Mike Kueber's Blog

June 30, 2011

Kill All The Lawyers?

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” is a line from Shakespeare’s “Henry VI,” and it is often quoted to suggest that lawyers have been a bane to civilization for hundreds of years.  But the NY Times has pointed out that the quote has been taken out of context:

  • Dick the Butcher was a follower of the rebel Jack Cade, who thought that if he disturbed law and order, he could become king. Shakespeare meant it as a compliment to attorneys and judges who instill justice in society.”

Regardless of what Shakespeare intended, there is no question that the prestige of the legal profession is not what it should be.  Proof – while surfing the net, I came across a fascinating 2006 article that ranked 23 professions in America:

  1. Firefighters
  2. Doctors
  3. Nurses
  4. Scientists
  5. Teachers
  6. Military officers
  7. Police officers
  8. Clergyman
  9. Farmers
  10. Engineers
  11. Congressmen
  12. Architects
  13. Athletes
  14. Lawyers
  15. Entertainers
  16. Accountants
  17. Bankers
  18. Journalists
  19. Union leaders
  20. Actors
  21. Business executives
  22. Stock brokers
  23. Real estate agents

During the annual meeting of the State Bar of Texas, we were told by the new bar president that the major focus of his one-year tenure will be improving the stature of lawyers.  One of his tools for accomplishing that objective is a new video, which he demoed to us.  Unfortunately, the well-produced video is not yet available to the public.  Suffice it to say that the video describes great things done by a long list of great Americans and then closes each bio with the phrase, “and he/she was a lawyer.”  The video shows that the legal profession does more than chase ambulances or look for loopholes to crawl through, but rather it is the means for civilized people to pursue justice.

In one of the final sessions during the annual meeting, author H.W. Brands built on the theme of lawyer relevance.  According to Brands, lawyers in 19th century America made two invaluable contributions:

  1. The legal profession afforded talented people a means to rise socially and economically.  In other countries,
    mobility was severely limited because of aristocracy to those in the military and clergy.
  2. The legal system, particularly the Northwest Ordinance, allowed territory to be added to the country as equals, not as subservient parts of an empire, and this policy was critical to the expansion of America.

I wish the president of the bar well in his efforts to increase the prestige with the legal profession.  But this is something that has to be marketed to the membership as much as to the public.  Historically, the profession has done much to make this country what it is today, but too many lawyers act unprofessionally.