‘Lawyers are simply professional thieves’My taxi driver,  Vol I, Issue I, Northern Taxi Journal.
Usually, when you are in a taxi the conversation topics are relatively predictable. Nearly every taxi journey I have ever taken has guaranteed discussions about the weather, work… and if I’m lucky, the wife.
Once the small talk is out of the way, we tend to move on to more personal topics: my hobbies, degree, what I want to achieve in life etc. When I tell them that I would love to be a solicitor, the responses vary. Most of the time, I get the ‘ooh, that’s impressive’ line. Other times it somehow leads to the odd rant about Brexit – which is understandable given the current circumstances. One response however, has stayed with me for life.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to set the scene.
It was a typical rainy day here in the North (the pathetic fallacy was really working its magic here I must say), and I was waiting for a taxi to pick me up from the train station. The taxi arrived a few minutes later, and I did the usual routine of getting in the car, saying hello, asking my driver how his day was etc. We then started talking about work. The conversation was going relatively well until he asked me the dreaded question…what do you want to be when you’re older? You already know my answer.
All of a sudden, it went quiet. The car came to a screeching halt.
(Actually, we reached a red traffic light but let’s try to maintain the dramatic tension here guys).
‘Lawyers are simply professional thieves’, he replied bluntly.
It almost seemed like one of those statements that you would be asked to ‘critically discuss’ in an exam paper. Although that one statement had literally slandered all of my hard work so far and future efforts to come, I was not at all offended. Instead, it gave me food for thought. Is this really what the public thinks of lawyers?
While it is widely accepted that lawyers may not necessarily be society’s favourite people, they will always be in demand. Most people associate lawyers with one thing…court – and no one enjoys going to court. However, the legal profession is a craft like any other. Lawyers spend years and years gaining experience and knowledge, which they then sell on to other people. A carpenter does exactly the same thing. A carpenter will spend years perfecting his craft, and then sell his products to clients. The only difference is that our product is not tangible. Our product is knowledge.
Lawyers are amongst one of the most respected professionals, yet they are also one of the least trusted. Nearly all professions have their own stereotypes, and the most common one amongst the legal world is that lawyers simply want to take your money. This is true to an extent, as we all need to make a living…and lawyers are definitely not cheap! However, knowledge and experience is priceless. Lawyers dedicate endless hours reading the thrills of the Human Rights Act 1998 so that their clients don’t have to. I suppose that in an ideal world, all lawyers should give free legal advice. However, the reality is that many firms do not have the resources to do this (legal aid cuts, I am looking at you). After all, time is money.
Maybe my taxi driver had been the victim of a Davies-esque scenario and simply had been put off lawyers for life? I wouldn’t blame him. Nevertheless, I don’t think that the public’s negative perception of lawyers will ever change. Despite the stereotypes, most lawyers that I have spoken to have chosen the profession not because of the money, but because they want to help other people. Of course the salary of a lawyer is very attractive, but there is a reason why lawyers are being paid as much as they are. The job is extremely tough and mentally challenging, and sometimes money can’t fix that.