Lawyers: Burning in Hell?

A story from this week’s issue implied (OK… stated categorically) that there are no lawyers in heaven. First the story, and then the reaction from a lawyer reader:

Damned

Mircea Pavel, 40, is serving 20 years in prison in Romania for murder. But that didn’t keep him from filing suit in a Timisoara court accusing “the defendant God, who lives in the heavens and is represented in Romania by the Orthodox Church,” of “fraud, betrayal of trust, corruption and influence peddling.” Pavel claims that “At my christening, I made a deal with the defendant aimed at freeing me from evil. But the latter has not respected that agreement until now, although he received from me various assets and numerous prayers.” But the court threw out the suit, noting that “God is not subject to law and does not have an address.” (AFP) …Not bad, considering God doesn’t have any lawyers up there to defend Him.

When I wrote that tagline, I expected to hear from a lot of lawyers — I’ve noticed three main professions stand out among the Premium crowd — what I call The Three Cs: clergy, cops, and counselors (aka lawyers).

Guess What? No Screaming!

I was pretty sure I’d get plenty of gritching from them, but I didn’t! OK, so I’m not at all surprised that lawyers can take a joke: they hear all sorts of outrageous charges every day, and know how not to take things too personally.

In fact I only got two letters, one pro and one con. And the con wasn’t all that angry; it’s from Steve in Pennsylvania, a nine-year(!) veteran of the Premium edition:

I’d like to mildly object to the ‘no lawyers in heaven’ theme of your tagline. Humor is fine. Balance is better. While there are no shortage of Stella-candidate lawyers, there are plenty who deserve our thanks and praise.

Every time you hear the words ‘activist court’, such as Brown v Bd of Ed (desegregation) or Gideon v. Florida (? — right to counsel) [actually Gideon v. Wainwright — but it did originate in Florida -rc], or Miranda v. Arizona (arrestee’s rights) or other cases like the Pentagon Papers (press freedom) or the Watergate decisions (to turn over tapes) or cases that have been made into movies like Erin Brockovich (pollution), there is a lawyer who took on the system and made the world a better place. Surely SOME of them deserve to be in heaven.

You guessed it, I am a lawyer (specializing in computer security). Not at all thin skinned, though. I especially like the lawyer/judge jokes on JumboJoke. This note is perspective, not complaint.

Well argued, counselor.

My book. Click to see on Amazon.

Oh, and the “pro” letter? It’s from Alan in England, who simply wrote: “By definition. They are all in Hell. Brilliant newsletter. Keep up the good work.”

In my True Stella Awards book I argued that lawyers need to do a lot to work on their image, rather than complain about that image.

From The True Stella Awards, Page 288

[A New Jersey lawyer complaining about my Stella Awards case write-ups] dragged out that old consolation used by slimy attorneys everywhere: “Everyone hates lawyers — until they need one.” Sorry, Jersey: we hate them even then. Lawyers have set up a system where average people are at a complete disadvantage if they don’t have someone on their side that has taken years to learn every nuance of the system — complexities that lawyers themselves have created.

As we see, trial lawyers whining “everybody hates lawyers” doesn’t provide much of a defense. If the public’s perception of lawyers and the abuse of civil courts is wrong, it’s up to the lawyers to fix that perception. Lawyers have graduate degrees in arguing, yet they have allowed their fellow professionals to destroy the profession’s reputation until it was universally looked upon with disrespect. The True Stella Awards was created to explore that concept from the public’s point of view. The public is wrong? Then lawyers need to get to work on countering the perception. If they don’t, the public will continue to simply assume that they very simply can’t counter it.

Frankly, lawyer Steve in Pennsylvania is on the right side of this argument, but he’s a shiny clean drop trying to counter a tsunami of dirty water rushing down the courthouse steps. I’m sure there are other good lawyers out there that can stand behind him. I hope there are enough to truly counter the bad guys. But I fear there are not.

Obviously the tagline was a joke. What do you think: was it fair?

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37 Comments on “Lawyers: Burning in Hell?

  1. Sure it’s fair.

    There are no lawyers in heaven because there is no need for them there. No crime, no mischief, no courts, no lawsuits.

    A good definition of Hell would be to be eternally caught up in litigation, so they certainly need them there!

    Besides, people go to heaven (or any other afterlife) because of the way they lived their lives, not what job they held… it’s the one “law” even lawyers can’t appeal! 😉

  2. Fair or not, it was funny.

    Your comments about the complexity created by lawyers reminded me of this:

    Lawyers are the only profession that if we didn’t have any, we wouldn’t need any.

  3. Lawyers certainly need to work on their public image. It is the (large) minority of shysters that make the (majority of) legitimate others look bad…

    I have no idea if there is a heaven or a hell, or where lawyers, or others go. I think it is more important to make things livable and bearable and fair for all of us HERE, where we are now.

    If lawyers are bothered by such comments, it indicates their work is not done… And maybe some self-policing amongst lawyers is needed.

    At any rate, anyone who has read “This is True” or its sister publications should be acquainted with Randy’s, ah, er, sense of humor.

    Perhaps some lawyers – and some others – need broader shoulders. Or perhaps the lack of very many responses to Randy’s Joke, indicates a lot of people understood the joke…

    Keep up the good work Randy. You usually make us think and laugh. And that’s good.

  4. It’s a joke, not a philosophical truth. Jokes don’t work because they are balanced or fair. The problem for me is that it is a punch line from a very old joke, making the comment lack the intended humor. Hopefully those that hadn’t heard the joke before found it funny.

  5. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled with those who brought accusations against a number of priests for abuse. The Church is paying over $660 million. The lawyer’s take? Around $264 million. Even though I am Catholic, and acknowledge that ANYone who is in a position of trust is liable for prosecution, I find it difficult to swallow that lawyers, in assumed positions of trust, are walking away with 40% of the settlement. Additionally, some lawyers represented multiple plaintiffs – probably charged them all the same chunk o’ change.

  6. While on the subject of whether members of the legal fraternity ascend into some attorneys’ afterworld, the Dutch I believe have a pertinent expression:

    Lawyers will go to heaven …. when hell is full up.

  7. I think the tagline was perfectly fair. You said yourself that lawyers created this negative image for themselves, and that it is indeed a tidal wave of dirty water with a few clean drops here and there. You said that if they want how they are perceived because of their profession, they have to take steps to change it. Is that not what you’re doing? Adding to the reasons for them to change our collective view of lawyers?

    Things are looking grim in the world of law these days, I don’t think anyone can reasonably deny that. Sure, there have been improvements since years gone past, but we’ve got new problems now.

    Arthur, that would indeed be nice, wouldn’t it? Of course, in order for such a thing to happen, lawyers would have had to never existed in the first place. Now that the system is in place, it’s impossible to get rid of, especially with the “step on my toes and I’ll sue your pants off, along with everyone you’ve ever known” mentality that seems to be popular.

    Ever wonder if the sarcastic “Sue me!” remark is what brought all this on? Someone replied, “You know what, I will!” 😛

  8. Actually my lawyer is a great guy and an extremely competent lawyer. That doesn’t mean I don’t share the bias against the profession. I seem to remember that Cicero also shared that. The more famous the lawyer, the “star type” the most offensive they get and it is a fact of life that justice is different for people who have money.

  9. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, no lawyers in Heaven is funny. That said, far and away, the majority of lawyers I have encountered professionally are honest decent individuals who try to do the right thing. Of course, as an RN in hospital administration, I have a certain bias on which lawyers I associate with, usually defense counsel for my hospital. The types of litigation I see in healthcare can sometimes involve truly meritorious claims and sometimes involve simply ludicrous claims.

    The common theme I see in all of these claims is abysmally poor communication and absolute denial of any personal responsibility for our own actions on both sides of the issues. The plaintiff often feels entitled not only to recovery but also to the right to inflict retaliatory pain and suffering on the defendant. Defendants almost universally deny any culpability even when it is blatantly self evident. The ensuing trial by combat is almost guaranteed to bring out the worst in everyone. Egregious demands that have no equity to the injury, disparaging comments about the other side by both parties, and reliance on superior technical arguments as opposed to factual merits have lead to the inevitable outcome known as American jurisprudence.

    Although it’s very humorous to note that if there were no lawyers, we wouldn’t need lawyers, the truth is much more damning: if there were no lawyers, we’d create them.

    Studies have shown that when doctors say “I made a mistake, I’m sorry,” it results in fewer malpractice lawsuits. As long as apologies can’t be used of evidence in lawsuits, we’re better off simply admitting our mistakes. That’s the human thing to do. -rc

  10. All I can say is that in my one experience with the law, it was the police who were dishonest and manipulative, and it was the lawyer who was actually honest and helpful.

  11. Fair or not, it was not funny — just trite. The “lawyers are bad” (bad as in evil, corrupt, etc.) meme just seems tired to me. Could be due to the fact that I am not a lawyer and I have had no close relationship (personal or professional) with one so far in my life? I don’t know, but I do know that the cardboard cut-out figures of bad lawyer, dumb blonde, tight-laced librarian, hot Latin, sexless senior citizen and slacker twentysomething just don’t do anything at all for me anymore. We need some fresher, more creative humor memes — which, of course, in time will become stereotypical and trite themselves, and need to be replaced.

    Typical Chi-town comment. 😉 -rc

  12. Who said that humor has to be fair? Most humor takes a bit of truth, exaggerates it, warps it, and presents it back to you in an unexpected way. If we try to be “fair” with our humor it falls flat. Those who are offended by humor are the ones who become lawyers. I used to collect lawyer jokes, until the oversupply made my collection valueless. Nowadays they run for congress or president.

    Remember the joke about a small town lawyer, the only one in town, who was starving to death? He trained a local kid in law and then they both got rich.

    I’m confused by “Nowadays they run for congress or president.” Are you referring to “lawyers”, or “lawyer jokes”? -rc

  13. The best lawyer “joke” I have ever heard was in an episode of the cartoon “Justice League”. The Green Lantern was on trial for destroying a planet, and the Flash asked that he be given a fair trial and a lawyer.

    The 3 trial judges announced that there were no lawyers on their planet, they had solved the “lawyer problem”.

    So the Flash offered to represent the Green Lantern.

    He was very inept as a lawyer; and the Green Lantern was found guilty. The sentence was death for him AND HIS LAWYER.
    The Flash protested, and the judge replied, “How do you think we solved our lawyer problem?”

    BUT when you think about it, if you argue a case – you should be subject to penalty if you are doing so if you are knowingly attempting to undermine the system.

    Sending lawsuit letters to every store in a strip mall you have never visited and threatening them with litigation so they pay you should be a crime, not just a Stella Award.

    When we have penalties for frivolous lawsuits, not just repay all court costs, but genuine payment of fines, they will go away.

  14. Lawyers are advocates. They are hired guns. When you need someone to represent you, to speak for you, the guide you through a set of circumstances unfamiliar to you, you hire a lawyer.

    Who made the law so complex that it’s “unfamiliar” to the common man? -rc

  15. It is true that the legal profession is not user-friendly to non-lawyers. The perception of lawyers as bad does continue. I have worked outside the legal sector and find that other professions, such as education, law enforcement and health care also tend to create acronyms and phrases that exclude outsiders. Do you know if your school child has an IEP or what is in it or have you seen a juvenile miranda form, how about keeping up with your sat levels? The interesting thing about how the law seems to confuse and exclude people is that bulk of law stems from legislators who may have no education at all and certainly need not be lawyers.

    I’m certainly not talking about acronyms, or even terminology. I’m talking about a system so convoluted that it needs a doctorate to understand, and even then there are tussles over the minutiae of the system. It’s impossible for a layman to truly know what the law is to ensure keeping out of trouble. That’s sad indeed. -rc

  16. I can even imagine God chuckling over that one. It’s a joke!

    By the way, whoever in Romania would suggest that people in Heaven still have valid law licenses after they die?

  17. Exactly, Duane. They are hired guns, mercenaries. And like all mercenaries, they will turn on their OWN clients the moment it becomes advantageous to them. There are times when I have no choice but to hire an attorney, but I’d watch him like an uncontrollable junkyard dog. I’m disappointed in the number of times I’ve had to get more vicious with my own lawyer than I would against the other side, just to get him to do the job I hired him for. The legal system has been set up specifically to keep the legal experts in business. Ever hear the term, “Devil’s Advocate”…?

    If the law was absolute, then there would be no need for lawyers. Ask an opinion of five lawyers and get seven different opinions.

  18. I won’t disagree that many lawyers deserve their reputation. On the other hand, I know several lawyers, and consider them friends, as well as good, ethical, caring people. Like car salesmen, politicians, and any other large group, a few bad members can destroy a reputation. And, like any other group, they should be able to laugh at themselves occasionally.

    One issue that many non-lawyers may not properly appreciate is that a lawyer’s primary responsibility is to his client. The Stella awards expose many greedy attorneys playing what I like to call the Lawyers’ Lottery. Most lawyers, however, are trying to help their clients navigate a system which is still largely following precedents set centuries ago.
    Our legal system has become so complex that only someone using it full time can negotiate it. Our societal insistence that anyone who suffers a loss should be reimbursed by somebody has created an opportunity for unscrupulous lawyers to profit handsomely. Yes, lawyers should be working to improve the system. Our politicians (I know – many are lawyers) need to simplify the laws so they are consistent and understandable. Society (jurors and judges) need to recognize that sometimes it’s my own fault I got hurt and stop issuing huge settlements against companies and people who have done nothing wrong.

  19. Every time you hear the words ‘activist court’, such as Brown v Bd of Ed (desegregation) or Gideon v. Florida (right to counsel), or Miranda v. Arizona (arrestee’s rights)…

    The term activist court is irrelevant to the cases mentioned here, which were decisions based on specific provisions of the Constitution. The term activist court (or judicial activism) refers to interpretation of laws or the Constitution based on prevailing attitudes and preferences. One actual example of an activist court decision is Roe v. Wade. The antithesis of judicial activism is judicial restraint, which refers to courts’ limiting their power to making decisions based strictly on the ‘letter of the law’.

    Let’s keep our terminology accurate in order to avoid misunderstanding.

  20. You cannot blame lawyers for playing the legal system for all they can get, that is capitalism at it’s best. The problem is – the people who set up the system (congress) are mostly lawyers and who can blame them for setting things up to benefit themselves and there ilk? No, the PEOPLE who elected these goons are the ones at fault!

    I disagree: “capitalism at its best” is a win-win — you profit from selling me something I want or need, I win by getting a good product rather than having to take time or effort to make it myself — if I could figure out how. I would not describe our legal system as “win-win” by any stretch of the imagination. -rc

  21. It’s been said many times that a sense of humor directly correlates to intelligence. My guess, Randy, is that you have become, by default, a national repository of evidence which supports this idea. Most of us, I think, have an “Oh, Come ON!” reaction when we read a whining response to one of your tag lines. It’s a fairly safe assumption that needing to explain humor to someone may not be a complete waste of time, but it’s often an exercise in futility just the same. Kudos to you for not losing YOUR sense of humor when you respond to the dim bulbs who don’t seem to ever “get it.”

    Thanks, though I don’t think lawyer Steve fits that category. But I think he’s a tad more sensitive to the issue than he thinks…. -rc

  22. I see that Terry made a comment above regarding congress setting up the system (Congress) as being the ones to blame. I would appear he is referring to the American legal system; the story was set wholly in Romania. I do not know how the legal/penal system works in Romania but it would be wrong to accept that it works in exactly the same way as in The U.S.A. Also the Romanians have a lot less experience in recent years of “Capitalism at its best”.

  23. Lawyers squawking about a bad as a class of professionals? Oh puhleez! Over the years I’ve done some review and analysis for several law offices. Usually it’s a single project and that’s all I work on, but several years ago I worked in a law office where I got a lot more involved. They were short staffed and I did whatever was needed. It was, to say the least, QUITE a revelation and to say I could write a book understates things.

    Anyone ever go crabbing? You can fill your bucket with crabs to within inches of the top – about the length of a typical crab leg. Not one will get out because any crab trying to escape gets pulled back by the other crabs. Lawyers in general are like crabs in that way. When the practice of law is described as an adversarial process, that’s exactly what they mean. Piranhas and baracudas can take lessons from lawyers.

    Want to know why “legal representation” costs so dang much money? IF (big “if”) you can come up with the humungo retainer, your lawyer and your adversary’s lawyer exchange a whole bunch of nastygrams and gobble up that retainer in no time. Your lawyer fills your ears with encouragement and requires more money so he can continue fighting the good fight, even though you have absolutely nothing to show for all that cash. More nastygrams between legal eagles, maybe a motion or two. A smidgeon of “progress” and of course a new requirement for more cash. When you run out of cash and assets you can borrow money on, you get dropped like a dirty diaper. If you actually manage to get something, your lawyer takes the lion’s share and if you don’t get everything you’re supposed to get and your lawyer doesn’t feel like going after the last crumbs, you also get the dirty diaper treatment.

    There are success stories, but they’re most often a matter of the best law that money can buy. If you have the money.

    How do I know this? Well, in that one office, I got to draft the nastygrams (that was actually more fun than it sounds), file all the documents and write up the billable hours. Before I left, I posted several millions of dollars worth. It was a small office so I got to do a lot of things. I was hired to review a bazillion documents for several cases and put the information into databases, but when we were short, I filled in where needed. That’s another big ticket item. I might not be a lawyer, but I’m a darn good analyst and they charge for my time too. I wasn’t cheap.

    If you’re able to keep feeding the legal meter, eventually you come to something called “discovery.” That’s where lawyers exchange the information each one has on the other to see if there’s really enough of a case to go to trial. The plaintiff (you) gets to pay for that photocopying – by the page. It’s not cheap. Nothing in the practice of law is cheap and my guys had a lower rate than most. One case I reviewed was just over 100 FULL document boxes. The other litigant had to pay for every single piece of paper in those boxes PLUS my time examining and analyzing every page PLUS time for the attorney. Sounds scary? We did pretty much the same thing to them. Oh, the document pages are numbered, but they’re not usually in order. Part of what I did was match the pages and information and part of that was to figure out if there was any missing information. Then I drew up a report and drafted another nastygram. It varies between cases, and I can only begin to estimate the percentage “fluff” but it’s somewhere in the 80 to 90 percentiles with 80 being very productive. Theoretically, all the info you plan to use must be provided to the other guy and so your law office does the same to the other office. I think lawyers kill more trees and forests than any other professional group.

    When lawyers go mano a mano, they get really interesting, kind of like a feeding frenzy among hungry sharks with good table manners. You have to have a hide like armor plating on a tank to be able to do that without losing your cool. Why? Because a certified court reporter and sometimes a video camera are often taking everything in.

    What I found even more interesting is that lawyers that seemed to hate each others’ guts in front of their clients then behind the scenes in a social context are what can only be described as friendly. There’s a kind of professional organization known as Inns of Court where they get together for meetings. They socialize, tell stories, compare notes and size each other up. Given the way I saw them in adversarial mode, I’d sort of expected them to take the gloves off and duke each other out in the parking lot or something. They pretty much all know each other and are friendly, or at very least civil.

    In law you have to make compromises. If someone hires a lawyer, that lawyer is bound to defend that person even though the client is at least as guilty as he’s charged, and sometimes much, much worse. Some of the clients we had were completely detestable and some were scary as hell. One night we were working late and the guys went out to get us all some dinner while the secretary and I stayed behind working against a big deadline. Someone forgot to lock the front door and a client facing charges for beating up and robbing prostitutes dropped by for a visit. It was like 10 or 11 o’clock at night and the other offices in the building were all closed. It felt like standing less than a foot away from a buzzing rattlesnake. Seriously, I’d have preferred the rattler. I can’t remember what we said to get rid of him, but after we got him out and locked the door, all we could do was hold each other and shiver until the guys came back. I don’t scare easily. That client really enjoyed beating up those poor women and had been doing it regularly for years. He liked to boast to the attorneys about the things he did. He escalated until he was leaving them barely alive and finally the law caught up with him. I can’t begin to imagine the horror that creep caused. He comes from a very wealthy family and had no trouble paying the tab. Money certainly talks.

    I learned a lot working in that office. They treated me and the other staff members very well, and I really did enjoy working there. We were treated like family. I think my guys were and are better than most, but I don’t think there are any white horses parked at their front door.

    To be fair the practice of law is really tough, and something like half or fewer lawyers who made it through law school and passed the bar actually stick with it. Those who do rarely last for long. Personally I think there’s a direct correlation between wealthy lawyers and the numbers of cut throat “compromises” they’re willing to make. When I lived in the DC area, dozens of my friends and neighbors gave law a go and then decided to do something else. Steve the sensitive lawyer is going to have to grow a thicker hide, or find some way to earn a living that will also allow him to sleep well at night. If he wants to make people happy, then he ought to look into driving an ice cream truck.

  24. Your story reminds me of a joke that I like.

    It seems that an engineer died and went to the pearly gates. St. Peter met him and looked in his book to determine where he was to go. He could not find his name in the book, so he sent him to hell. Some time later Satan calls God and tells him, “Thanks for sending that engineer down here. We now have air conditioning, escalators and other improvements that have really improved our way of life down here.
    God said, “You have an engineer? Send him back.”

    Satan replied, “No! We’re keeping him.”
    God replied, “Send him back or I’ll sue.”
    To which Satan said, “And just where will you get a lawyer?”
    (I am an engineer.)

    I enjoy your column.

  25. I think most readers with any level of intelligence (and your readers RC are rather intelligent people) saw that it was a joke and some may have found it funnier than others. But I could not see where anyone, even lawyers, should be offput by it. I work with a bunch of attorneys and most of them have a very good sense of humor and find it easy to laugh at themselves! I know of two who rag each other all the time and I found this joke funniest when one attorney said to the other, “No way you’ll go to Heaven. We all know there are no attorneys in Heaven!”

    However, I disagree with one respondent: Once you pass on, your profession is not the only criteria by which you will be judged, but it will be considered. How could you not consider a nurse, who spends her entire life helping people cope with and survive illnesses and death? Or a soldier who gives his life so others can be free? How could those professions NOT be taken into consideration?

    As for attorneys? Yes, their profession will be considered as well. So if you’re an attorney and you’ve worked very hard throughout your profession to help criminals beat the system, to aid politicians or political activities that work against the people, or to just earn as money as you can and get as rich as possible with no thought as to whether your actions are right or wrong or who you might be harming, well, odds are you will not be sitting at the Lord’s table.

    But you should have a really great time in Hell with all the friends you made along the way!!

  26. This tagline got me in trouble at work – I couldn’t stop giggling for about twenty minutes.

    Astute as always, Randy – and damn funny, too. Keep up the excellent work!

  27. Using Erin Brockovich is a great example not of the problems with lawyers, but the problems with juries (ok, selected by lawyers). The case was settled on emotional testimony, going against the facts. While chemicals leaking into the water is bad, the population had no more health issues than surrounding, “non-contaminated” populations. But the beauty of the law is you don’t let truth and facts get in the way of millions of dollars in lawyers (and plaintiffs) pockets.
    (Recent article.)

    Dow Chemical offered for years to settle the implant case in any court in the nation (You might not realize, but some courts are more liberal, some more conservative, some better for businesses, some worse for them) if the case was settled solely on fact instead of emotional testimony. They lost the battle, and the case, and Corning declared bankruptcy. Why:

    – Women get implants
    – Women get sick
    – Therefore it’s the implants, as women without them never get sick or die.

    Sound stupid? Again, zero increased cases of illness compared to the general population. But you put a bunch of crying women in front of a jury, and “equality” and “fairness” go out the door. Crying men? That makes them look weak, it’s not worth as much money (unless crying about a child, especially a daughter).

    Notes
    – Dow did cover up the rates of rupture, and deserved to be punished for that.
    – If it’s such a horrible, harmful product….why has demands from women brought it back on the market?
    Lawyers know
    – A very sick or injured living person (preferably someone that has to be wheeled in) is better than a dead person.
    – So do cops. Shoot to kill, that way if you’re sued, it’s for much less.
    – Crying children are great
    – Crying women are next
    – Crying men aren’t worth very much at all, and may hurt you.
    – Uneducated juries are more easy to sway with emotion and more likely to ignore fact.
    – And lawyer bean counters & jury picking specialists have secret memos that work it out to the penny.

    Law is decided by emotion, not fact or reason. Layers capitalize on this. We, the stupid people, are to blame for this.

  28. Lawyers are tools (no .. not that kind) and using one is no different from hiring someone to build a house. When I got a divorce, I ran the divorce, not the lawyer. My lawyer was to serve as my consultant of the law, make sure the proper forms are filled out and I was where I am supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. And she did a marvelous job. She kept me apprised of my rights and obligations so well that when my ex-wife’s lawyer demanded alimony at an arbitration meeting, I was able to explain to my ex-wife’s lawyer my understanding of the law, what my wife’s current financial status was, and how she would never be able to get it. She learned very quickly she couldn’t bully me around, things I had previously agreed to were taken off the table when demands like this were put forth. When she complained, I reminded her that the agreement isn’t final until signed, and I am free to change anything up until that point. In other words, all that stuff she was keeping in her back pocket came with a price if she used them.

    A month later the divorce was final at a cost of $1,200 to me. My wife, on the other hand, let her lawyer run things and it ended up costing her $5,000 and the same settlement I had originally offered, with only a couple minor changes. She could have had the divorce at no cost, the changes I did agree to amounted to less than what she paid out to get them and were very fair.

    As long as the American population hire lawyers and turn everything over to them, it will continue down the path it is on. But since many people are greedy and love to sue instead of trying to do what’s fair or right, I doubt it will happen any time soon.

    Excellent advice indeed. -rc

  29. I wanted to drop in my 2 cents about court and lawyers after my recent experience. After many call-ins for Jury duty, I actually got to be on a jury in the first week of July. It was a fairly uncomplicated case of someone arrested for being under the influence of methamphetamine. All in all the case ran about a day and a half, with close to half the total time being jury selection.

    What left the deepest impression with me were a few things – the numerous times that the judge went through procedures to make sure that everyone was clear on what should and should not be considered as evidence during deliberation, the earnest jobs done by both attorneys to make their cases as best they could, and that jurors were allowed to submit questions to witnesses through the bailiff (a juror right that NEVER seems to be brought up during crime dramas, and one that I’ve always thought was a major flaw of the system in the people making the decisions not being able to ask questions).

    I even had the pleasant surprise of getting a questionnaire from the judge a week later, thanking me for my service, and asking for feedback on the process and how it might be improved. Having this happen in the two days leading up to the 4th of July didn’t hurt, but it was a good clean contrast to what passes for news these days, showing that some of the foundation stones of the country still seem to be solid and well maintained.

    Your thoughtful contrarian nature has always been a role model to me (I’m a physicist and that attitude comes with my job as well). Please know that your publications are appreciated in my corner of the world.

    Thanks, Duff — I appreciate your “real world” take on a criminal case, and your kind comments as well. -rc

  30. Even in this day of “no fault divorces” for “irreconcilable differences” (the only grounds for divorce in California), one needs an attorney. As my luck would have it, I got an attorney who sounded on my side when we were signing contracts … and who joked with my soon-to-be-ex spouse come the time for getting down to business.

    But this guy set the record for absolute gall as far as I’m concerned. A couple of weeks after the only court appearance, he decided he needed to file a letter with the court, advising that he no longer represented me. He then sent ME the bill for his time, secretarial time, supplies and postage — about $143 IIRC!!!!

    If he’d only held his breath until I paid it, we’d have one less over-priced hack ruining the legal system.

  31. I just got a call from an old friend who – you guessed it – is a lawyer. That is, she studied to be one. Then she worked in Redfern Legal Centre for ages, helping the penniless and downtrodden avoid getting screwed by the increasingly kafkaesque bureacracies that the health and welfare systems have become in this country. Then she worked for the Ombudsman, helping people who had already been screwed unscrew their lives. Then finally she got sick of all the stress and quit, got a job at a construction company, where she has learned all sorts of useful things about insurance and building inspections.

    She has helped me deal with evil landlords and bent cops on more than one occasion, for no other reward than friendship. She keeps saying she’s just paying me back for the time I fixed her computer when she was a student but that was decades ago, and it was nothing major. So anyway she called to explain why she’d been out of contact for a while – Newcastle (New South Wales) has just suffered some of the worst floods in its history, and like always, the insurance companies are heavying the elderly, the mentally ill, the poor, and anyone else who hasn’t the skills of argument or emotional resources to stand up to them. The river poured raw sewage, barbed wire and the remains of drowned cattle through your house? Just dry the furniture out! It’ll be fine!

    In her own time, at her own expense, she has been educating many of her neighbours and friends and friends’ friends on how to talk to authorities, how to read contracts, how to safeguard rights and get back what is owing. When they really cannot do it for themselves, she has picked up her phone and fought for them.

    Now, she’s a lawyer. Far from making the system harder to understand and harder to negotiate without a guide (which is, undeniably, a racket) she has gone to great lengths to make it comprehensible to those of us without her level of education.

    But sure, maybe you’re right, maybe there ARE no lawyers in heaven. After all, she’s not dead yet.

  32. I have trained as a lawyer, but finally managed not to practice as one. So I have heard my share of lawyer jokes.

    Please remember that in the Catholic Church the Pope has the power to proclaim certain persons as saints, if he is satisfied that the person in question has not only died, but actually is in heaven. Usually, it takes a very long time of research and prayer until the Pope is so satisfied. According to the Church’s teaching, the saints intercede for the faithful before God. In a sublime way, that would make them advocates (or, if you will, lawyers) of the Christians. During the long history of the Church, at least several Canon lawyers have been canonized as saints.

    Not only that, by tradition trades and professions are assigned a patron saint. The patron saint of all jurists, lawyers and judges alike, is the Breton St. Ivo Helory. He practiced as a lawyer in the 14th century and he was successful, but not economically. He was called the “advocate of the poor”. So, pro bono work DOES pay.

  33. I laughed and laughed at your tagline. One of my favorites. I was anxiously waiting to see if this story made the freebie cut so I could send it to my best friend who works in a law firm in NM. Fortunately, she’s not a lawyer, but oh the stories she tells…

  34. Back in 2001, a University of Washington student, Adam Burtle, got a high bid of $400 for his soul on Ebay. According to Jay Leno, Adam was studying to become a lawyer and, presumably, would have no need of his soul. I haven’t been able to substantiate that part, but it does seem to support relevance of the concept.

    I don’t find anything that suggests he was studying to be a lawyer, but it’s a good joke. He described himself as a geek and part-time auto technician in the Seattle Times story. One presumes he’s graduated by now. -rc

  35. You got it wrong. Lawyers go to heaven. Who do you think was able to arrange God not being a subject of law, and advised him to not give his address? 🙂

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