Jokes mocking lawyers are popular but unfairly brand an honorable profession
We shouldn’t let the grandstanding TV rhetoric from Trump’s lawyers shape our opinions of the legal profession
By David Maril
It’s always fashionable to knock lawyers.
People who wouldn’t attempt to tell a funny joke to save their lives can recite insulting wisecracks about the legal profession.
The fact attorneys are held in such a low esteem came to mind the other day when Marc E. Kasowitz, PresidentDonald Trump’s personal lawyer, made a fool of himself sending expletive-filled emails, which were published in ProPublica, that he’d sent to one of his critics.
As the president, his family and associates are starting to feel more heat from the investigations taking place surrounding his campaign and dealings with Russia, the process of lawyering up is well underway.
Trump is beefing up his army of lawyers and recently signed Ty Cobb. In contrast to the Hall of Fame baseball player who was a singles hitter, this Cobb is known as a Washington power player with a lot of clout.
If words speak louder than action, there’s little doubt the president can use a heavy hitter on his defense team.
So far, some of the press conferences and TV appearances of his lawyers have been, at best, embarrassing. Their talking points lack credibility and sound as if they were composed by Trump propagandist Kellyanne Conway.
Making matters worse, Trump often completely contradicts what they are saying a few hours, or a day, later with his tweets and flippant remarks.
The public reaction is that you’d expect nothing less or more from lawyers, who self-righteously talk out of both side of their mouths.
IN 2004 AND 2008, when then Democratic hopeful John Edwards announced his intention to seek his party’s nomination for the presidency, derisive comments surfaced immediately about his legal background.
Before serving a term in the U.S. Senate, Edwards had been 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.
His detractors made 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 that he was defending the rights of innocent victims was downplayed.
It turned out Edwards, of course, had bigger problems to deal with, related to infidelity to his wife and an affair that resulted in a child out of wedlock. He also was indicted on six counts of campaign finance violations. The former U.S. Senator was found not guilty on one account and the other charges were dropped when the federal judge declared a mistrial.
However, all of this just added to the low opinion, related to character, so many people have of lawyers.
UNLESS IT’S IN THE CONTEXT of a television program, lawyers today do not get much 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, working as 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 complained after 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.
I have always believed lawyers who 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 sue and demand unreasonable sums of settlement money.
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 has been a columnist, sports editor and copy editor at three newspapers published in Massachusetts, winning numerous writing and section-design awards. As sports editor of the Milford Daily News, he covered the Boston Red Sox, Celtics and the New England Patriots. At the Brockton Enterprise he served as vice president of the newspaper’s guild, dealing with contract negotiations and workforce issues through difficult economic times. He also served on the board of the Boston Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, where he is a lifetime member and voter in Major League Baseball’s annual Cooperstown Hall of Fame balloting. For several years was a columnist for Voice Of Baltimore. The son of the late artist Herman Maril, whose work is included in over 100 museum collections, David splits his time between Cape Cod, MA and Baltimore, MD. He currently serves as president of the Herman Maril Foundation, which supports curatorial projects, art education programs and exhibitions related to the study of his father’s work. The website, featuring his father’s artwork, is hermanmaril.com. A graduate of Park School in Brooklandville, MD, David majored in English at Clark University in Worcester, MA.
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