Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cultural perception of lawyers

Hostility towards the legal profession is a widespread phenomenon. The legal profession was abolished in Prussia in 1780 and in France in 1789, though both countries eventually realized that their judicial systems could not function efficiently without lawyers. Complaints about too many lawyers were common in both England and the United States in the 1840s Germany in the 1910s, and in Australia, Canada, the United States, and Scotland in the 1980s.

Public distrust of lawyers reached record heights in the United States after the Watergate scandal. In the aftermath of Watergate, legal self-help books became popular among those who wished to solve their legal problems without having to deal with lawyers. Lawyer jokes (already a perennial favorite) also soared in popularity in English-speaking North America as a result of Watergate. In 1989, American legal self-help publisher Nolo Press published a 171-page compilation of negative anecdotes about lawyers from throughout human history.

A 2004 comparative study examined the various legal professions around the world and noted a "remarkable consistency" in complaints about lawyers that transcends both time and locale. The authors then generalized the most common complaints about lawyers as follows:

* abuse of litigation in various ways, including using dilatory tactics and false evidence and making frivolous arguments to the courts;
* preparation of false documentation, such as false deeds, contracts, or wills;
* deceiving clients and other persons and misappropriating property;
* procrastination in dealings with clients; and
* charging excessive fees.

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