Love Your Lawyer Day? Really?

This last Friday (11/4) was Love Your Lawyer Day. Yes, Love Your Lawyer Day is a real thing — insofar as some people decided to make it a thing and told everybody that it’s a thing and no one really bothered to disagree. I mean, we have Grandparents’ Day and President’s Day and Boss’ Day, why not Lawyer Day? Right?

Then again, I’m pretty sure Shakespeare never said, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the bosses.” (Karl Marx, maybe, but that’s an entirely different matter.) Some lawyers have made some rather fascinating arguments that this line (in it’s original form, targeting lawyers) was intended as some sort of backhanded compliment — but the next line of the same play, in modern language, reads “I will. Isn’t it tragic that we turn precious trees into paper, and that paper, scribbled on, can take away a man’s rights? I signed just one paper, and I’ve never been in control of my life since.”

That’s hardly complimentary.

But it’s also understandable. One of the most significant features of our adversarial legal system is that, by definition, someone loses. It doesn’t matter whether you’re being sued, being charged with a crime, or going through a divorce — if there are two lawyers arguing with each other in front of a judge, someone is going to lose. And because complex events like divorce rarely go entirely the way you might want them to, it’s surprisingly common for both sides to walk away feeling like they lost.

Look at it this way: if more than 50% of all of the clients of a restaurant walked away unhappy, do you think that restaurant would stay in business? If 50% of the tenants of a landlord complained, do you think the city or state they complained to would just let them keep operating? Yet lawyers expect a significant portion of their clients to lose, based solely on the math of the adversarial system.

It’s no wonder we have a powerful drive toward mediation and other non-adversarial systems of resolving problems — it’s because when you get right down to it, the adversarial system has some massive downsides.

And we’re not even getting into the fact that the most (in)famous lawyers in the non-adversarial law positions are the ones that help the rich and powerful stay rich and powerful, or become more so.  A fact that was true in Shakespeare’s day, too, as evidenced by the line that came before “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” That line, in modern language, is “When I am king, we’ll all have the same fine foods to eat, the same fine clothes to wear, and we will all treat one another like brothers.” In that context, killing the lawyers may have seemed like a necessary first step toward those lofty goals.

Love Your Lawyer Day.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that lawyers don’t appreciate gratitude and respect. But we should (and usually do!) recognize that our job, collectively, is to help people through the parts of their lives that are unreasonable. Asking two divorcees decide how they are going to resolve their child’s schedule is, in most cases, unreasonable. Asking them to agree on how they are going to split their assets is equally unreasonable.

And when “unreasonable” is literally the thing that defines when you become relevant to someone’s life, it’s somewhat unreasonable to ask them to love you.

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