JLU: Junior Lawyers' Union

Asserting the rights of junior lawyers, who have much more power than they realise.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Are Lawyers Human?

Q: what do a sperm and a lawyer have in common?

A: they both have a one in three chance of being human

every speck of popular culture has its origins in truth – and no less the “myth” that lawyers are inherently evil.

but rather than just laughing it off, do we ever stop to think about why people say this about lawyers?

like so many other worker bees around me, I slaved (relatively) hard to enter the legal industry with (mostly) good intentions – only to find out that the legal culture was riddled with injustice, cowardice, prejudice, harassment, discrimination and immorality – and that was just in the articles application process!

gather a group of young lawyers together in one place and the unfortunate truth is that you will be hard-pressed to find even one that hasn’t directly experienced some form of bullying, harassment or discrimination. the legal profession is supposed to engender concepts of justice and fairness, but there aren’t many lawyers who wouldn’t laugh at the thought.

lawyers spend their lives manipulating the law, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of them come to believe that the normal rules don’t apply to them – that they are quite literally above the law.

I was unfortunate enough to be bullied and harassed by my former employers to the extent that I had to leave (or, on another view, was dismissed). I was either brave or foolish enough to turn to the law to take on my former employers. the context, the experience and the outcome would need to be a blog topic in and of itself. but needless to say, it was not particularly enjoyable, and I am still of two minds as to whether I would encourage others to follow in my lead.

but what I would encourage is young lawyers breaking the silence that traditionally surrounds these kinds of issues. there is a strong belief that by standing up for yourself you’re actually shooting yourself in the foot. I don’t believe this is true. I sued my former employer and lived to tell the tale. I am still employed as a lawyer, and I intend to remain a lawyer for as long as I can while also remaining sane.

the longer we remain silent, the longer these issues are swept under the carpet. if no complaints are made then the size of problem remains unknown and nothing is done about it. and what’s more, if something is going to be done, it’s up to us to do it.

I cannot agree more with the Steward’s previous post. in my view the LIV don't even manage adequate ethical regulation of the legal profession. the LIV had nothing to offer when I reported my former employers to them. god forbid that a lawyer should send a bill out without providing a 10 page explanation of how the client can refuse to pay it – but it's fine for a partner to routinely bully or harass their employees.

I don’t have a solution, I don’t even really have a master plan. but what I do know is that the more awareness there is of the problem, the harder it will be for the perpetrators to get away with it.

one idea I have had is to collate the stories and experiences of young lawyers - both good and bad. I am hoping that common threads will appear and potential solutions can be found.

so I invite people to either write to me or post a comment on the site about their experiences working in the law - and maybe together we can work towards a better profession!


Blogger Legal Eagle said...

Three cheers for you, Angry Bee. It's very hard to stand up for yourself in this profession. There is definitely a perception that if you stand up for yourself you won't go anywhere. Everyone just sits there and lets sh*t happen! The more people who openly talk about the problems within the legal profession the better, because it won't be a taboo topic any more. So: if you and Shop Steward stand up - I'll be there too with you!

31 July, 2006 22:29  
Blogger Shop Steward said...

Indeed, perhaps "one in three" is a little optimistic - in both cases.

08 August, 2006 20:37  

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