In an ideal world, you would not need a lawyer. Unfortunately, since we do not live in an ideal world, there are many times in life when there is a real necessity for lawyers. If you are charged with a serious criminal offence – you need a lawyer. If you are involved in a catastrophic accident – you need a lawyer. If you are the subject of a potential medical malpractice – you need a lawyer. What then, is the role of lawyers?
A recent article in the Globe and Mail, on February 6, 2013, discussed the Ontario Bar Association’s attempt to revamp the image of the legal profession. Lawyers have come under a great deal of fire lately for being shameless ambulance chasers and immoral business people. Regrettably, lawyers are associated with negative events and stereotypes in most of the media coverage they receive. In any profession, there are a few rotten apples. However, that is the exception rather than the rule for lawyers.
Lawyers are advocates for their clients. It is a lawyer’s job to represent the interests of the client through knowledge, expertise and advocacy. People usually turn to lawyers during times of hardship. Criminal proceedings, divorces, fights with insurance companies – lawyers are rarely retained for happy occasions. Their role is to resolve client disputes in a focused, efficient and cost-effective manner. However, once the conflict is resolved, the client receives a bill for the services rendered. Therefore, there is often a lot of negative emotion involved. This is exactly why people need lawyers to serve as advocates to represent their interests. Lawyers are distanced from emotionally charged situations and act as guides to navigate through our complex legal system.
The OBA’s campaign tries to humanize the legal profession by focusing on various personal stories and testimonials. Lawyers operate within a high conflict and adversarial system and, as a result of this association, they are often portrayed as bullies. The nature of the media is to focus on sensational cases and the image of lawyers is molded by that exposure. The truth is lawyers represent everyone and advocate on their behalf: criminals, small business owners, large corporations, families. A lawyer’s role is to ensure due process for all and as long as we are doing that, we are doing our jobs.