Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Pot Calling The Kettle Black (MY Eng #15)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', and 'mountain out of a molehill'.

Despite their best efforts to fight for social causes and save the world, lawyers are looked upon by people with deep distrust. Yet, some lawyers act surprised. Or go on defensive: "Yeah, but that's because all the rotten lawyers give us a bad name".

What lawyers don't understand is that people can see through their bulls**t. Lawyers are just like any other professionals - bankers, consultants, and doctors. Yes, all professionals are bound by code of ethics. But that doesn't make them any more noble or special as they want people to believe.

Doesn't matter what type of lawyer one professes to be. Criminal, human rights, conveyancing, corporate, IP... All lawyers will still succumb to the same sin - fall short of the same standard of morality that they accuse their counterparts of breaching every day.

* * *

The accusations range from minor to major. Quoting things out of context. Glossing over material information. Misleading the Court. Hiding the truth. Every lawyer is guilty of such mischief, to a certain degree. To accuse other lawyers of doing so is nothing more than a pot calling the kettle black.

On a daily basis, lawyers constantly are at battle of wits with each other. It's part of their job. They're just representing their client. They're paid to be nasty and uncompromising. Law is war. Fighting and preparing for war is all part of their job description. Nothing wrong admitting that legal practice has a dark and ugly side.

Sure, some lawyers fight dirtier than others. Some lawyers go for the jugular without mercy. But it's a jungle out there. No lawyer can survive long out in the wild by playing the book. That's the cold hard truth.

Every successful lawyer has blood on his or her hands. It's a badge of honour, not a source of shame. And that's what clients want from their lawyers - a brave warrior who thrives in the battlefield, not some idealistic scholar who lives in the clouds.

That's not to say that lawyers should flagrantly flout the law, of course. There are certain red lines that cannot be crossed.

Still, lawyers shouldn't pretend to be saints either. Enough with the holier-than-thou attitude. You can't hold the moral high ground. You're no better than the average person. You're as human as the rest of us. You're not perfect.

* * *

"Lawyers are liars!" So goes the common complaint. That may sound unfair, as it implies that lawyers lie a lot more than normal people.

And that's somewhat true, because many lawyers are so convinced of their own over-inflated sense of integrity. People aren't put off because lawyers lie (which everyone does), but because lawyers keep insisting that they're honest and trustworthy (against all evidence).

After all, no one is going to buy any stained pot that pretends to be shiny. And the worst lie is the lie that we trick ourselves into believing but everyone else can see through.

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