24 Dec 2007
One thing I find disheartening – upsetting, actually – is the number of sites on the internet dedicated to denigrating lawyers.
Maybe it’s because as a lawyer, I don’t have the luxury of ignoring the central place in democracy that an independent bar and an independent judiciary must occupy. It is my constant obsession. That knowledge is with me each time I draft a pleading. Each time I sit down to negotiate and agreement for a client. Each time I stand up in court.
It’s there, because even the perception that a lawyer lacks integrity undermines the only guarantee we have in society that when we deal with each other – and when we deal with our governments – that we will be treated fairly.
That said, the standard mantras lawyers use to explain to themselves why the public takes such a dim view of the profession go only so far. When the jokes don’t stop; when the public clamours for the end of professional self-government; when the internet is rife with sites that decry the proliferation of absurd litigation (often for very good reason), and suggest lawyers are barely above criminality; and when people seriously purport to advise the public on how to deal with the profession (as if dealing with lawyers other than in an open and candid way is somehow misguided), then the profession must do some painful self-examination.
There must be a place, open to anyone who wants to contribute, where lawyers and others can go to examine and analyze ethical questions as they relate to lawyers, judges, the legal system and the judiciary.
Legal and ethical rules should be explained and applied in a clear-eyed, rational way, but it isn’t enough that a closed readership made up mainly of lawyers can understand the analysis. It must be a place where everyone’s input is welcome, and the analysis is understood by everyone – particularly non-lawyers.
When lawyers act in ways that exemplify and illustrate the noblest traditions of our profession, they should be commended. And when they don’t, the shortfall should be explained.
And that is what I hope to accomplish here. This is not a place for the apologist, but nor will it be a place where fuzzy-minded vitriol rules the day.
It is, however, a place for the high-minded. The idealists. The true believers in the once and future noble profession that safeguards our freedom and democracy.