Why you should never ever feel down about being a lawyer
‘Let’s kill all the lawyers‘: so goes the infamous line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI.
Jokes about lawyers are a perennial source of amusement to those who would do our profession down. Even worse are the times when we find ourselves the subject of scorn and criticism. High profile cases about lawyers who have lied and manipulated the facts of a case to suit their own purposes (ahem, Constance who?) hardly help raise our collective profile.
Next time you tell someone you’re a lawyer and they make a reference to extortionate fees, ambulance chasing or being a ‘liar, sorry lawyer’, remember you are part of a noble and historic profession.
The following list exists to remind you just how important our work can be.
Forget the likes of Constance Briscoe. Be a lawyer. Be proud.
1) Rule of law
Even you, insignificant you, are helping to reinforce one of the cornerstones of democracy. The English rule of law is something to be proud of, and as lawyers, we uphold the integrity of the institution.
Whether a transactional lawyer, providing clients with well-drafted, enforceable contracts, or a litigator helping clients achieve a fair and independent hearing, we give businesses and investors confidence in the English system, helping to build the economy.
It might not always seem it when you’re mediating between squabbling clients or reviewing a business transfer agreement at 2am on a Saturday, but it’s true: you’re part of something noble.
2) Saving clients cash
Sure, lawyers’ fees are expensive, but what about the money we SAVE clients? Structuring deals to maximise efficiency, drafting contracts to minimise the risk of future disagreements and helping clients avoid expensive regulatory breaches are all ways we help clients reduce the burden on their wallets.
Oh, and the odd client function where we chuck free booze at them can’t hurt their bank balance either.
3) We’re honest, guv
The bread and butter of PSLs, and the subject of many a boring lecture at law school, the professional and ethical standards set by the SRA should be a matter of pride for us all. Next time you’re told that all lawyers are lying scumbags, start reciting the Code of Conduct to your accuser. You’ll either win them over or put them to sleep: either way, you’ve got them off your back.
4) Loadsa money
The latest figures show that lawyers contributed over £20 billion to the UK economy in 2011 – for the record, that’s over a third more than accountants.
The UK is the largest single legal services market in the EU and more international and commercial disputes are resolved in London under English law than in any other city in the world.
Plus, think of all that money we put back into the economy: propping up that bar at Balls Brothers doesn’t come cheap.
5) Giving back
Almost two thirds of solicitors do some pro bono work during their career, the majority in private practice.
In 2013, the amount of pro bono work provided was valued at a whopping £488 million. This is on top of all the low paid, legal aid work that gets done and the non-legal charity work that many lawyers undertake.
6) Media, dahling
Without lawyers, the world of film and television would be a boring place.
No John Grisham novels to adapt (and for Tom Cruise to ruin), no heart warming tales of working class Moms taking on the bad guys and winning, no nail biting courtroom scenes. We inspire drama and action.
7) Political training ground
Legal training is an excellent grounding for a life in politics. Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama all worked as lawyers before becoming politicians, developing their debating and problem-solving skills in the legal arena.
We’ll gloss over the fact that politicians have an even worse reputation than lawyers and focus instead on the quality of the training that lawyers receive. By availing themselves of a legal education, these people were equipped to run entire countries.
Now that makes me proud. LM