Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Lawyers - A Neccesary Evil

Trial lawyers and attorneys in general occupy the appropriate rung of societal acceptance the bottom one.  This is not simply another slam at Democrats but a view of a cultural sub-group that claims to work for the disadvantaged, the injured.  All you have to do to see this in action is turn on your television set, very soon you will barraged with ads about how much money you might be entitled to based on some drug or disease you or a loved one has either suffered and / or died from.

The Bush administration has attempted something called tort reform that will limit the money damages that can be awarded.  This of course is anathema to trial lawyers who, as a group, are one of the largest contributors to the Democrat party.  While the Democrats scream corruption about Jack Abramoff the rest of us take it for granted that trial lawyers are innocent of any such behavior.  Lawyers, on the whole, are among the most liberal of our citizens, no problem, but they are also among the most influential.  They have the law at their disposal; and dispose of it they do.  There will be only marginal tort reform in this country because Republicans are lawyers too.

Recently the ABA, the associative body of lawyers nationally, and an accrediting body for law schools, has pushed for extralegal requirements to certify law schools.  Any law school that does not abide by the ABA rules will lose its accreditation.  The most onerous of these is to require affirmative action.  They have deliberately misconstrued recent Supreme Court decisions to justify this action.  This is simply another feel good act that is perceived to reflect well on the ABA and its members.  In truth it is a power grab and an insult to those it purports to help.

There was a local class action suit here in which the plaintiffs were awarded $6 million.  After costs and legal fees were subtracted each member of the class got a check for less than $50.00.  The law firm received a check for more than $4 million dollars, to be divided up among the partners.  When I asked my own attorney about the justification for this lopsided payment he simply replied that the lawyers had worked very hard and should get paid.  Of course the fact that the “injured parties” who formed the basis for the lawsuit did not really have their “injuries” compensated bothered him not.

This is the reason that trial lawyers oppose tort reform.  So what if insurance costs skyrocket, that’s a result, not a cause for damage solution.  So what if many lawsuits are frivolous, in the US anyone can sue anyone else for anything.  If monetary awards are limited then the lawyers lose, their clients already lost when they hired the attorney.  If you have the money a lawyer will take your case if it is a difficult one charging by the hour.  If they think it is a “slam-dunk” then they will take it on a contingency, which means the law firm is going to get most of the award at least one third if not more.  There are few contingency cases that are losers, this only occurs when the attorney has misjudged the circumstances of the case.

At the moment lawyers are a necessary evil and should make an effort to fulfill their role as champions and not simply satisfy their greed.

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