For unhappy souls toiling in a soul-killing legal vineyard but dreaming of exiting to something else — like screenwriting dimwitted sitcoms or egesting superfluous legal thrillers or of IRAC-ing ‘great literature’ like the next Fifty Shades of Grey — here’s depressing news that “Only lawyers are valued less than business executives, Pew survey finds.”
The Pew poll, which asked the public to rate the perceived contributions to society of various professions, amounts to nothing more than piling on atop lawyers, the usual bottom or near bottom dwellers among the professions.
Moreover, based on the results, one wonders if even famous lawyers like Mitt and Barry would number their own profession among the 47% in U.S. that are supposedly takers not makers.
“Among the 10 occupations the survey asked respondents to rate, lawyers are at the bottom of the list. About one-in-five Americans (18%) say lawyers contribute a lot to society, while 43% say they make some contribution; fully a third (34%) say lawyers contribute not very much or nothing at all.”
This survey, of course, neatly dovetails with the other recent news that the unhappiest job in America is “Associate Attorney.”
Feels so good when I stop.
All of which reminded me of something I once reflected upon when asked to explain why repeatedly unsuccessful bar exam takers nonetheless take the exam over and over again.
I guessed that the chronically unsuccessful test-taker probably feels like that guy who repeatedly punches his face or hits his thumb with a hammer and when asked why he’s beating himself to a pulp, answers, “Because it feels so good when I stop!”
In all seriousness, though, hope springs eternal. And certainly, there’s something admirable about test taking perseverance.
But when it comes to striving against stigmatization, well, here we are still.
Once again, the many think so little of the not so few.
So on the old new news of the little regard society accords lawyer contributions, ATL Lawyer/Blogger Staci Zaretsky, to her inestimable credit, throws the lawyer faithful a bone in defense of “The Most Despised Profession in America.” She posts:
“If you don’t think lawyers have contributed to society, take a look at the desegregated school you or your children attended. Go register for a concealed-carry permit in a state that once restricted their issuance. Attend a same-sex marriage and bask in the newlyweds’ joy. Burn a flag. Watch a film with a sex scene at the movies. Protest at the funeral of a soldier who gave his life for America.
“Do you enjoy any of these things? If so, then reconsider your thoughts on the most despised profession in America.”
Unfortunately, ascribing heroic enlightenment to lawyers conveniently overlooks that for every one of those aforementioned ‘contributions’, there were lawyer zealots wielding hammers and tongs and crying perdition on the opposite side.
The profane mundane.
The more mundane realities underpinning society’s attitudes toward lawyers are not driven by high-minded tales of supposed heroic feats.
No, it’s the other stuff, the too frequent embarrassing stories involving ‘the noble profession.’
Like, for example, the one last year about disabled Danny Reed, the San Jose man, who won out over lawyers trying to collect a six-figure fee.
Or last month when a lawyer was sentenced to prison for stealing money meant for his clients.
And in a much less egregious vein, last week there was the Manhattan lawyer who sued his clients for more fees but because of what the judge called his “remarkable billing practices,” the Court instead ordered him to pay back $21,000 for overcharging.
So putting aside all the self-serving ennoblement — “that chastity of honor,” about the learned profession, better to acknowledge that at its base, lawyering is a mercantile exchange — as if there should be any harm in saying so.
Indeed, said one lawyer, “Show me the money!” as he reiterated — albeit in crasser terms what Abe Lincoln once said that “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.”
However, as for repairing the public’s view of the value lawyers bring, there’s slim chance of that.
Better to again defer to that bone-throwin’ blogger mentioned above. Despite her admonitions to “reconsider your thoughts on the most despised profession,” earlier, Zaretsky wasn’t above sharing one more tale. It was about a lawyer suing over a suit or as she called it, “From the ‘Why People Hate Lawyers’ File: A Suit About a Suit.”
Or as Pogo famously said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Photo Credits: “The Dunce,” by Harold Copping at Wikimedia Commons, public domain; Fight Club – Edward Norton, via http://www.gifbin.com/981464; “Businessman behind web,” by internets_dairy at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; “bone” what bone,” by Joaquin uy at Flickr via Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; Trend in Perceived Contribution Chart at Pew Research Center.