The Value of Professionalism
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
LawBiz(r) TIPS weekly newsletter
LawBiz® TIPS – Week of October 30, 2012
While in Washington, D.C. last week for the College of Law Practice Management, I took the opportunity to visit our Capitol Building and the Library of Congress. Each is unique, but the latter is incredible. What an American treasure! And I spent hours at the Newseum (built in 2008). American history seen through the eyes of the media, newspapers, books and television! Wow! The best museum experience I have ever had.
If you are in San Francisco on November 12-13, 2012, I'd welcome having breakfast with you. Please contact me directly.
The Value of Professionalism
Using Replacement NFL Referees
As I write this, the sports world is fixated on the National Football League's use of replacement officials. Players, coaches and sportswriters alike are complaining that the replacements - who are filling in for locked-out regular officials during a contract dispute - are incompetents who are in over their heads, and thus changing the outcome of games and even endangering player safety. The recent Green Bay Packer game one clear example of inexperienced refs altering the outcome of a game.
What Can Go Wrong?
What replacement officials too often lack can be summed up in a single word: professionalism. This is a value that we take for granted in the legal world. Lawyers and judges are assumed to be competent and capable, such that the administration of justice and adherence to laws and regulations are assumed to be proper. But what happens if that assumption of professionalism is suddenly questioned, and legal decisions become as suspect as those of replacement NFL referees? Two examples show how this could happen.
Remove Legal Licensing Requirements?
Writers from a think tank in Washington, DC wrote to propose deregulating the legal profession. Presumably, this would lower costs for buyers of legal services by letting anyone practice law, whether they've gone through law school or not, and allowing anyone to own a law firm. These are not new ideas, but they could create chaos. Why not remove licensing requirements for everyone in everything, from medicine, to plumbing, to driving a car? Licensing assures a minimum standard of quality. Licensing requirements in specific areas of human endeavor are society's way of self-protection. Eliminating them might lower costs in the short term, but the long term damage would involve incalculable cost.
Use Private Judges?
Now consider the State of California, where $500 million in recent budget cuts will mean even slower and more inefficient courtroom proceedings. Some observers suggest that the appropriate response to this dire situation is greater use of private judges to circumvent the delays and increased costs of the public judicial system. Private judges are generally those who have retired from the Bench and hire themselves out to those who can afford them. The judge is scheduled for one proceeding. From the moment it starts, the lawyers, experts and the judge are working to resolve the dispute. The orders from the private judge have the same effect as orders obtained from the judge in the public courthouse - but only those who can afford a private judge get the advantage of one, and presumably the private judge will not give an advantage to the hiring party.
Unlicensed lawyers are not yet a reality; private judges have not yet been found to be biased. But why run the risk of an inequitable legal system by tampering with traditional professional standards? In the courtroom and on the playing field, skill should be presumed, and valued.
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