Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Lawyer Malpractice Conference

April 30th, 2014 is the first day of the American Bar Association's Spring 2014 National Legal Malpractice Conference, to be held in Boston.  Each year the ABA sponsors conferences to help lawyers keep up with current legal developments, avoid conflicts of interest, and follow best practices in  professional ethics.

Do you think lawyers are ethical and competent?

Jokes about lawyers typically present them in the opposite light.
Most lawyer jokes display outright hostility toward lawyers.

But are lawyers getting a bad rap?  It wasn't always so.

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."  This line, from a play by Shakespeare, is one of the most misunderstood phrases of all time.  Taken out of context, as it so often is, it functions as yet another lawyer joke.  Consider its original context, however.

In Shakespeare's Henry VI, the villain Dick the Butcher, follower of a deviant demagogue who is plotting to overthrow the government, said that the first thing any potential tyrant must do to eliminate freedom was "to kill all the lawyers". Thus, in its original context, lawyers were seen as the honest and indispensable protectors of justice.

To judge from the large number of articles in law journals about professional ethics and responsibility, lawyers are very concerned about these issues. Lawyers also know that they have a dismal popular reputation, and they write about that too.  A good article on this topic, for example, is by Ronald D. Rotunda, "The legal profession and the public image of lawyers", 23 Journal of the legal profession, pp. 51-64 (1999). Rotunda analyzes how the lawyer can never be universally liked, since the lawyer so often operates in an adversarial system.  People have disdain for lawyers, yet when looking for a lawyer they report desiring exactly the qualities they claim to disdain. Even when justice is obtained, people feel dissatisfied, because justice did not come to their door freely and unhindered, and the lawyer is an easy target to blame. Yet, the more experience people have with lawyers, the more positive is their reported opinion of lawyers.

You can read more about lawyers, including the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct, the Board of Bar Overseers, Limited Assistance Representation, how to choose a lawyer, how to file a complaint, and much more on our webpage "Massachusetts Law About Lawyers".

The Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries also have books about legal malpractice and other topics relating to lawyers.

If you get a library card with the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries, you can read Ronald Rotunda's article, and many others, for free online by logging onto the HeinOnline database.