Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 17, 2008
LAW: Lawyers Behaving Badly

From this to this to this, I'm starting to take an even dimmer view of my own profession than I already did. The first guy I actually dealt with on a case about ten years ago, and he did in fact seem like a perfectly reasonable guy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Ok, I am going to go light here because picking on lawyers is too easy. For those of us NOT in the legal profession, our opinion of lawyers is pretty low. Alot is comes from the fact that many politicians are lawyers. Of course the two Clinton's have done a pretty good job to single handedly make the legal profession look pretty slimy.

The legal profession needs to do alot of work to clean itself up. This is one example poll http://www.carers.net.nz/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=150&mode=&catid=11&thread&order=0&thold=0

Posted by: Lee at December 17, 2008 9:20 PM

As a recovering lawyer, I have reached the conclusion that lawyers, on balance, are a net negative for our country. I realize that there is much good done by attorneys. However, the bad outweighs it.

Look at what we do to families in divorce. Lawyers bankrupt the parties and cause parents to hate each other more at the end of the divorce than the beginning. Children are devastated by the process.

We impose incredible costs on the productive parts of society. Our influence over government and its counterproductive regulatory impacts is vast. The tort system is a disaster. Small business owners feel like they need to go to law school just to keep up with a legal system that attacks them from all angles constantly. Large businesses hire lawyers by the bushel in a futile effort to keep out of court or avoid regulatory minefields.

We have much to answer for. And we aren't taking any responsibility for repairing the damage we are causing.

Posted by: stan at December 18, 2008 8:02 AM

Crank, what they've done has nothing to do with their being lawyers. If you think about what Shakespeare meant and why, here is why we don't like you guys:

1. You all profess to have this arcane knowledge that you, and only you, have.

2. You all think you are the smartest people in the room at all times. Hell, during the Challenger Commission, you thought that when Richard Feynman was in the room. Trust me, especially in that case, you weren't.

3. You basically trade on human misery.

4. You are process oriented. I'm trained (and used to practice) as an architect. Our job training, like a farmer, plumber or advertising executive, is to get the job done. Do what you have to, but get it done. If done right, then everyone gets the glory. As a lawyer, you respect, in fact, demand, the process. If the steps are followed to the letter, and then something goes wrong, well, that's actually OK. You have to follow the standard of the profession, then you don't worry about being sued. So it essentially doesn't matter to you if the end result is good. Which is not only against instant gratification, but against nature, which ensures that, in the end, only the end counts (oops, that's evolution, sorry!)

4. You call yourselves attorneys. You aren't. You are lawyers. Attorneys are lawyers to a specific client. You can be MY attorney, but you cannot be AN attorney. Odd, for a profession that insists, also against human nature, that every word counts big.

5. A repeat of 4. You lawyers are against human nature.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 18, 2008 10:24 AM

I wouldn't pin all that on lawyers. Blame the legal system if you want, or the legislature for not changing or clarifying the law. But let's face it, the world isn't black and white, it's grey. And because of that, businesses do get value out of the lawyers they hire.

As for family law, I'd blame the parties themselves for refusing to compromise and consider the interests of their children. It's completely possible and not uncommon to have an amicable divorce handled efficiently in court, so it really comes down to the parties themselves. If they want a no-holds-barred war, that's their choice.

The examples that Crank gave are unfortunately, but there is no reason to believe that lawyers, as a group, are any more or less ethical than businessmen or any other group.

Posted by: MVH at December 18, 2008 10:25 AM

"You call yourselves attorneys. You aren't. You are lawyers."

We don't consistently call ourselves anything, attorney, lawyer whatever. The definition of attorney in Black's Law dictonary, among other meanings, states: "In its most common usage, however, unless a contrary meaning is clearly intended, this term means 'attorney at law', 'lawyer' or 'counselor at law.'" The terms are fairly interchangable now, though at some earlier time, they may not have been.

As for the rest, you taking very narrow view of what lawyers actually do and what they get out of it. As for arrogance and claims of expertise, lawyers are hardly alone in that sense. Again, I don't think lawyers, as a class, differ significantly from other groups.

Posted by: MVH at December 18, 2008 10:42 AM

"You are process oriented. I'm trained (and used to practice) as an architect. Our job training, like a farmer, plumber or advertising executive, is to get the job done. Do what you have to, but get it done. If done right, then everyone gets the glory. As a lawyer, you respect, in fact, demand, the process. If the steps are followed to the letter, and then something goes wrong, well, that's actually OK. You have to follow the standard of the profession, then you don't worry about being sued. So it essentially doesn't matter to you if the end result is good."

I understand your point here, but really, it's not true. I care quite a bit about the end result and so do most lawyers. Often we have an economical interest in the end result. True, we care more about doing it the ethical way, but we still care quite a bit a lot about the end result. And we demand the process because generally the process has to be followed or someday down the road, whatever is being processed will be subject to scrutiny. And you demand the process as well. You just don't go outside, ponder a minute, and then open your eyes and see a house. You have a careful process to follow and I don't imagine you'd be okay with someone coming in and scraping that process altogether or putting it in a completely different order.

Posted by: per14 at December 18, 2008 1:14 PM

MVH, the fact that you run to a law dictionary proves my point. Anyway, here it is from Wikipedia:

"An attorney is someone who represents someone else in the transaction of business" And William Safire wrote on this some years ago. Of course, we could go with Bierce's "Devil's Dictionary" which I highly recommend. To him, a Lawyer was, "...someone skilled in circumventing the law."

OK, for arrogance, they rank up there, but don'g generally exceed either surgeons or test pilots. Trust me, you want an arrogant surgeon.

Another example. I used to design law offices. Easy for an architect, since they never change. The only real differences were: fancy library, fancy conference room or, (when they were larger), both. All I ever needed to start with was the number of partners. The rest was a basic formula. But I never asked that one. I always asked (and read the quotes carefully), "How many people are in your firm." And the answer was ALWAYS "XX attorneys." So they had 50 attorneys (lawyers, they were MY clients) and 75 pieced of chopped liver). Neither the question, nor the answer ever changed, not for the 15 or so firms I did.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 18, 2008 1:14 PM

"1. You all profess to have this arcane knowledge that you, and only you, have."

Yeah, that's true. Just like you have quite a bit of "arcane" knowledge about how to design a building.

"3. You basically trade on human misery."

Often, yes. But that's not our fault. Human misery exists as a matter of definition. The law controls it and prevents anarchy. Lawyers, ideally, apply the law and prevent the anarchy.

Posted by: per14 at December 18, 2008 1:18 PM

"MVH, the fact that you run to a law dictionary proves my point." Actually, I would have been comfortable just telling you that it didn't matter, but seeing as you take a dim view of lawyers, I didn't think you'd take my word for it.

You give surgeons and pilots a pass for arrogance, but not lawyers, as if somehow it doesn't take any moxy to stand and argue in front of judges and jurors, never mind take a position on a difficult question of law when it's a close call.

I think you make too much out of your example. I worked on the administrative side of law firm before I was a lawyer, and I never felt like I was treated any less because of it. You also ignore the countless lawyers that -do not- work in law firms or practice litigation, who you nevertheless feel comfortable tarring with the same brush.

I am sure you know, or have heard of, arrogant and unethical architects and engineers, so I really don't want to hear that lawyers corner the market.

For a general defense of tort lawyers, see:
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/business2_archive/2007/07/01/100117060/index.htm

Posted by: MVH at December 18, 2008 1:46 PM

I have to side with MVH here. I deal with lawyers daily and the arrogance is breathtaking. No one cares if a surgeon is arrogant, we hope he has reason. The relationship is entirely different there.

The legal profession has failed to police themselves--they write the rules and enforce them and it doesn't take long for them all to figure out exactly how that's working for them and why. Nobody wants to upset the apple cart to expose the bad apples, I think partly because they are afraid of the legal hell they would bring upon themselves.

And if I hear one more word about state review boards and judicial censure I'll puke. Just more lawyers chuckling behind their hands at the courtesy they show each other when they screw up.

Get sued just once by a lawyer who crafts facts out of thin air, perfectly timing events to fit the statute. So perfectly obvious no one in their right mind would accept the amazing coincidence. See what your recourse against that bastard is.

Wait, I'll tell you: You can write a check and hope he goes away.

Posted by: spongeworthy at December 18, 2008 2:20 PM

" . . . not for the 15 or so firms I did."

Daryl - you whore.

"Odd, for a profession that insists, also against human nature, that every word counts big."

You see, we think context is important as well.

Posted by: Motley Tool at December 18, 2008 2:27 PM

Sponge,

I'm assuming, given the rest of your post, that you are NOT agreeing with me!

"The legal profession has failed to police themselves--they write the rules and enforce them and it doesn't take long for them all to figure out exactly how that's working for them and why."

Why single out lawyers?!? Since when does any organization effectively police itself? Does the AMA sufficiently weed out bad doctors? Do the construction and architectual professions effectively police their own members? Do you want to know how many unethical construction contractors I've met??

Forget about review boards or judicial censure. Surely you must be aware that lawyers can be sued by their clients? There are suits for legal malpractice just as there are for medical malpractice, not to mention vexatious litigation, unfair trade practices, etc.

You can take pot shots about lawyers all you want, but you can't tell me that your own industries/trades are any better.

Posted by: MVH at December 18, 2008 2:40 PM

Omigod, it took lawyers to get Sponge and me to agree. Thanks guys. And MVH, a few things to realize here:

You mention how architects have to be policed. Just remember, we get played by guys like Gary Cooper and Paul Newman. With the possible exception of Gregory Peck (once), you just don't match up.

Lawyers make up the laws, so other professions have to do things like actually work at it for a number of years before we can practice. Actually we have to work at it before we can take the exams. Lawyers don't. Everyone in New York State has the same license sheet. Same size, same lettering. Except you lawyers. Big flowery thing.

And lawyers have no sense of humor about themselves. And Shakepeare wasn't kidding. Who are we to kid with genius?


Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at December 18, 2008 9:43 PM

As tempting as it is to pile on Crank and his profession it is obvious that these 3 examples of criminality have nothing to do with being an attorney, or law. And for those of you on here giving lenghty exegeses about the "net negatives" of lawyers try anarchy. You dont get rule of law without cops, a government of some sort, and yes, lawyers. They are necessary , and far more often than you care to admit, noble. Merry Christmas Crank.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at December 19, 2008 12:35 PM

Daryl, are you seriously arguing that lawyers should be judged according to the quality and character of the actors who play them?

A good rule of thumb to live by is that the greater capacity for good there is in something/someone, the greater the capacity also is for evil. I'd tell you where I picked up that observation, but I'm sure that would be seen as arrogant. (Ok, it was from Aristotle.) Sure, some lawyers do a lot of terrible things, but there are countless rank and file lawyers who do a lot of good things every day.

Posted by: per14 at December 19, 2008 4:40 PM

What else can we expect? We have government of lawyers, by lawyers and for lawyers, and the judiciary is made up of lawyers. They have stacked the deck in their favor.

Posted by: feeblemind at December 19, 2008 7:40 PM

Forget about Lawyers, how about ex-quarterbacks involved in S&M triangles, wtf? I just can't believe he didn't fumble the gun before shooting. And wow, what a rack on Jade Vixon....

Posted by: SJGMoney at December 22, 2008 3:42 PM
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