Tuesday, February 21, 2017

To Kill Or Not To Kill Lawyers: 10 Free Guilty Men (Part II)

Lawyers: Defenders of Justice, Keeper of the Truth, Protectors of the Innocent, Knights against Tyranny, Vanquishers of Corruption... Or are they?

In this three-part series (or more, if I get more ideas and hate mails), I will attempt to rationalise why lawyers do more harm than good in society. Last article, I pointed out how lawyers tend to work for bad guys rather than good guys because bad guys pay better (and good guys don't have problems).

This week, I will touch upon the famous adage of lawyers: "It's better to let 10 guilty men go free than let one innocent man suffer".

What? Let 10 criminals loose? Now, I'm all for protecting the innocent, but surely a 10:1 ratio is going too far.

Yep, this guy deserves bail

Our criminal laws are built on this adage. It's extremely protective of the rights of the defendants. Everyone knows this, including - and here's the friggin' problem - criminals too.

Criminal law is also about deterrence (or so we're taught in law school - unless it's all bullshit to supply exam questions). The idea being that crime must be punished hard, so to deter others from picking up crime. 

But how will criminals fear being caught and jailed, if they know that they can easily get away with doing crime due to the lopsided criminal law system? A 1-in-11 chance (9.09%) of getting caught is quite good odds, even to the most mathematically-challenged criminal with a bad gambling habit.

Worse still, if we keep letting criminals off the hook, it means that there will be plenty of them out there committing even more crimes with little fear of being put behind bars.

Now, you're going to argue for the poor innocent guy standing at the dock for a crime he never committed. Sure, being in the wrong place at the wrong time can happen to anyone. But seriously, how many of us really happen to be just, y'know, just strollin' down the ghetto when shots get fired from nowhere and the cops mistake you for another gun-totting dude? Come on, how many of us really share company with psychotic Gone Girl bitches who's just waiting to frame you up for all the times you forget to get her flowers for Valentine.

Free as a bitch

The risk of being framed for a crime in our lifetime is close to nil. People who end up in bad spots are usually there for a good reason - because they're bad. Point is, good guys don't need to be shielded with pro-defendant criminal laws. In fact, such laws hurt them more because they only serve to incentivise bad guys to do bad shit.

Is it better to let 10 guilty men go free than let one innocent man suffer? Nope, not on my watch.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

To Kill Or Not To Kill Lawyers: Good Guys, Bad Guys (Part I)

Lawyers: Defenders of Justice, Keeper of the Truth, Protectors of the Innocent, Knights against Tyranny, Vanquishers of Corruption... Or are they?

In this three-part series (or more, if I get more ideas and hate mails), I will attempt to rationalise why lawyers do more harm than good in society. When I say 'lawyers', I refer to private lawyers - legally-trained professionals offering their services in exchange of money.

What triggered this? Well, I was having a casual chat with a group of wide-eyed budding law students few days back on the perks (and dark side) of legal practice, and one guy exclaimed something like: "By not being a lawyer, you'll be doing society a favour!" He might have meant it in good humour. On reflection, I think he had a point.

In this series, I will touch on the core concepts behind the way lawyers think and work. This week, it's about the nature of good guys v bad guys.

What lawyers think they are

Now, we know that lawyers are mainly hired (and paid handsomely) by people who have problems on their hands. Consider these facts:
  • Bad guys, not good guys, usually have big problems
  • Bad guys, not good guys, are usually rich enough to afford lawyers to solve their big problems
  • To make money, lawyers prioritise serving bad guys over good guys

What makes a person 'good' or 'bad' is subjective. A 'good guy' here refers to someone who's really, really, really good - legally and morally. If ever a fight goes to court, you can bet that both sides are guilty of doing something wrong. Divorce is a simple and common example - rarely are there any innocent parties in a fight that ends up in court.
Now, I understand this whole good guy v bad guy theory is more directly relevant towards litigation i.e. court disputes. Many lawyers, however, focus on transactional legal work i.e. assisting in business deals between people. Such lawyers may argue that there are no 'bad guys' in such deals.

But please, don't kid yourself. Switch the words 'big problems' to 'big deals', and the formula holds. Big deals have big impact on society, positive and negative. For example: the construction of a pipeline through a virgin forest, siphoning of public funds into dodgy investment, and tax-evasion practices of multi-nationals. The boardroom, just like the courtroom, is usually occupied by bad guys (but with nicer suits). That's who transactional lawyers end up serving.

Yes, it is true that there are lawyers who are truly noble - those representing the weak and vulnerable members of society. But look, even these human rights lawyers need to eat. For every good guy they represent, they need to represent to, say, four or five bad guys to break even. So even the noblest of lawyers can't avoid doing harm whenever they try to make ends meet.

Lawyers like to think themselves as noble knights. But real knights don't work for money; they devote their lives to an order dedicated to protect the public. As it is, a lawyer is a mercenary. A bounty-hunter. A minion. A servant to evil overlords.

What lawyers really are

So what's the alternative? Imagine a world where all laws are made simple for anyone to understand and follow, and all lawyers centralised under a public system (like the police and judges) accessible to everyone (good or bad). Something like that.

Forget about the right to choose one's own counsel. What good is such a right to good guys, considering that they're not the ones getting to all sort of trouble and can't afford their preferred lawyers even if they do. Worse, in such a free market system, it's the bad guys who will get away with murder since they're the ones who can pay off the best lawyers in town.

Anyway, talk of reforms will be reserved for another day. The point here is simply that lawyers serve bad guys more than the good guys. And because of that, lawyers do more harm than good to society. It's not that law itself is bad. It's just human nature at play.

Shakespeare once said: "The first we do, let's kill all the lawyers". Even a law student thinks so. And even I, who was once a lawyer, agree most whole-heartedly.

What we should do to lawyers

Wake up, lawyers. Stop dreaming. You're no white knight.

Wise up, lawyers. Stop doing harm. Accept the cold hard truth that society is better off without you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Chinese New Year Never Changes, And That's Why It's Special

Chinese New Year isn't high on my calendar. But this year, it was special. Or rather, maybe it's always been special, just that I haven't realised how special it was until this year.

No, nothing different or magical happened. Ang-pows are stacked with the same cash notes (despite the increase of inflation over the years). Fire-crackers keep us awake. Gambling goes on for hours, a never-ending cacophony of boisterous laughter and screams of 'Picture!'

(It was one of the coldest Chinese New Years in recent memory, though. Climate change ain't all that bad, after all.)

It's the Year of the Rooster. Right, whatever.

So what makes this annual festival special?

It's the unwinding of time. A return to routine. A gentle reminder how in our fast-paced world driven by technology and social evolution, some things still never change.

Children revere their elders. Far-flung families reunite. Young and old, people update each other with stories of their lives that social media can't capture. Social connections, once lost, are recharged again.

Chinese New Year brings families and friends close together. Not purely by choice, admittedly. Rather, custom works like gravity. It pulls everyone to the same spot whether they like it or not.

I'm not big on customs. I don't wear new clothes on the first day of Chinese New Year. I don't toss Yee Sang high up in the air. I don't give a shit what a Rat must or must not do at any given year according to the alignment of the stars, moons, planets, black holes, or whatever.

And yet, the sense of familiarity is oddly comforting. The songs are as loud and annoying af. Relatives unceasingly harass you on your relationship status. Friends you've barely talked to in ages blast out good wishes that never quite take off to actual meet-ups.

Guy in green at the back does not give af

Yes, Chinese New Year is special. Always has been, always will be. It's like that one sweet spot in the orbit that Earth has to pass through as it keeps circling the sun. Love it or hate it, Chinese New Year will come to pass every year. Stopping it from happening is as futile as stopping gravity.

Some things in life never change. At the very least, Chinese New Year reminds us of how we as a community have lived through the ages, fraying at the sides but still united strongly together. And that reason alone is good enough as any to celebrate it with blood-red aplomb, year after year, as long as the heavens smile upon us.

Gong Xi Fa Chai, folks!