idiot, somehow I remembered the character as Dirk the Butcher. It's Dick the Butcher. Funny character though.

dhf

Posted by: Hugo at February 9, 2006 5:18 PM

My apologies. I used to read Will for fun, and now I screw up lines from one of my favorite characters--so I will write this to go once more into the breach, dear friends:

I hate lawyers now, but as an architect, they were always my best clients. Every law firm is essentially the same as all the others, no matter what they thought. Two true lawyer stories:

One real estate lawyer client told me how much he hated computers. He used to have to read and write 12 page leases. now they are 150 pages, all of it verbiage to justify a bigger bill.

The other is an experiment I used to do. Back when I practiced architecture I probably designed about 15 law firms over the years, and always asked the question, in this exact phrase: "How many people are in your firm?" And I always (and I mean every time) got the same anwer: x number of attorneys. Never lawyers, always attorneys, and never the answer, which is how many PEOPLE. It got to be funny after a while.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at February 9, 2006 7:49 PM

Daryl-

No law firm will admit it, but of the three I've been at (all big, well-know NYC firms), the non-attorneys ("staff") don't quite count as much as the bar-members in the big pic. The standard managing partner will know the exact number of lawyers, but hasn't a clue as to staff.

Maybe they're worth 3/5 of an attorney in the by-laws.

Posted by: Mike at February 10, 2006 5:43 AM

If that. During law school, I toiled as staff at a big firm. I made roughly $25/hr. They billed my hours at $125. When one of the partners I worked for thought my work was over and above standard staff duties- if I did some research, or wrote something, for instance- they'd bill me as an associate- $200/hr or up. Still got paid $25/hr. Periodic bonuses and a nice severance check shrunk the distance somewhat, and the experience itself was fantastic, but soi stark a disparity still leaves me scratching my head. Someone got ripped off. I'm just not sure if it was the employee or the client.

Posted by: seamus at February 10, 2006 7:38 AM

99% of lawyers give the rest of us a bad name.

The bar monopoly wants there to be too few lawyers so it can prop up fees. Every rule established to regulate lawyers is, to some extent, a restraint on trade. Not that some rules aren't useful and important, just that many of them are deliberately anti-competitive.

Posted by: Attila (Pillage Idiot) at February 10, 2006 8:56 AM

Seamus-

"Someone got ripped off. I'm just not sure if it was the employee or the client."

Both. In a big mofo' way.

Attila-

The Bar monopoly -- because it's made up of lawyers, who are the only ones to "go after it" (wink, wink) -- doesn't even need to bother articificially reducing supply. For goodness sakes, just look at how many of us are out there!

Nah . . . we're so entrenched we can fix prices without reducing supply. Just define who's in/not in The Guild and ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching.

No wonder so few lawyers understand economics. No need to, we make our own economic laws.

Posted by: Mike at February 10, 2006 9:31 AM

I am also a lawyer, a tax lawyer in fact, and have practiced in NYC since 1997. I disagree with most of the criticism of the profession above, except for crank's comments that an excess of lawyers drives an excess of litigation. I'm limited for time, and will limit my own comments to a few points. First, lawyers vs. staff. This is a completely normal and natural social phenomena, given that law firms are operated by lawyers. And the difference in compensation? Law firms can hire anyone with a college degree to work as a paralegal, etc -- much more supply, so much lower salaries.
Second, I own a home. I have hired plumbers, electricians, and other people to do work on my home. Some were good, some were bad, some were terrible. Same with lawyers.
Third, the suggestion that a 12 page lease becomes a 150 page lease to pad bills is ridiculous. Period. Of course, the technology for document production is so much better now thatn even 10 years ago, it is easier and cheaper (much of the time) to write a 30 page agreement instead of a 10 page agreement. It is not always better, but for clients who are concerned about bills, it can be difficult to justify a larger bill for a shorter document.
Fourth, the tendency of many within the profession to speak of it as an evil. Think of this as a weird variant on liberal guilt, where self-criticism is used as a cover for cynicism.
For all that, there are many problems with the profession. Of course, not like doctors (why is my ENT doctor's office filled with plastic surgery ads), dentists (why does my dentist keep pushing teeth-whitening, etc. products), architects (who is responsible for the incredibly shitty appearance and design of the box houses being put up around the city where I live?), politicians (), etc. No, those are good, unselfish people, not like the lawyers.

Posted by: Jim at February 10, 2006 3:40 PM

Jim sez:

"Of course, not like doctors (why is my ENT doctor's office filled with plastic surgery ads), dentists (why does my dentist keep pushing teeth-whitening, etc. products), architects (who is responsible for the incredibly shitty appearance and design of the box houses being put up around the city where I live?), politicians (), etc. No, those are good, unselfish people, not like the lawyers."

I agree with you, Jim. They also operate behind the front of monopolies/guilds, and they, too, fix prices and limit supply. No argument from me. America is drowning in a sea of "professional organizations."

As for the staff point, however, I remain unconvinced. I've worked in many jobs through the years, including some work at hospitals as a volunteer when I was a lad. But the schism between attorneys & "staff" is larger than any other field I've seen, and it's ridiculous.

Where I work right now, staff refers to the partners as Mr.___ and Ms. ___. Associates, counsel, and contract attorneys, however, do not address partners this way.

What is this, the 19th century? C'mon, fellows counselors, get over yourself.

Posted by: Mike at February 10, 2006 5:00 PM

Mike, maybe it's just New Yorkers who need to get over themselves. In law firms here in the West, this Mr. and Ms. stuff is virtually non-existent (I know, we're not in the self-proclaimed center of the universe, but humor us simple folk anywho.)

But, with that said, of course there is a difference between those who practice law and those who support them, as well there should be. When my father was a sales manager and was asked about the size of his sales force, of course his answer reflected the number of salespeople, and did not include the office's HVAC maintenance crew, despite the valauble support services they provided. A law firm exists to practice law, period.

I agree with (the other) Jim, above, and am happy to see someone dare contradict the groupthink. It's a tough task, of course, disavowing that which "everyone knows is true." But like most urban myths, most seem to be just fables. Everyone can give apocryphal examples of jerks they have met, but most also recognize an absurdly small statistical sample. Lawyers are just all too convenient scapegoats and punchlines, however, and so everyone's apocryphal stories get passed around like gospel.

I am reminded of The Simpsons, in which Apu takes his citizenship test and, upon giving a detailed and thoughtful analysis of the causes of the Civil War, is told by the moderator "Just say 'slavery'!"

So, feel free to abandon detailed and thoughtful analysis...ignore the fact that every lawsuit requires plaintiffs and defendants (they are never greedy!), and every absurd award requires a jury (all of the above are just honest, simple creatures whose senses of justice are plowed over by those greedy lawyers and their Jedi mind tricks!)]

Just say "there are too many lawyers!" Everyone knows it's true!

Posted by: Jim K at February 13, 2006 12:36 PM

Jim K-

"[O]f course there is a difference between those who practice law and those who support them, as well there should be."

Maybe ain't too much difference tween us ee-leetist Eastern lawyers and you laaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiid-back Westcoasters after all.

Posted by: Mike at February 13, 2006 1:21 PM
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