Thursday, December 10, 2009

We Lawyers Suck Worse Than Last Year

Trial and Jury Consultant Dennis Elias posted this gem yesterday about how far we lawyers have fallen in the category of ethics & honesty - in just one year.

The article is a fascinating, but not surprising summary of what people think of various professions.

Making the highest gain - police.

Making the largest drops - lawyers, and worse, clergy.

We're better than priests?

Not really, they just dropped more than us this year.

Maybe the clergy have lost our respect due to the various sex scandals, or maybe people think God is not doing enough to help the economy. I don't know.

But let's talk about lawyers.

Lawyers dropped from 18% to 13%. So I guess 87% of the public don't hold lawyers in high esteem.

Here's my suggestion of how we change this:

Do nothing.

Lawyers started losing the respect of the public when advertising became rampant. Lawyers then became no different than retail shops and car dealerships. We've taken the advertising baton and sprinted with it. We are everywhere, and ready to "fight for you," for a "reasonable fee."

Our Bar associations have beaten their heads against the wall - instituting pro bono initiatives and pumping our profession at every opportunity.

It's a waste of time.

Ethics and honesty is individual. We can't turn this entire profession around, and we know it. We've lost any opportunity to return to a time when lawyers were the pillars of society. An individual lawyer may conduct him or herself in a way that garners a high level of respect, but one bad apple, or 87%, spoils the whole bunch in terms of public perception.

People hate lawyers, but may love their lawyer.

In reality, most lawyers are ethical and honest, regardless of the public thinking that's impossible for someone who "makes a lot of money.". But the public has lawyers in their faces every minute of every day, advertising, litigating, stealing, threatening, filing lawsuits they deem frivolous, and yes, occasionally doing something good. It's not juicy to though to report that a lawyer did something good. Pro bono work is the talk of Bar association award luncheons, and maybe a blurb in the Bar newsletter. When doctors go to foreign countries and treat people for free, that's news. When a lawyer represents someone for free, most think it's a requirement for being a "big bad" lawyer.

Bad things make news. When lawyers do bad things, that's what interests people.

We dropped 5% in one year. Why?

It doesn't matter.

My advice, don't lie, cheat, steal, try to give some of your time when you can, and do a good job for your clients.

It's no longer about the profession, it's about you, as a professional.

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Please visit


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the mention, Brian. Our experience is that a generic rating of "lawyers" evokes stereotypes and the attached biases. When asked to rate an individual lawyer with whom the rater is acquainted, e.g., "my lawyer", most folks tend to positively rate their advocate... unless they have had a direct experience of unethical or unprofessional treatment. The "field rating" of all of any class of professions tends to dissolve when relevant and direct personal relationships exist. You start in front of the jurors with stereotypes... it's up to you to become someone who runs counter to the code... counter to the type... and becomes known as an individual.