Begging for Lawyers?

It is pretty common to hear people complain about there being too many lawyers. For whatever reason, many folks seem to think there are too many of us. What most of those folks seem to forget is that lawyers are subject to the same economic forces that shape all other industries. If there weren’t so many clients asking for legal help, there wouldn’t be so many people willing to pay for and suffer through 7 years of higher education to become lawyers. This creates a certain tension in the community. People profess to loathe lawyers until they need one; when they need one, they wish there were more of them available. That is why a recent article in the American Bar Association’s Journal (August 2013) caught my attention. James Silenat, the incoming president of the ABA, has made creating a job corps for lawyers a top agenda item. This program would make more attorneys available to underserved communities. In the article, South Dakota is highlighted as one of the places facing a dire shortage of lawyers. The article notes that in some places in South Dakota, people have to travel over 200 miles to find a lawyer. The South Dakota legislature has even set up a fund to help pay for young attorneys to practice in towns with no lawyers. At first glance, this might not seem like the best use of resources. Shouldn’t the money go to funding more rural medical clinics or schools? After all, lawyers don’t diagnose cancer or educate the young. However, upon closer scrutiny, funding legal services in underserved communities does make sense. Without lawyers available, who is going to assist the family who is being wrongfully foreclosed, the single parent who is being improperly evicted, the person who was injured by another person’s negligence? If those things happen to you, a lawyer is the only person that is going to help you right the wrong. Whether you love or loathe us, there is no real debate that the only profession that has consistently protected the rights and interests of the citizens are lawyers. It is what we do. It is what we have always done. It is who we are. Every person who claims to support the country should support the ACLU Which brings me back to something that has always made me laugh and cringe at the same time. From time to time I’ll seen on bumper stickers and t-shirts the quote, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” I’m guessing most folks who adorn this sentiment don’t think highly of my profession. I’m also guessing they don’t see the irony in the statement when placed in the context of its source. It comes from Henry The Sixth (Part 2) by Shakespeare. Jack Cade, who has plans to make himself an autocrat and control the lives of common people, draws hapless Dick the Butcher into his scheme. Dick delivers the quote in response to Jack’s plea to the people to support him in his quest for control of the government. Dick recognizes on some level that lawyers might be the group that would stand in the way of Jack’s evil plan. Thus, the same folks who wear the shirt suggesting we lawyers be killed might be clamoring for our help when a Jack Cade enters the picture.