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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
As my moniker suggests, I am a law student in Arizona. Generally, I would like peoples' opinions on the social reputation of attorneys, in general, in specific, and what one can do to improve that reputation. The rest here is a bit of background that might lend some background to my questions.

During my undergraduate work, I got a job at a small tax and transactional law firm digitizing their old files. Upon graduation, I'd been accepted into Queen Mary University of London to pursue my PhD in French History. Très classe. Well, the senior partner figured out that I wasn't stupid, so he turned me into a law clerk, and about a month later I applied to the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and was admitted. I applied because, honestly, I really enjoyed the lawyerly work. Perhaps because of my undergraduate work in 18th century French history, I'm rather sensitive to issues of social standing and reputation. And, I hear a good bit of gentle chiding from people when they hear I'm in law school ("oh, not another lawyer!").

Of course, I might just be drinking the kool-aid, but Western society has had lawyers since Antiquity. For whatever reason, we haven't really been able to shake ourselves of them, despite an astounding ability to kill kings, dictators, religious and ethnic minorities, etc...

Any thoughts, gentlemen?
 

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De Toqueville said that, in America, lawyers were the closest thing to a natural aristocracy. For what it's worth.
 

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Interesting question. It appears that lawyers in the abstract suffer from a bad reputation in the United States. As evidence, witness the proliferation of lawyer jokes, or the misuse of the Shakespeare line, "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

I think this negative opinion is a greater discredit to society than to lawyers.

On the other hand, it's my observation that actual lawyers--people who live, breathe, practice law, and interact with the members of their communities--tend to be held in good esteem. Many lawyers do lots of pro bono work for nonprofits, serve on planning commissions and other public bodies, and contribute greatly to the life of their community.

So fear not: you have chosen an honorable profession, to the extent you honor it by your actions. Almost thirty years into it, I continue to find it rewarding, challenging, and worthwhile.

Oh yes--I should say this: we already have our share of jerks. Don't be one of them.
 

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You may find this recent Gallup Polls to be of interest:

https://www.gallup.com/poll/112264/Nurses-Shine-While-Bankers-Slump-Ethics-Ratings.aspx

https://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/Honesty-Ethics-Professions.aspx

Whatever the public perceptions, as in most endeavors if you conduct yourself in an honorable way then your reputation will be something to be proud of even if others who do not know you shy away from your general profession.

In my own experience over the last twenty five years in politics, law, and among people engaged in business it seems that every profession has its share of jerks, idiots, greedy fools and miscreants but for some reason a lot of people think the law is burdened with more than its fair share. I think this started when lawyers began to advertise themselves on billboards and the like. (It used to be illegal to advertise, a nice irony.) What once was a quiet and nearly priestly profession became a loudly profane one to a great many people who are regularly entreated on TV during their leisure hours to sue anyone that has wronged them in any way and all for the chance at a big pile of cash. The public at large apparently does not make many distinctions between the fools on TV and the profession in general.

So we have the folks that want you to sue for slip-and-fall injuries lumped in with the men and women trying to win cases to bring justice to the world. It is a sad lack of distinction that is troubling but not really that surprising given that in the United States the law is the last self-regulating, vertically-integrated monopoly. (It is notoriously hard to police oneself as all religious traditions attest.) The profession has allowed it self to extend and aggrandize in such ways that not only does it attract the stereotypical greedy shyster in more colorful number but also that such people are now often in the front of the public imagination thanks to advertising and television. (There is also the uniquely California problem of lots of non-ABA accredited law schools churning out graduates that seem to have a peculiar view of things.)

So what can you do? Again, if you're and honorable person and have an honorable practice you will make an honorable difference. Dick the Butcher's exclamation need not apply to you at all. :icon_smile:
 

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Western society has had lawyers since Antiquity. For whatever reason, we haven't really been able to shake ourselves of them, despite an astounding ability to kill kings, dictators, religious and ethnic minorities, etc...
Consider that cockroaches have been around longer than lawyers and there are large companies out there that make their living off of trying to exterminate them. Some things are just meant to be.

Just kidding. Some of my best friends are attorneys and they tell me most of the lawyer jokes that I know. I think that if you do like my attorney friends and practice law with honesty and integrity, all the while maintaining a sense of humor because the jokes aren't likely to go away, you will get along just fine as an attorney. Good luck in your future career. :icon_smile:

Cruiser
 

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Good lawyers suffer the same reputation as bad lawyers. It goes with the job, I guess.
There are two problems with the bad lawyers. The first is hopeless incompetence. The second is willful corruption.
This is actually the fault of the good lawyers. By trying to ignore the bad, the otherwise good lawyers become less than honorable. It is their duty to police themselves but generally refuse to even acknowledge any problems exist. Thus we have corruption at every level and incompetence in every court. Throw in corrupt and lunatic judges and the legal system becomes a farce.

Thus it is YOUR duty to clean up this mess...assuming you plan to be a good lawyer.
 

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The real question is will YOU be happy practicing law?

"...In Authentic Happiness, Professor Seligman also refers to a poll conducted in the United States in 1992 which found that 52 per cent of practising lawyers described themselves as "dissatisfied", and notes a John Hopkins University research survey which found that lawyers are the most depressed group in the United States. According to the James Hopkins study, while lawyers have now surpassed doctors as the highest-paid professionals in the United States, lawyers suffer from depression at a rate 3.6 times higher than employed persons generally."
 

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Law school sucks! Before I began law school I was the guy who wanted to be a lawyer more than anything else. Now I hate it. If it isn't the thing you want to do more than anything else in the world you'll never make it through your 1L year. Law school isn't like other graduate schools where once you are in the professors will make sure you do fine. There are 180 people in my class all competing for top 10%. Take that times a lot of law schools and you have a lot of people trying to differentiate themselves and trying to get a few jobs.

In other words, don't go to law school just because the opportunity presented itself. It is the one time not to listen when opportunity knocks.
 

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I know a handfull of lawyers that are truly highly respected. They are not only attorneys, but also CPAs. I think having multiple facets and being able to apply your core skill in business is what creates value.

I find the same true of CPAs that don't have their MBA. The business world is just as full of as many "bean counter" jokes as lawyer jokes because of CPAs that only know accounting.

Certainly having any one of the post-graduate credentials represents a rigorous education and board exam experience that will open many doors, but a successful career and good reputation is about ethical behavior and competence once you get in the door.

All of these processes tend to weed out those that don't belong or really want to be there. That's half the fun! ;)
 

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Interesting question. It appears that lawyers in the abstract suffer from a bad reputation in the United States. As evidence, witness the proliferation of lawyer jokes, or the misuse of the Shakespeare line, "First thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

I think this negative opinion is a greater discredit to society than to lawyers.
Jack
I think that in todays society lawyers suffer from a bad reputation globally and second yes that Shakespeare line gets regular breathing space but IMO there has been one great lawyer Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi now if you want a beacon of civic & ethical virtue there is your man.
 

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My recollection is that it wasn't the ABA, it was a court decision, possibly from the Supreme Court, in a case involving the law firm of Bates and Osteen.

The local bars did everything they could to stifle advertising and competition for decades, including promulgating required fee schedules (it was prohibited to charge less, not more).

I'm sure a lot of people don't like advertising, but there are people who wouldn't know where to start looking, or who might not even know they had a valid claim, in the absence of advertising.
 

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Hmmm. . .

A few somewhat funny observations (my wife is an attorney):

-almost all the lawyers we know (and are friends with) are divorced.
-many complain about the decline in social stature of the lawyer. I once heard it lamented by another attorney over dinner that lawyers were the "new accountants." I could barely contain myself, not being an attorney mind you.
-few of our good friends that are attorneys work at firms anymore. Many have gone in-house or into other fields.
-the ones that work at firms are not happy per se (excepting some partners and even they are less than pleased at what associate salaries have become). My wife was not happy before she left. She began at a regional firm, moved to a big global firm and left inside of a year to work in-house. I rarely saw her when she worked at the big firm. Working from 9am-2am was the norm.

In short, it is what you do, not who you are. Good luck on your endeavors and heed the calling of your conscience.
 

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I agree with those saying the problem is in the self-policing aspects. When a lawyer goes off the deep end, it seems that there are rarely any repercussions from the bar. The only medium/high profile lawyer that has been disbarred recently, that I can think of, is Jack Thompson, and that was after *years* of well documented misconduct, and dozens of contempt warnings and charges from various judges and courts.

I know quite a few lawyers, and they all seem nice. I've met a few awful lawyers as well, and they are every bit as arrogant and obnoxious as you'd expect them to be from their media appearances.
 

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What self-policing?

Whre I practice (Vermont) we are licensed by the Supreme Court. There is a professional office, independent of any bar association, charged with investigating and prosecuting allegations of misconduct. As with other professions, cases are presented to a board, which hears evidence and makes a proposed decision. Final decisions on discipline are made by the Supreme Court, and they don't always adopt the conclusions of the Professional Conduct Board.

Disbarments and major suspensions are not a common occurrence, but they definitely happen. For several years I was reviewing every Vermont Supreme Court decision on attorney discipline, and by no stretch of the imagination were they giving miscreant lawyers an easy time.

I suspect some commenters may have a misguided or outmoded view of how attorney discipline works.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
My recollection is that it wasn't the ABA, it was a court decision, possibly from the Supreme Court, in a case involving the law firm of Bates and Osteen.

The local bars did everything they could to stifle advertising and competition for decades, including promulgating required fee schedules (it was prohibited to charge less, not more).

I'm sure a lot of people don't like advertising, but there are people who wouldn't know where to start looking, or who might not even know they had a valid claim, in the absence of advertising.
A case from Arizona I'm given to understand.
 

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At least you're not a politician. :icon_smile_big:

There is a great deal of diversity to the practice of law. Attorney's who deal in estate or tax planning are often highly regarded. Other fields, such as real estate law are rarely looked down upon. Some of the criminal, workers comp, civil liability lawyers tend to give the profession a bad name.

Decide what part of law it is you will feel most rewarding and go with it. The fact that you even thought to ask this question indicates that you'll tend toward the more "respectable" fields. As a CPA/MBA I would recommend joining the law degree with a CPA. Even if you don't like numbers, as a lot of attorney's don't, a tax CPA is really a person that deals with tax law. You might find that helping people in that manner a rewarding career path.
 

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Some of the criminal, workers comp, civil liability lawyers tend to give the profession a bad name.
I'm not a lawyer, but my guess is that it is people like you who say such things that gives attorneys in those field a bad name.
 
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