Do We Need the Legal Profession?
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” was the proposal in one of Shakespeare’s plays. And Ives, the patron saint of French lawyers, was described in the 13th century as ‘a lawyer but no crook, a thing which astonished the people.’
Negative views of lawyers and legal systems are as old as history. But such one-sided (and often amusing) quips are not altogether fair. Many lawyers are conscientious and knowledgeable men who use their abilities to help deserving people who are in trouble.
Obviously lawyers and legal systems cannot cure all the ills of modern civilization. If the legal system is not wholly satisfactory, consider the words of a Canadian judge: “Confusion in the judicial system reflects the confusion of society.” Like all human institutions, legal systems have a good side and a bad side.
On the bad side, law enforcement is irregular and often ineffective. Statistics show cluttered courts, expensive lawyers, unequal justice, unpunished criminals, a rising crime rate. Public confidence ebbs.
On the good side, laws and law enforcement are essential to maintaining an orderly society. They benefit all the people, not just those who go to court. The fact that there is law enforcement, even with its weaknesses, does act as a measure of restraint on many potential lawbreakers. As a result, the person and property of most people in civilized communities are relatively safe. Commercial business is able to function, producing goods and foodstuffs, because the legal system enforces contracts and payment of debts. Murderers, robbers and vandals are at least restricted, if not effectively halted, in their evil practices.
Thus it becomes apparent that, although often taken for granted, the legal profession and the law offer valuable services to humanity. Even so, the courts, judges and lawyers are held in low esteem by many. Why?