So, why exactly am I practising Law again?

After one of those long days after struggling with the Scottish Legal Aid Board to get them to actually pay the pittance due for Legal Aid work done; dealing with a client who is complaining that we did not make them a multimillionaire in the process of their divorce from their unemployed penniless spouse; taking instructions from someone who has just walked in the door with tomorrow being the last date to oppose their home repossession; at the same time trying to sit down with a 40 page commercial lease that needs quick turn around for the business client who has workers and contractors on standby for completion; and all the other similar tasks that makes practice so much fun, you sometimes ask yourself “What on earth am I doing this job for?”

It certainly isn’t for the money. I could immediately increase income by moving from rural to a city firm, and/or dropping all Legal Aid work. That wouldn’t get rid of all the stress, but it would be more lucrative. As they say “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make your misery a lot more comfortable”.

It isn’t lack of other options. I have a sideline in IT – I could drop the legal profession and switch to that full time and make at least a similar income; alternatively I could apply to work for half a dozen different managerial or other type jobs which would probably make more.

The reason that I stick in at the practice of Law ultimately is because I believe in justice and I want to provide people with access to justice. Now Law is not automatically the same thing as Justice but it can be a route to it. For this we need to consider “The Rule of Law” and “Rule by Law”.

Rule by Law means that there is a set of rules or laws stating what is or is not permitted by the government, which will be applied identically to everyone. However as Anatole France said “La loi, dans un grand souci d’égalité, interdit aux riches comme aux pauvres de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain” or as commonly abridged in English “One Law for Rich and Poor Alike; No Stealing Bread or Sleeping Under Bridges”. In essence it is the ability of the governors, the rich, the powerful, to control the rest of society as they see fit.

The Rule of Law on the other hand includes the principle that “All are equal before the law”. Obviously everyone is not “equal” in the sense of having identical abilities, opportunities or resources. However, everyone has equal rights to use the law to protect themselves and regulate their lives; every person is just as “important” as every other so far as the legal system is concerned. An individual can sue the government just the same as the other way around; rich and poor, weak or powerful, all have the same redress to the courts to access justice.

So, if there are members of society who do not have access to knowledge of the law or use of the courts, we no longer have Rule of Law, and justice is replace by privilege. That is real access, not theoretical access. So financial constraints should not prevent access; location, being in a rural rather than urban area, should not prevent access. That means some form of Legal Aid system needs to exist so that those in financial need can access the Law as of right, not from charity; that means good quality lawyers need to be spread across the country (not some call centre system).

So that’s why me, and others like me, do this job with all its problems, stresses and strains. More money would be nice, but at the end of the day so long as we can make a living wage there are more important things in life. To amend a quote from a rather well drafted historical document: “Non enim propter gloriam, diuicias aut honores pugnamus set propter justitiam” For it is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for justice.

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2 Responses

  1. Excellent piece! It’s the type odf thing the Law Soc should be putting out to promote the profession.

    Generally media coverage of lawyers is poor. People reading what it is really like might actually see that lawyrrs are people, many of whom are motivated by a lot of things, money being very low on the list.

    I look forward to more posts. Good luck!

    Paul

  2. Excellent piece Sir. Not only in law but in many other professions and works people strive to “fight the goof fight” and try to make a difference. As you say, as long as you make a reasonable living and enjoy the lifestyle you are comfortable with then things are indeed fine.

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