Columns > Published on July 16th, 2014

Lawyers: Pros or Cons? Part 2 — Why You Should Love Lawyers

I blame the bad reputation of lawyers on two things: ambulance chasers and American popular culture. 

Having worked in a jurisdiction with limited compensation claims and advertising of personal injury cases, moving to North America was a bit of a shock. Lawyers… advertise? No win, no fee? Lawyers need to beg for work on billboards in Vegas?

I love Saul Goodman. You love Saul Goodman. EVERYONE loves “You better call Saul” Goodman. But honestly, characters like Saul (and other characters you can see in my best and worst of fictional lawyers column) do nothing to help the reputation of lawyers.

We are among the most highly regulated of industries, under the most scrutiny, and take serious oaths that make us accountable more than most humans ever are in their day job.  We work long hours and receive constant abuse from clients, the judiciary, colleagues and other lawyers. It really can be a tough gig.

There are bad eggs, like in any profession. But most of us are honest and hard-working. And here are some of the reasons why you really should love us.

I blame the bad reputation of lawyers on two things: ambulance chasers and American popular culture.

1.   We’re your defenders

Lawyers like a fight, but we don’t like pointless arguments. We like arguments with data, facts, and logical discussions. Fights that we can WIN. Sure, we’re getting paid to argue on your behalf, but that is the very reason you’re going to get the best damn argument from us that you can.

There are going to be days where you don’t have the energy to talk to people about your book, or custody case, or your traffic infringement matter, but your lawyer will. They’re going to be that person who will argue your best case and negotiate your best position.

2.   We’re your therapists

Years ago, I had a client once who would cry during every phone discussion we had.

We’d talk about her case, about what happened in court that day, about what she and I both needed to do, and about the time frames we needed to do things within.

And then she’d cry, and tell me about how it was ruining her life. About how much pressure it was putting on her relationships, and the strain it was causing in her marriage. About how her husband was turning into a bitter, angry man from litigation.

Sometimes she’d cry for half an hour. Sometimes it would only be five minutes. Sometimes she’d end up laughing at the end and saying I needed to charge her therapist rates (and early on in my career, therapist rates would have been more costly).

And every time she cried, I’d turn my timer off so she wouldn’t be charged. I did my best to tell her that she was allowed to have these feelings. And that she needed to cry when she felt like it. And that if it got too much to handle, there were free ways in Australia to see a therapist on a regular basis.

And my story isn’t one that exists in isolation. Every lawyer I know has a story like this that reoccurs on a regular basis. And I was a commercial lawyer — not even a family lawyer or a criminal lawyer!

3.   We’re your best friend — whether you like it or not

If you have a lawyer engaged, you’re probably going to hear from us more than you hear from your family and friends. If we don’t talk daily, it’s going to be every other day. You’ll get calls, emails, even perhaps a couple of old-fashioned letters!

And this isn’t to bump up our bills. One of the biggest complaints against lawyers is a lack of communication. So most lawyers do their utmost to see that their clients know exactly where their case is at.

4.   We care about you

Given the rep lawyers have, this may come as a surprise, but we actually care about you and the outcome of your matter. It doesn’t matter whether that’s a cease and desist letter when someone’s infringing your trademark, whether it’s getting you the best result in a traffic matter, or whether it’s helping you fight for your family in court — we care.

Yesterday, I was talking to a lawyer friend

She was devastated.

Her client just couldn’t take anymore litigation and was dropping her court case. This isn’t unusual. A lot of people can’t. It’s a financial, emotional, and mental strain you can’t understand unless you’ve been through it yourself.

But this was a custody hearing. And it meant that the father, who was still in prison, would gain custody of the child. The father saw this as “winning” and the mother, who had suffered ongoing domestic abuse at the hands of the father, had no support. She just couldn’t do it anymore.

You can see why my friend was devastated. For her client, and for her client’s child. And we all were. This woman, and this child, had a network of people that cared about her more than her own family did, and that network included people she didn’t even know.

Translating this into the literary world: if your lawyer sat down and revised your contract to have your manuscript published, they’re going to be as devastated as you are if the publishing company folds, leaving your manuscript baby orphaned.

Ed might tell you that we suck, but I can promise you, we are very real, very human, and very much on your side.

About the author

In a previous life, Jessica worked for 12 years in the legal industry, with her last purely legal role being the corporate counsel for a property management company in Australia. Since then, she’s been the editor for an online literary journal and currently manages a music/tech start-up. She also freelancers as a contract lawyer and content producer, and writes regular columns for Litreactor and Gypsy Girl.

Jessica’s fiction and poetry has appeared in or is upcoming in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (Aus), Beware the Dark (UK), Kaleidotrope, Plasma Frequency Magazine, and Pantheon Magazine.

She loves swimming, and like Peter Singer, considers herself a flexible vegan and focuses on the welfarist approach to animal rights.

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