Statue

By Phillip Addis

One of Shakespeare’s most quoted lines is uttered by Dick the Butcher in “Henry VI.” Dick was describing his idea of a perfect utopia: a world with no lawyers. In Dick the Butcher’s opinion, lawyers are a bunch of parchment pushers, preying on the common man, and the world would be better off without them. Nearly four centuries later, many people still agree with Dick the Butcher.

For most people, their opinion of lawyers and the law is shaped by TV shows: “Perry Mason,” who could make the guilty break down on the witness stand; “Suits,” where Mike Ross wins every case despite his lack of a law degree; or “L.A. Law,” where attorney Arnie Becker has sex with all of his female clients.

Then, of course, there are the class action lawsuits providing fodder for late-night television: “Subway Sued Because 12-inch Sub measured 11 Inches,” “Starbucks Sued for Not Enough Foam in Its Latte,” “McDonald’s Sued for Serving Hot Coffee,” and “Starbucks Sued for TOO Much Foam in Its Latte.”

Between the media and, yes, lawyers being lawyers, it is not surprising attorneys are the third most-hated profession in America, surpassed by only car salesman and members of Congress. (Admittedly, more than a third of Congress members have a law degree.) The profession also represents one of the highest suicide rates in any field. Big-city law firms have actually started to lay off lawyers and close their doors, unheard of 15 years ago.

Why do we not listen to Dick the Butcher and kill all the lawyers?

Lawyers have been around since the time of Roman Emperor Claudius (A.D. 54), who legalized the original profession of law. In A.D. 54, fees for legal work (advocacy) were capped at 10,000 sestertii ($15,500). Probably not a bad living in the Roman Empire.

Lawyers—such as John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton—have helped shape America. They have participated in every major change in our society, from women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement to legalizing gay marriage. Despite all of this, many people enjoy visiting a lawyer as much as getting a root canal.

Why do we not listen to Dick the Butcher and kill all the lawyers?

There are happy occasions to see a lawyer: starting a business, buying a home or adopting a child. Most of the time, though, you see a lawyer because something bad has happened: a criminal charge, an injury or a lawsuit. Perhaps a dispute, a divorce or a death.

When good or bad things happen and you need a lawyer, you will be glad to know we are here to help you through those times. The lawyer’s job, in its simplest terms, is to listen to you, advise you and, in the end, help you.

Why do we not listen to Dick the Butcher and kill all the lawyers? Because, if we did, who would be there to defend you?

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