A lot of disgraceful attorneys have been making news lately. This post brings up some good points. It also poses some interesting questions. I think that law is for a number of attorneys a very desperate profession right now. A lot of lawyers are greedy, and many more are hesitant about reporting other lawyers’ ethical violations because they worry they might someday find themselves in the same situation.
Law schools should do something, as they are primarily responsible for the current state of the legal profession. Unfortunately, I doubt that what they’re likely to do will make any difference. They will probably just add another course to the curriculum. Maybe some smart professors will convince the powers-that-be to change the language of the ethics rules. After all, amending the rules to no longer require “zealous” advocacy instantly made lawyers much more civil to each other, right?
The problem is not a lack of knowledge or well-drafted rules. The fundamental problem is the way law schools recruit and educate future lawyers. Law schools are clearinghouses for people who want to make a lot of money working steady hours behind a desk. Any high-paying office job will do. Most law students don’t care if they ever represent anyone. I have attorney-friends who graduated before I did and have yet to interact with a single client. They don’t care. They like it better that way. Many professors have never represented clients either. Some are even hostile to practicing attorneys. The higher your law school GPA and the more academic accolades you receive, the more likely you are to get one of those highly desirable jobs where you sit behind a mahogany desk in an expensive office with a great view billing hundreds of dollars an hour to nameless, faceless corporate clients. The most sought-after jobs of all, prestigious clerkships, will guarantee that you have no clients for at least a year.
I suspect the biggest contributor to the current state of the profession is the fact that most attorneys are too removed from the people who actually pay their salaries. It’s easier to steal from a stranger. There are always going to be bad lawyers who steal from clients. If law schools focused more on recruiting people who really wanted to be lawyers and tried to avoid admitting people who just want to make a steady upper middle class salary sitting at a desk, I bet they could drastically reduce the number of unethical lawyers, at least the type that have been popping up in the news lately.