Defending lawyers by reason of necessity
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” — William Shakespeare, “Henry VI, Part 2”
That line from Dick the Butcher packs more than four centuries of staying power.
But before following his homicidal advice, consider this warning from retired U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Carr during a Thursday visit to this newspaper: “South Carolina is an underserved state when it comes to legal services.”
Translation: We need more lawyers in rural areas.
Carr didn’t make that assertion as part of a mercy plea for South Carolina lawyers. He included it in his case for the importance of keeping the Charleston School of Law in business.
So did former U.S. Magistrate Judge George Kosko, who warned of an oncoming lawyer “vacuum” as Baby Boomer barristers retire.
Kosko and Carr are founding members of the school’s board, which is facing retirement pressures of its own. They made a fair case that the best way — the only way — to keep that for-profit school financially viable and accredited by the American Bar Association is to complete its sale to the Infilaw System, which operates law schools in Jacksonville, Charlotte and Phoenix.
A significant number of CSOL alumni, students and faculty are appealing that verdict. They say it’s the wrong move for their school. They make their own fair case that they were left out of the decision-making process on the sale.
An Oct. 1 deadline looms for any other prospective buyer to give the school’s board what Judge Carr called “a serious” alternative to Infilaw. So this looks like a done deal, though it will likely take until next summer or so for the ABA to approve the transaction.
Order in the court
Infilaw President Peter Goplerud came in with the judges Thursday. He told us Infilaw’s mission and goals are “remarkably similar” to the Charleston School of Law’s — including “a strong focus on serving the underserved.”
And Judges Carr and Kosko stressed that when the school opened to students in 2004, its leaders relied heavily on Infilaw’s advice. Like Goplerud, the judges say they’re trying hard to reassure concerned students, alumni and faculty that Infilaw will be a good fit.
But enough already about that specific law school sale.
Back to the public’s general anti-attorney animus:
The public holds print journalists — especially editorial writers and newspaper columnists — in high regard.
Lawyers, however, suffer widespread scorn. Even we enlightened opinion makers often laugh at mock legal-firm titles like these:
“Dewey, Cheatem & Howe” (from the old Three Stooges and many more), “Ditcher, Quick & Hyde” (from the 2012 “Three Stooges” movie), Curly, Combover & Bald (from “SpongeBob SquarePants”).
But these remain my two favorite lawyer gags:
1) Why don’t sharks eat lawyers?
2) Satan offers to turn an attorney’s failing practice into a gold mine of tobacco- and asbestos-suit riches if he agrees to sell the souls of his parents, wife and children.
The suspicious lawyer replies:
“What’s the catch?”
Yet BP wasn’t joking Wednesday with a full-page Wall Street Journal ad headlined: “Fraud and misconduct in the Gulf settlement claims process have now been confirmed.”
More from that ad: “Former FBI Director and Federal Judge Louis Freeh found, among other things: ‘Many’ of the claims program’s ‘key executives and senior attorneys’ engaged in ‘pervasive’ improper and unethical conduct, some of which may have been criminal.”
Right to remain silent
OK, some lawyers bend — or even break — some rules.
So do some oil companies.
And before heeding Dick the Butcher’s call to “kill all the lawyers” (or any of them), recall this enduring, but wiser, line: “People hate lawyers until they need one.”
So when you’re in a bad legal jam, hire a good mouthpiece and let him — or her — do the talking.
As for the folks upset about the fix-was-in feel of that Charleston School of Law sale, consider it a timely refresher lesson on this legal maxim:
“Get it in writing.”
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.