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 are 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 sorts 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 thing 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.


2 comments :

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