Legal Blog

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On the image of lawyers

Bloodsuckers and hypocrites?

Lawyers (attorneys) are often exposed to strong criticism, both here and elsewhere. The late famous Dutch professor A. Pitlo speaks with regard to certain advocates (lawyers) about the 'half-intellect' that by intellectualism must succeed in being kept up towards the masses (A. Pitlo, Evolutie in het privaatrecht, [Evolution in private law] Groningen: H.D. Tjeenk Willink 1972, p. 102).

Publications that are extremely critical of advocates can date from any time and the first ones already from before ancient Rome. In this connection François Rabelais (1494-1553) should also be mentioned and (more or less in his footsteps) Honoré Daumier (1808-1879). The cartoons of Daumier in the series ‘Les gens de justice’ are well-known everywhere.

J.A. Brundage wrote that as the professional group of advocates became more prominent and more successful, criticism also increased: “Theologians, merchants, preachers, popes and poets complained that lawyers were bloodsuckers, hypocrites, sacrilegious, foul-mouthed, devious, deceitful, treacherous, proud and arrogant” (J.A. Brundage, The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession; Canonists, Civilians and Courts, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008, p. 477).

The exact image people have of advocates is difficult to establish and will no doubt differ from country to country, perhaps from region to region or even from bario (neighbourhood) to bario. If we have to depend on the jokes which have been made about advocates for many centuries, the worst must be feared. But it is definitely inaccurate to think that all advocates, or even a considerable majority of them, earn 'big money', drive around in luxurious sports cars or limousines, own many houses, are vain or rabulist (a rabulist (from the Latin rabula) is a shady lawyer, a cunning advocate and a law twister).

That image does not do justice to all those who like many others work hard and honestly, but just live an 'ordinary' life or even go through life 'without means'. Living in Curacao we know just as well how a minority can determine the image of the whole group. But preconceptions, which are the case with regard to forming an image of advocates, show a certain persistence.

Filed under: On the nature of lawyers by Karel Frielink.



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