How do you spot a bad lawyer? As with other things as the global health crisis recedes, many see an uptick in bad lawyers and bad lawyering. But is this really the product of the pandemic, or is it a longer-term trend? Many think the latter, as some of the things we see today appear to be part of a decline in core fundamental legal values that has been occurring for some time. James Bellerjeau has a thoughtful piece at the ACC Docket where he runs through the right to defense, the right to fairness and the equal application of law, and poses questions that should get all lawyers thinking. Those who have been practicing for some time may find the items thought-provoking while those who have joined the legal ranks recently might be surprised to hear how things used to be.
“The comedians among the public are itching to say something like: “Did they graduate from a law school?” Or: “Are they admitted to practice law?” Lawyer jokes are rampant because lawyers, sadly, live up to and exceed the public’s worst expectations of us. I’m thinking beyond sleazy personal injury lawyers and slithery prosecutors. Today, I want to explore with you how we really feel about one of the hardest legal duties: staying objective in difficult circumstances and upholding the rule of law….We learn in school about the rule of law and how preserving it is vital to maintaining a democratic society. We tell ourselves we operate in nations of laws, not nations of individuals, where laws apply equally to all. So what is a lawyer to do when the facts point one way and the law another, when our potential client is truly odious, or when our personal beliefs go against what the law dictates? The answer is clear, at least for a law student, but in practice, lawyers’ behavior is anything but.”