What is the world coming to when a lawyer asks why lawyers get such a bad name ?. Does it go something like lawyer lawyer on the wall who is the most crooked of us all ?
What a question to ask ! particularly on a day when a solicitor of 27 years in the profession (married, father of two) was found guilty of secretly filming women in a ladies bathroom next to his office. See here : Lawyer hid camera in ladies' loo
Of course, there are a few other reasons why lawyers might generally get a bad name ... ripping off thousands of clients a year perhaps ... the odd case of embezzlement too, threats of violence made by solicitors against clients who complain against their conduct, occasional 'attacks' on their own colleagues etc .. to name but a few reasons ....
Generally however, the reason lawyers get such a bad name, is because the legal profession itself is being run akin to the mafia, where the majority of complaints and scandals involving members of the legal profession are covered up by the Law Society of Scotland, and those who ruin clients generally get away with it.
Here are a few examples to shock you :
I could go on & on, as there are so many examples to quote … but that will suffice for now …
So, to answer Nial McCluskey's thoughts of why solicitors are getting a bad name, he should look no further than Drumsheugh Gardens itself, the current base of the Law Society of Scotland.
Perhaps Mr McCluskey should also look at the profession's antagonistic attitude towards almost anyone, not just clients, or complaining clients, but solicitors too, who might want to dissent from Law Society policy from time to time .. even suggest reforms which might repair relations with the public & clients, rather than stick to the Douglas Mill mantra of 'we will fight them in [and out of] their homes' approach .. a public confidence vote loser if ever there was one.
Law Society Chief Executive Douglas Mill – now there was a man who knew exactly how to ruin clients claims & complaints against crooked lawyers !
If the legal profession were to take a different approach to clients & the public at large ... less of the 'let's rip them off' philosophy, and more of the 'look, this is what we can do for you, in such a space of time, at such a cost or risk' attitude .. then I'm sure the road to getting the public to view lawyers higher up the life chain than worms would be started.
There is a problem though .. in that recent attempts to ‘clean up’ the legal profession’s image, have been hijacked by the legal profession again, resulting in the following stories, which people should take note of :
So, it seems ideas to clean up the legal profession’s image, and its many sins, cannot come solely from either politicians or the legal profession itself .. as they are doomed to certain failure.
Of course, if you ask me, and probably just about anyone who has been ruined by a lawyer .. if the legal profession and solicitors really want to get themselves noticed .. now, really want to do something good to start the ball rolling on repairing client-solicitor relations .. they need to tackle and repair their profession's sins of the past. As simple a step as that, and one which would certainly bring wide recognition from the public and the country .. doing a lot of good for all concerned too ...
Here's an idea for Niall McCluskey and his fellow members of the Law Society of Scotland & Faculty of Advocates to consider : The polluter pays - Why cleaning up lawyers sins of the past would be good for the public & legal profession alike
Cleaning up the sins of the past .. now there is an honourable task for the legal profession to perform, but from my earlier article on the subject, you can see there are still a few within the Law Society who are dead against such moves, even to the point of engaging in political bullying & manipulation to stop the ideas dead.
If you really want to remove the misconceptions or ill conceived view of a poorly regulated, deeply corrupt legal profession .. tackle the root causes of those fairly well founded observations by clients .. and the legal profession will find that clearing up the damage it has done, is a certain vote winner with all concerned.
The Scotsman reports :
Niall McCluskey feels that the hatred of legal professionals is, on the whole, ill-conceived, as the vast majority are honest and necessary
BLANCHE Knott wrote: "There are three reasons why lawyers are replacing rats as laboratory research animals: One is that they are plentiful, another is that lab assistants don't get so attached to them, and the third is that they will do things that you just can't get rats to do."
It is difficult to conceive of how she could have been more disparaging of the legal profession.
Many people have tried. Consider this quote from writer and comedian Alan Whitney Brown: "A group of white South Africans recently killed a black lawyer because he was black. That was wrong. They should have killed him because he was a lawyer."
These kinds of jokes abound, and are symptomatic of the disapproval society exhibits towards the humble lawyer.
That lawyers are so hated is strange, because they play such a vital role in our society. There is even a proverb that backs this up: "He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client."
Lawyers assist the public in every conceivable way. In his novel Spring Snow Japanese author Yukio Mishima describes the law as: "A net with mesh so fine as to catch the most trivial incidents of daily life, yet its vast extension in time and space encompass even the eternal movements of the sun and stars." Law is essential and law is everywhere.
Lawyers are also perceived to have the power to improve their client's situation. This is summed up by comic Steven Wright who said: "I busted a mirror and got seven years bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five." So why does the profession receive such antagonism?
Firstly, lawyers become involved in people's lives at times of distress and are a significant and unwelcome expense.
Actress Claire Trevor once said: "What a holler would ensue if people had to pay the minister as much to marry them as they have to pay a lawyer to get them a divorce." This conveniently overlooks the fact that getting married is generally a terrific expense as well as being a very stressful experience.
In my view it is the association of the lawyer with the pain of divorce and not the expense that is the real issue.
Secondly, lawyers are perceived as parasitic and unnecessarily litigious. Scholar Robert Burton commented that lawyers were "so litigious and busy here on earth, that I think they will plead their clients' causes hereafter, some of them in hell".
There is also a German proverb that says: "When two dogs fight for a bone, and the third runs off with it, there's a lawyer among the dogs."
These are misconceived views. The majority of civil law cases settle, and in securing deals, lawyers are very conscientious about reducing client expense.
Thirdly, lawyers are perceived as dishonest. Screen actor Patrick Murray sneered: "A lawyer will do anything to win his case. Sometimes he will even tell the truth." American entertainer Will Rogers expanded on this theme: "I don't think you can make a lawyer honest by an act of legislature. You've got to work on his conscience. And his lack of conscience is what makes him a lawyer."
These are misleading observations. Because integrity is everything to a lawyer, as soon as a one is considered to be dishonest by colleagues or the court their career is in a downward spiral. I have met many persons of principle in the law who give their all for clients in every case they do. The lawyer's case is not helped by the legal system itself being perceived as a barrier to justice. Oliver Wendell Holmes is alleged to have said: "This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice."
A writer, Alice Koller, went further: "It takes a long time to learn that a courtroom is the last place in the world for learning the truth."
These are depressing observations, because if a courtroom is not, at least, an attempt to find the truth, we may as well all pack up and go home.
That said, any lawyer with experience will have, no doubt, despaired at cases where matters of form have triumphed over substantive issues. Furthermore, lawyers are perceived to add to these barriers by muddying the waters. Henry David Thoreau certainly believed this: "The lawyer's truth is not truth, but consistency or a consistent expediency. "
Finally, the law is perceived as remote and incomprehensible. Will Rogers summed this up by saying: "The minute you read something that you can't understand, you can be almost sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer."
It is an axiom that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but how can that be justified in a legal landscape that spans European law, vast legislation, countless (usually obscure) statutory instruments and increasingly lengthy and complex case law. Most lawyers are ignorant of areas of law other than the one or two fields in which they specialise.
The question that arises is: how do lawyers regain the respect of the public? There are no easy answers. Much of the prejudice against lawyers is irrational and unjustified.
Lawyers are necessary when people are in crisis. One message that lawyers need to get across is that they are vocationally motivated to assist people in their hour of need. The profession also needs to educate the public about its high ethical standards, and ensure that the legal system itself is not perceived as unhelpful.
The law also needs to be accessible. Take, for example, employment tribunals. Individuals are often required to represent themselves against highly specialised lawyers. How can that be right when it is acknowledged that employment law is a fast-moving and complex area?
Despite all of the abuse, law is a great career. Like politicians and journalists, lawyers have learned to harden their skins against a barrage of insults. Ideally, lawyers would be better understood and appreciated. But that's not what legal practice is about. The lawyer's job is to take the brickbats for clients and to adhere to their duties to the court. The lawyer's prerogative is not to worry about the admiration of the public.
• Niall McCluskey is an advocate