Improving our image

Marty Dolan, principal at Dolan Law and his associate Karen Munoz represent victims of wrongful death and personal injury. His column “Law and Wellness,” appears in the Chicago Lawyer and her column appears regularly in the Law Bulletin. This week’s column is written by Karen Munoz.

If you are stranded on a desert island with Adolf Hitler, Atilla the Hun, and a lawyer, and you have a gun with only two bullets, what do you do?

Shoot the lawyer twice.

Certainly there is no shortage of lawyer jokes out there. A Google search of “lawyer jokes” returned over 2 million results for me in 0.06 seconds. Needless to say, very few of them paint a particularly flattering picture of the profession. Some ill-will against lawyers is unavoidable. Ill-will in general is unavoidable.

But I think we all have some responsibility to improve or at least try to improve lawyers’ public image. This post looks at a few of the ways we can do that.

Be Dignified

This is not always easy. Especially if you’re involved in nasty litigation with opposing counsel who seem to care more about making your life difficult than reaching a resolution of the dispute. But everyone has their own style of representing their clients’ best interests so we shouldn’t be so quick to criticize. And we definitely shouldn’t use what we perceive to be antagonistic or bullying tactics from others as an excuse to behave that way ourselves.

As soon as we start knowingly conducting ourselves in a hostile way, it becomes very hard to defend lawyers’ reputations.

Do A Professional Job

Sure it might be a sunny Friday afternoon and you have plans to meet friends or spend some quality time at home. And sure the matter you’re working on is tedious and probably won’t be very profitable to your firm. But we shouldn’t ever do a half-hearted job. I try to apply myself fully and in the same way to every matter I represent people on.

When we stop thinking about our clients’ needs and only focus on our own personal gain, we give people legitimate reasons to demean our profession. Staying in late to complete a boring and unprofitable task is no fun but it’s a part of the job that we all have to do. Of course your clients won’t see you staying in late and they won’t care how difficult or boring you find their problems but they’ll certainly notice if you do a bad job.

Consider Pro Bono Work

This is related to the last point but doing pro bono is a way of improving public perception. Many lawyers are struggling in the current economic climate and don’t really have the time or resources to add pro bono work to their caseload. But there are people out there who are much worse off and really need legal assistance but simply can’t afford it. Attending a clinic, as rarely as once a month, can make a positive difference to those people. And it will also help show the world that there is more to us than greed and opportunism.

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