KILL THE LAWYERS ?
By: James M. Bright, Attorney at Law
The following is provided for informational purposes only and is not, nor should it be construed as legal advice.
"First let us kill all of the lawyers" may be the most resilient and popular quote still in use since penned by William Shakespeare in the 16th century. It seems to express a sentiment behind which many in the unwary segment of the general public are most anxious to rally without thought of consequence.
As liberal arts students may recall in the play Henry VI,the proposed purpose of "killing the lawyers" was to throw the kingdom into turmoil and thereby gain advantage. The same regime that made such a bold suggestion also sentenced the Clerk of Chatham to death for being literate and placed the head of Lord Say upon a pole for the grievous transgression of building a grammar school.
Both local and national media have had a field day during the past few years taking pot shots at the legal system. A recent T.V. movie got a nice chuckle from,"... getting everything done before they had to fly back to their coffins at dawn." "baJay Leno regularly gets a hearty laugh from this national "bash the lawyer" passtime, but my favorite always has been and continues to be--"Do you know the difference between a catfish and a lawyer ?" "One is a bottom-feeding slime sucker and the other is a fish!"
Contrary to what many in the public may believe, the vast majority of lawyers that I know actually enjoy the jokes and are not upset by them. What is upsetting is that many people do not know the difference between the joke and reality and would join the masses to assist in placing Lord Say's head upon the pole.
It has become very popular to declare the American system of justice absurd and unworkable. We have all been bombarded, badgered and beat with often-quoted statistics of the number of lawyers per capita in Japan versus the number in the United States. These statistics are normally quoted in an effort to shame us for being a litigious society and to show how much less national resource is consumed by litigation in Japan.
What each of these statistic-quoting critics fails to mention is that for much of Japan’s history organized crime in Japan controlled many types of conflict resolutions which U.S. citizens have demanded be resolved by a jury of their peers. For example, if you were involved in an auto accident in Japan, and the party at fault refused to "do what was right", you may have hired the Yakuza (a Japanese version of the mafia) to persuade the errant party to do justice. (It is unclear who defined justice.) The same procedure may be utilized if a debtor becomes delinquent in making payments. I don't know how you feel, but I would just as soon not have my knees broken because my department store credit payment was overdue.
Until and unless we are willing to follow the Japanese plan and to place our fate in the hands of a few who exist through raw power, it should be obvious, even to the casual observer, that fewer lawyers is not the answer to conflict resolution. I would even be so bold as to propose that the more lawyers that we have, the closer we can come to “ideal justice”(an ill-defined term closely akin to Plato's "idea of the good"). To carry this proposition to its logical extreme, if every person on earth was a competent lawyer capable of presenting his cause in court, then every person would have an equal voice in the system.
It is not claimed that this logical extreme would be either practical or desirable. If everyone was a lawyer, it would not take us long to miss the farmers, doctors, teachers, grocerymen, computer scientists, truckers, etc., etc. The point is that the legal profession may not be completely deserving of the drubbing from statistic-spouters in light of the fact that the swelling numbers of attorneys bring us that much closer to the concept of ideal justice.
It is even suggested that the next time that we hear a comment concerning numbers of lawyers or the litigious nature of our society that we throw out our chests and exhibit our national pride by replying,"Thanks, you're right; we are a very civilized nation."
Let us not place ourselves in the position of having some less enlightened person say, "First let's kill all the lawyers,"and responding by saying, "I'll get the pole.”
James Bright is admitted to practice before the Federal Courts for the Southern District of Texas and Eastern District of Texas as well as all of the Justice Courts, Probate Courts, County Courts at Law, District Courts, Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court for the State of Texas. He maintains an office in Houston and by appointment another at 208 McCown Street in the heart of historic Montgomery. Contact may be made by telephone (936) 449-4455 or (281) 586-8277. For more information about wills or probate in Texas, please see- www.houstontxprobate.com