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mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

Do you see being a lawyer as a respectable job?

Asked by mathsphysicsnormally (324points) December 28th, 2010

Taking a job trying to get your client found innocent regardless of if he is guilty or not or finding your opponent as guilty regardless of if you think he’s guilty or not.

:/ I’d just like to hear what are your reasons for finding it respectable or not

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25 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

There are so many more aspects, dimensions and specialties to lawyering than being just a litigation attorney. A good friend set off and became and environmental attorney and now lives in the North woods working for the EPA doing what ever an environmental attorney does. I thought that was very respectable thing to do.

marinelife's avatar

Practicing law is a very respectable occupation.

For defense attorneys, everyone is entitled to fair legal representation.

As for prosecutors, they are not supposed to proceed with prosecution if they think someone is innocent.

Then there are all kinds of other attorneys, attorneys who draw up wills and contracts.

Your view of the law seems like it might be garnered from TV and is equally two-dimensional.

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

I’m not saying I’m right so I’m not going to argue this to the hill I want to hear other peoples side.

Fair? If you go against a large company they can pay for more and better lawyers to go against you and can win due to them having so much money, that’s not fair to me.

Thanks for the reply.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t think that you have quite grasped some of the fine principles of the legal system. An attorney doesn’t serve to “get [a] client found innocent”, but he may be able to present a good enough advocacy / defense so that a jury finds him “not guilty” by the rules of the trial and the legal system under which a suit is brought. In a criminal trial, a defendant has to be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”. So if an attorney can help to introduce reasonable doubt about a client’s guilt, then he can’t be found guilty.

There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s how the system is intended to function.

Not_the_CIA's avatar

@mathsphysicsnormally – But that isn’t the lawyers fault. Blame the people that hire them.

mathsphysicsnormally's avatar

Sorry that was my fault saying they get a client found innocent, thanks for the reply.

mammal's avatar

it can be. it can also be an extremely devious, unscrupulous profession, or it can be pretty administrative, all depends on the pay grade and the individual practitioner.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I had a lawyer friend describe your clinet scenario as getting the best deal possible for his client. If the guy was guilty and the evidence was there he was trying to get him the fairest sentence. That made sense to me. On the other side of the coin there are a ton of unscrupulous dickheads practicing as well.

SavoirFaire's avatar

The role of the defense attorney has already been clarified, but it’s worth noting that the prosecutor’s job is not to convict the defendant regardless of whether or not he is guilty. In fact, prosecutors face severe penalties if caught trying to convict someone who they believe to be not guilty.

As for the respectability of lawyers, the only problem is that there are too many of them. They all need business, so they lobby to make the law more complex and put out commercials suggesting that the solution to feelings of anger or entitlement is to sue. They need you to need them, and they want you to want them. But what we don’t need is people suing everyone left and right. A litigious society is not a civil society.

marinelife's avatar

@mathsphysicsnormally I did not say the legal system was fair. I don’t believe that it is fair.

Neurotic_David's avatar

In America, I see lawyers as generally being some of our best and brightest citizens. Is it a respectable profession? Absolutely, in my opinion. Are there lawyers whose actions or words are not worthy of our respect? Yes; just like in any other walk of life, there are bad actors.

As for defense lawyers, one of their primary roles is to provide a counter balance to the prosecution in an effort to promote fairness. I think we call that, “justice”. Without the counter balance, prosecutors and the police and the government would have too much power over the common people, in my opinion.

mammal's avatar

@Neurotic_David sure, but the `What do you call a thousand lawyers chained together at the bottom of the ocean? ’ joke, is still pretty funny….for good reason

Ron_C's avatar

O.k., I wasn’t going to answer this because my opinion of lawyers is not very high. The trouble with the profession is that they tend to lean towards the money rather than towards justice.

I think, for instance that the people that work for the Southern Law Project are good and decent people that really try to bring about a just society. On the other hand, almost all corporate lawyers work for oligarchs and corporations that specialize in limiting human rights and shy away from responsibility.

So it boils down in to the branch selected and your conscience. In my experience, very few lawyers are born with a conscience although some have been known to develop one.

diavolobella's avatar

Most of what I’d have to say about this topic has already been covered. I would like to add, however, that legal representation in a criminal case is a right. If a person charged with a crime cannot afford an attorney, one is provided for them by the Public Defender’s Office or the judge will assign the case to a private attorney on a pro bono (free) basis. In those cases, the attorney or Public Defender has no choice but to provide representation. Despite how utterly reprehensible a person might seem, everyone in this country has the right to legal representation when they are charged with a crime. Without that, there could be no justice. The attorneys are not the ones who determine the guilt or innocence of a person. That is done by the jury or, in non-jury cases, by the judge. All the attorneys do is present their client’s case in the most vigorous manner possible. If they did not do their best, their client can always ask for a new trial based on insufficient counsel, so it is the duty of a defense attorney to do the best job they can.

Oh, and as far as taking on a large corporation and that corporation being able to pay for better lawyers, that might be true in some cases. However, most cases against large corporations are damages cases. Most attorneys will take a case like that on a contingency basis (they don’t get paid unless you win) if they think you have a decent case. So, your financial situation is not relevant.

diavolobella's avatar

Read that if you want to learn about an entire organization of lawyers who are doing work that is more than merely respectable, but fairly miraculous.

flutherother's avatar

Jobs aren’t respectable only the people that do them. There are honest plumbers and dishonest lawyers. A lawyer should always do his best for his client whether he thinks he is guilty or not. It can take a bit of moral courage to defend an unpopular client whom the mob assumes is guilty.

perspicacious's avatar

I’m a lawyer and no one has ever questioned my integrity.

Ron_C's avatar

@perspicacious maybe they’re afraid of being sued.

bkcunningham's avatar

@perspicacious you don’t open the mail from the penetentiary? (Just kidding. Some of my best friends are attorneys.)

perspicacious's avatar

I doubt it; I work mostly in family court. I don’t practice what I call crappy law.

john65pennington's avatar

I do not trust attorneys, unless they are a personal friend of mine and here is why: i have witnessed attorneys taking stolen property to represent their client. i have arrested two attorneys for possession of stolen property.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@john65pennington do you realize how irrational that sounds?

Here in Connecticut we recently had a young cop who spent most of the day drinking, then drove 70 mph at night in a 35 mph zone and killed a 15-year-old boy on a bicycle. He did it in the town where he works, and where his father (a sergeant on the force and active in the union) helped him get the job, since he had been rejected in applications at 5 other local police departments due to lack of qualification.

Another cop in another town nearby wrapped his cruiser around a telephone pole last summer, and was fired for being drunk while that happened.

Should I conclude from this that all cops are drunken fools with no other qualification for their jobs than the pull it took them to get the job in the first place?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@john65pennington What CyanoticWasp said. Your reasoning operates on the hasty generalization fallacy.

iamthemob's avatar

I think that @flutherother pretty much said it best. I’ll throw in a couple of things from an attorney perspective:

- the problems that most people tend to have with the profession of lawyers are often more about the law and the legal system, or the general problems associated with economic disparity.

- Outcomes that may seem unfair on an individual level, whether as the result of a ruling or a settlement/plea negotiation, may be viewed as necessary to ensure that greater harm does not result (e.g., a plaintiff being forced to settle for something well below the actual value of a tort case against a large corporation in a case where awarding or paying the actual value of the claim would bankrupt the corporation so that (1) it is likely that no amount of the settlement will be paid in the bankruptcy, and also (2) the employees of the corporation are now unemployed).

- Lawyers walk a very difficult line in that they should not, professionally, act for themselves in representing a client. The lawyer is the legal voice of the client, much like an accountant is the financial voice.

I’ll second @SavoirFaire‘s statement seconding @CyanoticWasp‘s statement. Your statement, @john65pennington, is particularly troublesome considering that (1) if, based on your experience, attorneys are not trustworthy, then you cannot let your friends off the hook – unless you admit that it is not the profession, but rather the person, that determines the level of trust one should invest, and (2) I remember this question which painted an potentially negative portrait of cops as this does (without assuming an intent to do so) of lawyers. We both participated in that, and you were quick to jump in to defend cops generally. I jumped in immediately after, to emphasize that the job has particular pressures, but that most of the problems as well are with the legal system, and that generalizing about cops would give a very skewed picture of the profession.

I do wish that you would have turned that same lens on another profession outside your own, and particularly wish that, considering the previous support I had given, you would have at least refrained from badmouthing my profession, even if you did not support it yourself.

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