Having been active in business, charities and politics, one gets to know many lawyers. Some of them are quite civilized and likable people. Despite this, there is a strong tendency to agree with William Shakespeare’s character in Henry VI, Part 2 who suggested that (to have an effective revolution) first we have to kill all the lawyers. In Shakespeare’s time, the line probably had even the lawyers in the audience laughing.
At a neighbourhood get-together the other evening, a lawyer made the mistake of claiming that lawyers are put on earth to assure us less fortunate people of access to the law. The reaction to his claim was spontaneous and bordered on the rude. Of course, in his field of law, he has every right to feel proud of what he is able to do for people. It is just that lawyers themselves are often guilty of promoting bad jokes about lawyers.
To many of us, the lawyer is seen as someone with their hand out, waiting for the rest of us to pay our tithes for access to the law. Without legal training, your way is barred. Even in small claims court in Ontario where having legal counsel is not always necessary, we have noted that court-ordered settlements tend to be more generous when lawyers are involved—probably to pay their fees.
But lawyers have been with us since before the days of Cicero in ancient Rome. In Robert Harris’ wonderful novel Imperium, he showed how inseparable lawyers were from politics as far back as Cicero’s time. Mind you, assassination was one of the alternatives to having more votes back then, so you would have expected politicians to be a bit more cautious in making enemies.
Politicians in our day need not be quite as concerned. If they are also lawyers, they can look after themselves quite nicely, thanks to the voters.
If, for example, you have ever struggled with condominium law in Ontario, you can quickly learn what an ass, the law can be. Condominium law, in this province, is probably the best example of lawyers looking after lawyers you will ever see. The elected board of directors of a condo community is treated in the act as though they are incompetents—and can be.
Of all failures of Ontario lawyer-politicians, the most offensive was the response to Toronto Police Chief William Blair when he asked about laws supporting his expanded police force for the G20 in Toronto. He was given the wrong and outdated act under which he was to operate that even he knew had to be wrong. Nobody stepped up to take the blame. Premier Dalton McGuinty (a lawyer) and his pack of lawyers at Queen’s Park disgraced our province!
Copyright 2011 © Peter Lowry
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