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Ruth Hull

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May 18, 2012

There was a time when attorneys in this country actually cared about the common good and helping their fellow man. What has happened to professional integrity and to justice in America?


What happened to justice? by r


Back when I was in law school, there was something called "idealism."   Students wanted to become attorneys so they could help others.   What happened?

Part of the reason I chose my law school was that, the year I started there, it had the highest California Bar passage rate of any law school, much higher than Berkeley, much higher than Harvard, and much much higher than USC.   So, when I and my class graduated, we didn't have a lot of trouble passing the bar, through that was the year they toughened the bar.   At my reunions, I have discovered that almost nobody from my law school class is practicing law.   Why?

Much of what I and others have seen is a dramatic shift in the quality of attorneys.   The focus of practicing law seems to have changed from attorneys helping others to attorneys helping themselves into the wallets of their clients in exchange for minimal or no services.

When I was practicing, I did a significant percentage of pro-bono.   I didn't like charging clients unless I knew they could pay as I felt they needed the money more than I did.   Yet I still did pretty well.   Later, at the insistence of my husband (almost my x-husband), I took time off to raise and homeschool our kids.   More recently, I have looked at what attorneys are doing and have been more than a little shocked at their total disregard for the welfare of their clients.

It makes me wonder whether those currently practicing law deserve to maintain their bar licenses.   Are non-lawyers more qualified to practice law than most of those currently licensed to practice law in my state?

Lawyers have a monopoly enforced by law.   Yet, it is almost impossible to find one who has any morals at all.   It is even harder to find one who could care less about the wellbeing of his or her clients.

Attorneys in California jump in to represent big corporations who are destroying the little man.    Attorneys help rich crooks destroy the lives of little people who are trying to survive.   The little people trying to survive cannot get an attorney as you need lots of money to get an attorney.

In divorce cases, men usually grab the family funds and use those to pay for their attorneys.   They go to Legal Aid and place their wives on permanent conflict of interest lists so that the women have no access at all to attorneys.   Attorneys will not go to court to ask for attorney's fees for the wives as attorneys won't normally appear for women at all unless the women can afford their fees up front in advance of any work.   Judges won't grant attorney's fees unless the attorneys show up in person.   This leaves women in divorce cases without attorneys and without rights.   Female attorneys won't even handle cases for other women absent lots of money or unusual circumstances. Gloria Allred is not likely to help anyone without a guaranteed million in her coffers.   If a woman borrows money to give to an attorney, the attorney will take it and then fail to do any work.   Family law is an unfair system that leaves women out in the cold without anything after years of marriage as they watch their husbands walk away with everything.

So what can be done?   As someone with a legal background, I would be best off not saying what the public should do or demand.  

However, other people are suggesting eliminating the monopoly of the bar when it comes to practicing law.   They feel that this would assist people who need an attorney to represent them but cannot find one because the approximately 184,000 active members of the California State Bar and other attorneys elsewhere are too busy picking their noses as they pick their clients' pockets to do an honest day's work.   Following such a suggestion might increase competition for clients and bring back contingency personal injury cases.   It is an interesting idea. Given that people like Dennis Kucinich know more about law than most of the attorneys I know, I cannot say it would lower the standards.   It might even raise them. There is an election coming up in California on June 5th.  Those interested in something of that nature should consult candidates to see whether they would back a bill to do just that.

If the bar wants to restore its credibility and integrity, it should consider a pro bono requirement of 30% or higher.   I met this standard and actually went much higher when I was practicing law.   It was easy and not a financial hardship.   Only a selfish and lazy attorney, the kind who gives the profession a bad name, would be unable to meet a documented 30% pro bono requirement.  This is the least the legislature should demand of the bar if it is to continue to hold a monopoly on the practice of law.

The power is in the people.   My experience is that people are also lazy.   At the slightest resistance from authorities or finding anything else to do, most people will give up their freedom and rights and ignore the increasing loss of human dignity in this country.   If people want to become lazy slobs, that is their right.  

There is a better way and that better way was shown by those risking arrest and worse in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.   Women are talking about emulating OWS with a National Women's Justice Movement.   Imagine, hundreds of thousands of women occupying the courtrooms across America and refusing to leave until the judges start following the laws.

The future is in your hands.   Do you want to tell your children about how you made America a better place for them or do you want to tell them that you were too lazy to get out from in front of your TV set?    And what do you want your children to tell your grandchildren about you?





Submitters Bio:


The author is the chairman of a liberal Democratic club that is working to move the Democratic Party towards it's true base, the people. She has organized major political events and helped elect some of the most liberal politicians in America. Her career has included work as a criminal defense attorney, a licensed private investigator, an educator and a writer.