THE CASE FOR MORAL LAWYERS
THE CASE FOR MORAL LAWYERS
March 6, 2014
Abstract: The practice of law is not a new concept; it has been practiced in varying forms for 4,500 years. The concept of a lawyer dates back to the Ancient Roman Empire nearly 2,500 years ago. It is only during the Middle Ages when the public began to disdain lawyers – a public sentiment that has only been further advanced in the United States. However, that sentiment is an inaccurate portrayal of a moral and ethical lawyer. Lawyers are a necessary cog in the societal machine because of their ability to navigate the broad concepts of law and apply them to their clients’ situation, all while preserving the essence of the job; to advocate on their clients’ behalf.
The first recorded code of law is believed to be the Code of Urukagina, established around 2380 BC by the Mesopotamian ruler of the same name to stave off corruption in the Mesopotamian Empire. The ancestor of the modern-day lawyer, the Juris Consulti, dates back to the Ancient Roman Empire in 449 BC, but worked for free until the Roman Emperor Claudius allowed legal advocates to earn a profit, though it was considered a pittance in comparison to many other jobs. One popular complaint back then was that, “Lawyers get only as much respect as the quality of their dress can buy;” which greatly varied between lawyers in that era. It might have been a poor paying job for Roman lawyers, but in general they came from wealthy and noble backgrounds and worked for the public good, and were respected for it. It continued this way until the Dark Ages, when the legal profession collapsed.
The Middle Ages turned the tides of popular sentiment of a lawyer from the ethical public servant to the conniving public scourge. Why this seismic shift of perception? It can be attributed to the fact that for the first time, the job of being a lawyer became a life-long profession in itself, which in turn led to professionalization. With these new lawyers dedicated to the study of law as a life-long profession, it created new problems. With any other job, the point of working is to make a profit. But the concept of a person making a profit from performing a public good seemed revolting at the time; especially so if that lawyer was deceitful. Public shaming of lawyers can be seen in writings of that time, most notably in a Shakespeare play, when a character exclaimed when contemplating a new regime, “The first we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” This perception has only been advanced in the United States. A landmark public indictment was given by Dan Quayle, the former Vice President in 1992, claiming that “legal aristocracy” (defined as lawyers who bring lawsuits for civil rights on behalf of children and other individuals) was in part to blame for cultural decline. Those are pretty strong words from our politically elite; do his words have meaning in this context?
Shakespeare and Quayle provide just two of the many skeptical accounts of this profession, and it requires a strong response. The problem with the public perception of lawyers in today’s society is that it’s grossly misrepresented. On the television, lawyers have two personas; the one seen in television shows and the ones you see at 2AM on some cheesy infomercial. In the shows, the lawyer is only seen in the courtroom, the trials are “as short as the skirt lengths,” and are almost never visibly seen conducting legal research or the administrative parts of the job. When watching lawyer shows on TV late at night, you might come across a commercial of an aggressive lawyer willing to “lay down the hammer” in your defense. That person is a litigator. Litigation advocacy is what’s most seen on television shows and the commercials. There’s only one problem to this; only 10-12% of American lawyers describe themselves as litigators. Thus, the popular perception of a “Lawyer” is at best an inaccurate representation; at worst, it’s flatly wrong.
Like any other profession, there are the 10% of lawyers that slip through the cracks. These are the ones that neglect or rarely communicate with their clients, or involve themselves in misconduct of their clients’ funds. Sadly, these are the ones that make the most noise in our profession, and give off the perception that lawyers are inherently greedy and an unnecessary evil to society; that is also not the average lawyer. The average lawyer does most of their best work outside of the courtroom, by providing advice to their client and conducting extensive legal preparation and research, before and during the trial. Practitioners of law have a very important role in our society; lawyers take the broad concepts in the law, and apply them to their clients’ specific situation. As a society, having a lawyer advocating on your behalf is beyond a convenience; today, it’s an absolute necessity.
What makes Steve Estey and Mike Bomberger different?
At Estey & Bomberger, the noble cause of helping those in our community is at the heart of why we began our practice – to advocate for the injured. We deal with real people, with real problems. We understand the great responsibilities of our job, and put forth maximum effort to take care of the people that have placed their trust in us. Like any other occupation, we are in this profession to make money to provide for our families. We have an irony to our livelihood; we are selflessly devoted to our clients, yet to see that selfless devotion seen through to fruition, we must be greedy on behalf of our clients in the courtroom. We understand that it’s a hard concept for people to reconcile – that our ability to provide for our families (and our clients’ families) is dependent on how much and how often we win. When advocating for the injured, the hallmark of success is by winning settlements substantial enough to ensure our clients medical needs are covered for the rest of their lives; the money is a by-product of successful advocacy on their behalf. As our results have proven, we have achieved a large degree of success in representing our clients. Our landmark case was the 2010 Doe v. Giarretto trial, where the jury awarded our client $30 million. Additionally, at least 30 of our clients have successful verdicts or settlements that are above seven-figures. The average person is alarmed by that high of a number, some even saying that it’s excessively high. What if I told you that it’s not too high?
There are second and third order effects to these seven and eight-figure verdicts and settlements. To make this specific to our practice, let’s focus on child sexual abuse cases. There are strong second and third order effects in cases like these; the settlements do a lot more for the good of our society than our detractors would initially recognize. Think about this before beginning your crusade:
– Seven and eight-figures is a lot of money. Not only for our clients, but for the institutions we take to trial as well. That’s a large amount of money to cough up for negligence, and those types of hits to their wallets starts a chain reaction.
– If a school, church, or other institution is forced to pay out that type of money, it forcefully gives them pause to think about their procedures and how they do business.
– After that pause, these institutions begin to change the way they operate; they are more rigorous in their background checks and social media checks. They begin continuous evaluation programs to ensure those that work with children are doing it right. Annual recertification and training is conducted.
– In turn, society is receiving a better product from the institution. People can live easier when they know that their children are safe outside of their homes.
– Most importantly, the legal process enables our victims of child sexual abuse to finally have a voice. No amount of money can buy the vindication that this process allows our victims to have. Nothing is more priceless than our victims starting the healing process; well, except serving justice to their abusers.
For the pundits that still think the amount is excessive, consider this; most of these institutions deal with dollar amounts well beyond what is awarded to our clients. If the verdict or settlement doesn’t significantly hit the guilty institution, how can we as lawyers influence positive changes in our society?