A former boss of mine from my journalism days wrote a column for his current paper (the Brockton Enterprise) about the importance of lawyers. It’s a great piece, and talks about many of the misperceptions about lawyers. He has graciously allowed me to share it with you here.
Lawyers don’t get respect they deserve
By David Maril, Enterprise staff writer
It’s become fashionable to knock lawyers.
People who couldn’t tell a funny joke to save their lives can recite insulting wisecracks about the legal profession.
The fact lawyers are held in such a low esteem came to mind the other day when Democratic hopeful John Edwards announced his intention to seek his party’s nomination for the presidency.
Before serving a term in the U.S. Senate, Edwards was a personal injury trial attorney and specialized in corporate negligence and medical malpractice claims.
He ended up making a fortune through his success as a trial lawyer.
And that, more than his inexperience serving in an executive political capacity, may be the biggest handicap he has to overcome.
His detractors will make up disparaging stories about him dragging people with fake bandages into court and then having them get out of their casts and wheelchairs to dance around celebrating over huge settlements. The fact he was defending the rights of innocent victims will be downplayed.
Unless it’s in the context of a television program, lawyers today do not get any respect. For some reason the public revels in watching lawyers protect the justice system on TV but takes a dim view of lawyers in the real world.
When the subject of lawyers is mentioned, eyes roll and complaints of red tape and high legal fees are often raised.
To some, being a lawyer ranks on the same level as being an embezzler, pickpocket or corrupt politician.
“They chase ambulances, looking for lawsuits to pry money from people and companies,” is a charge leveled quite frequently.
It’s not uncommon to hear comments like, “Lawyers and their litigation are ruining this country.”
Or — “Leave it to a lawyer to take something simple that can be settled out of court with common sense and make it a complicated issue that costs everyone money.”
A few years ago a neighbor of mine complainedafter a nearby house had been sold.
“I heard a lawyer bought the place,” he said. “Just what we don’t need, a lawyer moving into the block.”
I mistakenly thought he was joking.
OK, there are greedy lawyers. And there are attorneys around who do not always have the best interest of their clients at heart. However, every profession has its share of people who don’t measure up under close scrutiny.
Those who chase ambulances and try to exploit situations unfairly are the exception rather than the rule.
Take a moment to evaluate the people you know who are lawyers. I think it’s safe to say we are all familiar with lawyers who work tirelessly around the clock to serve their clients.
Most of the attorneys I know will go out of their way to encourage settlements in cases before they go to court. With the exception of divorce cases, where too often emotion pushes things into a win at all cost mentality, the lawyers I know are reasonable and practical.
The process alone of becoming a lawyer, forging through law school and having to pass stringent state bar exams, is enough to discourage all but the most dedicated.
Many go into the law profession to defend people without enormous wealth, giving them a chance to compete on equal footing against the rich, famous and powerful in a court of law.
Certainly it’s true we live in a society that has become needlessly controlled by litigation. But that’s not the fault of lawyers. Blame people who are too often greedy, self-centered and caught up in the ruthless nature of the corporate world for having a need to hire lawyers.
For the most part, lawyers abide by a high code of ethics and steer their clients to play by the rules.
What could be more honorable than that?
David Maril, an Enterprise copy editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In recent years errors in treatment have become a serious problem for hospitals, ranging from operating on the wrong body part to medication mix-ups. According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, at least 1.5 million patients are harmed every year from being given the wrong drugs — that’s an average of one person per U.S. hospital per day.
While the insurance industry enjoys record profits and bulging bank accounts, too many people in the Gulf region are left waiting for the settlements that will help them get back on their feet. A full two years after Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast policyholders are still fighting for fair and just resolution of their claims. The abuses of the insurance industry must not be forgotten. To ensure this, the American Association for Justice (AAJ) has released a compelling new report, Pattern of Greed 2007 , which documents the insurance industry’s consistent practice of denying policyholders what they are due. As this report relates, the insurance industry has made a practice of collecting billions of dollars from policyholders over the years and then abandoning them in their time of greatest need. View the complete report by clicking here.
For decades, insurance companies have used questionable tactics to delay and deny the payment of fair and just claims to policyholders in their time of greatest need, putting profits ahead of fairness.
Financially devastated victims of Hurricane Katrina are left waiting for settlements while the insurance industry has demonstrated a clear pattern of greed with record profits. In fact, insurance companies continue to increase their profits, posting a record profit of more than $60 billion in 2006 – an increase of $20 billion over their record profit of $40 billion in 2005.
As long as the government fails to reign in the insurance industry, the courts will be the last resort for people to seek justice and ensure they receive fair compensation for their claims.
Demand that the industry clean up its act and pay fair and just claims. Urge your state officials to hold a public state hearing on the abuses of the insurance industry. Ensure that the insurance industry does not practice the same unfair practices should a natural disaster occur in your state. As insurers record massive profits using your hard earned money, the least they can do is fairly pay claims.
Demand that your State Officials hold the Insurance Industry accountable
Like Katrina and Rita, victims of other natural disasters, including past hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes have found themselves bullied by the insurance industry into accepting less compensation than they deserved or had their claims rejected for apocryphal reasons, all in an effort to boost the insurance companies’ bottom line. In fact, insurance companies continue to increase their profits, posting a record industry-wide profit for the second year in a row of more than $60 billion in 2006 – an increase of $20 billion from 2005’s record profits.
With all that money handy, the industry still can’t make equitable payments to compensate for the damaged dreams of the people of the Gulf Coast.