It may seem hard to believe, but the “movement” to celebrate today, and other “first Fridays” as “Love your Lawyer Day,” really is gaining momentum, with the Law Practice Division of the ABA passing a Resolution in support.
Why does this get the ironic juices flowing? Perhaps because it suggests that lawyers are an under-appreciated group, in need of love and understanding.
Well, as cited in the Law Practice resolution, there may be negative feelings in the world about lawyers (only 21% consider us honest and trustworthy) given how much money moves into the profession, and given the power we have to protect ourselves through self-regulation, it seems that putting ourselves in this victim type position is likely to increase cynicism rather than “love” for lawyers.
The resolution, for example, in addition to asking that the day be “a day for the public to celebrate lawyers and express their gratitude to them for their affirmative contributions to the public good and the administration of justice” only specifically urges that “Lawyers throughout the nation are urged to celebrate “Love Your Lawyer Day” to help promote a positive and more respected image of lawyers and their contributions to society and that they do so by providing pro bono legal services to their communities and supporting charitable causes that promote the administration of justice.”
In other words, the only three fixes to our reputation are: asking for love, doing pro bono, and making charitable contributions.
Sorry, but I don’t think that’s going to fix the problem.
At the risk of being over-earnest, here are some more, most of these focused on access to justice, because that is the area that causes the most exclusion (although there are plenty of other problems with the profession that lead us to seek love rather than improvement):
- Playing a far more active advocacy and financial role in access to justice, including significant institutional financial contributions
- Making a committement to play a major role in helping the system meet the Chiefs Resolution on 100% access to justice
- More serious institutional commitment to pro bono, beyond exhortation
- Serious research into the inherent tensions in the lawyer role as representing the unpopular (including the poor and other “takers”), and figuring out how to explain that tension to the public (actually they get a lot of exposure to that in the media and entertainment industries, so one might wonder why it does not have more effect)
- Reflection about the extent to which the profession, through its pricing and structure, is largely aligned with wealth and power, and further centralization thereof, including figuring out how to make ourselves genuinely diverse in our loyalties and impact
- Figuring out how we can have more impact on those powerful institutional clients — how many firms do good pro bono (and get a lot of praise for it) while supporting mandatory arbitration clauses, with their appalling anti-access and anti-equality components
- One possibility would be the profession endorsing a Sullivan Principles type approach to getting client corporations to engage in access to justice friendly practices, such as not requiring such clauses
- Taking a much more serious access to justice look at deregulation
- Including access to justice on the bar exam
Any other ideas?
(Thanks to Responsive Law for getting me thinking about this.)