All of us who work with, for, or who are, lawyers, have heard it over and over, “there are too many lawyers/lawsuits” or “lawsuits are frivolous.” Sometimes this includes a reference to McDonald’s and coffee, but it is a comment that we at Magnus hear often in some form. I heard it recently when asked what I do for work – “I’m a trial consultant, all my clients are lawyers…” The person’s comments were along the above noted lines. That day I paused and then I explained that, in 25+ years consulting on cases, I can think of very few that were frivolous, if any. I know the cases for which trial consultants are hired are a subset of all that are litigated, but regardless, we see few cases in which someone is not really hurt, or in which money was not lost in a transaction, or some serious event/accident did not occur. Liability may sometimes be tenuous, but that is one reason we are being hired. One important factor is that, by the time a lawyer hires a trial consultant, a significant amount of money has been “spent” or “invested” in the case. It if were frivolous, that would likely not be the case – though some insurance adjusters might differ (and some have, until the mock jury verdicts were in on the case). My perspective is that lawyers and litigation are a form of “check and balance.” In the USA, we have several systems of check and balance whether in government or in the public world. Lawsuits are one of those and I tried to explain this to the uninformed person who made the recent comment. As for the number of lawyers, well, there were 40,000 or so members of the Florida Bar when I first started in the business; now there are 104,000 and growing fast. For some people, this is too many and there are indicators that the numbers impact the business of law. But in the context first described, those law industry specific issues are not being raised. I’m not going to judge whether there are too many lawyers; to me, that just gives me more clients and prospective clients. These things are all a matter of perspective.
I am constantly amazed by many people’s willingness to say and do things that dispel any doubt that they have no idea about the subject they are speaking. I have lost count of the number of times when, after revealing my occupation to a layperson, he/she immediately regales me with boring accounts of jury duty; a bad experience with an ex-spouse’s attorney during a divorce; or ignorant remarks revealing a complete lack of understanding of the “McDonald’s case,” the supposed “insurance crisis,” the supposed “medical malpractice lawsuit crisis”; or the overall role of attorneys in our society. (Interestingly, these ignoramuses are often very quick to call a personal injury attorney when they or a loved one have an auto accident, slip and fall at a restaurant, or get bit by their neighbor’s dog.) I have learned not to waste my time explaining or debating with people who cannot begin to discuss MY job working with attorneys from a standpoint of open minded, educated, and/or intellectual curiosity. When someone remarks to me that “there are too many lawyers,” “most lawsuits are frivolous,” or anything similarly ridiculous, I remain silent and look at him/her as if I do not understand a word that was said. David tries to educate the masses of uninformed people, one person at a time, but I have no desire to spend any of my time or intellectual resources on what I believe will, in all likelihood, be a wasted effort. Considerable social psychological research has revealed people believe what they want to believe, due to many pre-existing personality traits, such that these know it alls, who actually know next to nothing, will not be willing to listen to anything that disconfirms what they wrongly believe. I will close this by asking the reader, rhetorically, whether he or she has ever contacted an attorney for ANY type of help (including a real estate matter, a divorce, to prepare a will, or anything else); would consider contacting an attorney for any type of help; know anyone who is an attorney; or have any basis whatsoever to form an opinion about attorneys. Finally, I would argue that attorneys help people in ways that other professionals cannot do and further, our right to hire an attorney, pursue lawsuits, and obtain justice is something to respect, not ridicule.