Thanksgiving for lawyers

November 20, 2014

A timely reminder of what we have to be thankful for

Image: Creative Commons

It’s almost Thanksgiving, when North Americans get together and give thanks for the harvest and the bounties of the preceding year. It’s a big deal, not least because it involves stuffing yourself silly with turkey and pumpkin pie.

This year, let us follow the example of our cousins across the Big Pond and show our gratitude for some of the movers and shakers in the legal world. Failing that, go and find some pie.

1.     King John

King John was the monarch who signed the Magna Carta, giving birth to the rule of law. Without this, there would be no law, no lawyers and no jobs for us.

As any Robin Hood fan knows, he was a bit of a b***ard. He only signed the charter to keep the peace with a group of rebel barons, and was deeply unenthusiastic about enforcing it. However, you don’t have to be nice to be successful (see Simon Cowell).

Thank you King John, Mr Nasty, for laying the foundation of our careers.

2.     Amal Alamuddin – aka Mrs George Clooney

That immaculate hair, gleaming white teeth, perfect clothes…no we’re not talking about Cherie Booth Q.C. A glamorous new idol has arrived in the legal world.

The marriage of Amal Alamuddin to George Clooney should give us all hope. Small girls will lie in bed at night, dreaming of becoming not princesses, but lawyers, in order to meet their handsome prince.

Thank you Amal, for showing us that lawyers can be sexy.

3.   Baroness Hale of Richmond

This woman is the Spice Girl of the legal world, introducing a bit of Girl Power into the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court. She was the first and so far, the only, woman ever to have been appointed as a Law Lord. On top of that, she is responsible for some far-reaching reforms in family law and repeatedly stands up for human rights issues.

Thank you Lady Hale, for leading the way.

4.   Donoghue and Stevenson

Ah, the cornerstone for any tort student and the founding fathers of the duty of care principle. Remember this one? The lady who drank the bottle of ginger beer with a snail in it who could sue, even though she hadn’t bought the drink, because she was owed a duty of care?

Without Mrs Donoghue, our litigation departments would be floundering and personal injury cases would collapse at the first hurdle. Our negligence actions would be limited to contractual relationships and the law would be much simpler – so fewer jobs for lawyers.

So, thank you Mrs D, for being a persistent old crone and fighting for that compensation. Although this brings us to our next thank you…

5.   Ms Liebeck (and the USA’s compensation culture)

Stella Liebeck was the claimant in the infamous McDonald’s case, being awarded $2.86 million for injuries caused by hot coffee. High profile cases like this have led to a widespread belief that lawyers are all ambulance chasing, heartless blood suckers.

The fact is that here in the UK, there just isn’t the large scale compensation culture that some people believe. People deserve compensation when genuine loss occurs, and that’s what lawyers exist for.

So thanks, Ms Liebeck, for contributing to the loss of our reputation. Come to think of it, maybe there’s a case in this somewhere?

6.   Ted Heath

Edward Heath was the prime minister who took the UK into the European Economic Community in 1973.

Love it or loathe it, the EEC, now the European Union, has created a whole raft of legislation for British industry. As always, more law means more lawyers. From competition and procurement experts to teacake fans, accession to the union has meant a whole new stream of work for people who can get to grips with our continental cousins.

So, thank you Mr Heath. It may not be the most popular of institutions, but it sure is a lucrative one for us.

7.   John Grisham

Finally, we thank Mr Grisham for churning out pop novels which have inspired a generation of lawyers to join the profession. Although becoming a lawyer on the back of The Rainmaker may be somewhat misguided – chances are you end up working for the evil insurance company rather than the poor little guy – Grisham is still responsible for turning lawyers into heroes.

So thank you, John Grisham, for making lawyers look cool.

Who have we missed off this list? Who would you thank? LM

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