At Least We’re Not Members of Congress

Journalists, business executives and lawyers work in the nation’s least-esteemed professions, according to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. The Pew survey identifying the professions that U.S. residents think contribute the most to society was compiled earlier this year based on telephone interviews with approximately 4,000 U.S. adults.

Attorneys ranked at the bottom of the Pew survey, with fewer than one in five Americans saying that lawyers contribute “a lot” to society (18%). Business executives barely escaped the last-place distinction (24%), and journalists scored only slightly better (28%). Attorneys and journalists both lost traction since a similar Pew survey in 2009, with lawyers losing five percentage points and media types sliding by 10%. Military personnel, teachers and doctors topped the Pew list of most-respected professions in 2013.

That lawyers are held in low esteem is no surprise. After all, Americans have been fed a steady diet of negative portrayals of lawyers for years, particularly in the past 10 years with the explosion of online news content and the expansion of television networks. In the minds of many Americans, the Atticus Finches of the world have been replaced by Gloria Allred and other bombastic lawyers who are willing to spend their after-work hours yelling at each other during appearances on the many nightly “news” talk shows on TV, radio and the web.

But how often do you read a story of a lawyer who did something good? There are plenty of examples of outstanding lawyers, but they get a fraction of the press compared to those who are behaving badly. The quiet truth is that not all lawyers are the frantic, screaming souls we see on our TV sets on a daily basis. The vast majority of lawyers are busy working in their important societal roles without any attention from the press or public. They’re drafting documents that will lead to the construction of our country’s finest buildings, improve our system of commerce, and make our government work. They’re also helping individuals solve tax problems, buy new homes, draft their wills, and perform a myriad of other day-to-day tasks that make the lives of their clients easier and better.

Unfortunately, the only people who generally stand up for lawyers are other lawyers. So next time someone says something about “ambulance-chasing” or “greedy lawyers” remind them of all the good we do. You’d be surprised at how often you hear someone say, “I hadn’t really thought about that before.”


Posted: 8/21/2013 2:01:37 PM by Editor | with 0 comments

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About This Blog

Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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