Saturday, February 14, 2009


By : N. Chance Knickerbocker, Jr., Esq., Order of the Coif; Partner, Nickerson, Knickerbocker, Nichols & Dix, P.C., A Full-Service Law Firm Committed to Maximal Client Satisfaction through Commercial Stimulation

Lawyers occupy a special place in our society. Along with doctors, lawyers typify the professional image. We are learned men and women equipped with special knowledge. We use our knowledge to help average people contend with two intimidating systems: The courts and the law. Lawyers, like all professionals, assemble their knowledge only after years of devoted study and practice. Most people do not have the time or energy to study as much as we have studied, and that is why they turn to us for help when trouble brews. We are always glad to provide assistance. After all, we perform valuable services: We sell homes; we protect investments; we seek money damages for car accidents; we put bad people in jail; we keep innocent people out of jail (or at least those about whom there is reasonable doubt concerning guilt); we defend fortunes from frivolous claims; we help disillusioned spouses to obtain the most property possible from shattered marital contracts; we ensure that sons and daughters receive their inheritance, not crackpot churches or male lovers; and we help people pay fewer taxes—all for a reasonable fee. This is value. And people could not secure it without us.

For years, people knew when they needed lawyers. For years, people knew that they were too ignorant to confront legal problems without us. But now common men think they can handle “routine” legal matters by themselves. In recent years, shrewd entrepreneurs have introduced “do-it-yourself” legal primers intended to equip laymen with legal powers. Their products purport to assist people in writing wills, defending themselves in court, divorcing their wives, forming corporations and even filing their taxes. In sum, these products have damaged the legal profession by undermining public dependence on lawyers. People now think that they can handle any problem without a lawyer’s help. We find this disturbing.

Common men do not know what we know. The law is intricate; no “do-it-yourself” product can replace a lawyer’s subtle expertise. Only lawyers know how to ensure that every comma, period and double-space in a will properly satisfies the statute. Only lawyers know how certain documents must be stapled according to local rules. And only lawyers know the correct addresses to which to send corporate applications. By placing these subtle details in a layman’s hands, “do-it-yourself” programs endanger the very people they purport to protect. Only lawyers can protect laymen from the dangerous complexities inherent in any legal problem. Put simply, no legal problem is “routine” or “simple.” Laymen need lawyers to truly solve intractable issues. Without lawyers, they risk violating a procedure, rule, clause, code, statute, consent decree, practice, form or order. And if they do that, their legal rights evaporate.

No layman can navigate the law without a lawyer. It is too hazardous. There are too many details. But there is another troubling issue at work here: The public is abandoning the legal profession. We are determined to stop this development. We are determined to force laymen to consult lawyers before confronting any legal issue. In today’s “save-a-dollar” environment, everyone thinks they can cut corners to reduce costs, even if that means forgoing a lawyer’s help. Today, people think they can “do their own legal research” to find out what the law requires. This is unacceptable. The legal profession loses esteem when people believe they can inform themselves about the law. Lawyers study the law all their lives. They make their livelihood telling ignorant laymen what the law says. The legal profession rapidly fades into irrelevance when people start reading the law for themselves. In short, our profession depends on esoteric subject matter. If everyone starts learning the law on their own, lawyers become unnecessary. We refuse to let this happen.

To combat weakening reliance on lawyers to solve legal problems, we propose measures intended to block laymen from learning the law. At present, all statutes, codes and cases are written in English. We conduct trials in English and we take testimony in English. Court reporters write English transcripts. Both laymen and lawyers speak English. To that extent, it is feasible for laymen to hear, read and understand legal proceedings. They can read cases and statutes. With time and energy, they can learn what the law requires. To stop these enterprising laymen, we propose translating all legal discourse into a language that only lawyers can understand. By conducting legal discourse in a completely inaccessible language, no layman will ever know what is happening. Thus, when confronting a legal issue, a layman will be forced to seek a lawyer’s help.

Under our new system, a layman may receive the following notice on his front door: “Njiwato: Awalla Mbutu, lopsisial Deretlopopol falagazzi jerundian, 14th Salamander nowhither qyart krilliath nofuku est.” Obviously he will have no idea what that means. In that situation, he will seek help from someone who does: A lawyer. The lawyer will tell him: “This notice says that you are being evicted from your apartment effective September 14th.” If the layman is enterprising, he may attempt to resolve the problem himself by contacting the local sheriff. But the sheriff will not respond to him in English, but rather in legal language: “Gloy arakperuvian, III(B) dilettante Wernert mopedfarak, ferenc boolrada nosferatu bryn mawrid nisi, et seq.” The laymen will begin to panic. In a final effort, he will attempt to read the law on evictions. But when he consults the statute book, he finds only this description: “NJIWATO : (a) Gloy terenk, notwithstanding, klubbvarai pollo redding, falagazzi non est; (b) EXCEPT: halp Wither, codeney heckle Msolo victor Pre-Jelatinne, pursuant to Orrwilliam § 25.21(s), et seq. Colver v. Blowfield, 125 J.K.2d 1290 (N.Y. 1992); (c) Unless, until, but for, provided that, but in no event shall plofarrtt deringle tink xoran leeman horfit nolange.” Completely at a loss, the layman will have no choice but to return to the lawyer. The lawyer will then gladly represent the layman and tell him what the law means. If necessary, he will go into court on his behalf and make arguments in the appropriate legal language.

Our profession thrives when laymen have no access to the law’s commands. Detractors say that the public should know the law. They say that our society would descend into chaos if people did not know what behavior was prohibited or allowed. We disagree. By restricting legal knowledge solely to lawyers who understand legal language, we place all the risks on laymen. People will question whether they are conforming to the law or breaking it. They will be uncertain. They will wonder whether they will face fines, fees, lawsuits or even criminal prosecution for engaging in certain behavior. In every case, they will need lawyers to help them understand what dangers they face. By restricting access to the law and confounding laymen with incomprehensible language, we will restore prestige to—and reliance upon—the legal profession. Lawyers will resume their rightful station as intermediaries between “regular people” and the imperceptible mysteries of the law.

By restoring inaccessibility to the law, we will protect the law’s integrity. In recent years, laymen have increasingly criticized courts and legislators for their legal views. In so doing, critics have called the law into public question, splitting popular opinion and reducing respect for legal standards. If no one can agree on the law’s meaning, what incentive do laymen have to respect it? If everyone can read the law, what will stop laymen from interpreting it as they wish? Nothing can. But by translating all legal discourse into an inscrutable new language known only to lawyers and judges, we ensure that everyone is equally ignorant about the law’s meaning. Instead, we will place full trust in lawyers and judges to understand the law, leaving laymen simply to obey. This will calm the national debate and maintain intellectual order. Today, a virtual firestorm erupts whenever the Supreme Court issues a controversial opinion. By adopting legal language, however, we will ensure that even the most radical Supreme Court opinions will pass unnoticed into the books. After all, no commentators will know what they mean. And only lawyers will be able to translate them—at a fee.

In bygone times, people respected lawyers for their knowledge and skill. It is time to restore that respect. Our profession refuses to surrender to “do-it-yourself” entrepreneurs who presume to promise automatic legal results to ignorant laymen. We will defeat these market vultures by making the law totally inaccessible to even the most determined layman. When no one understands the law, lawyers become essential. When lawyers are essential, people will treat them again with respect. Lawyers can do miraculous things, unimaginable to mere laymen. They deserve admiration for that.

No longer will laymen mock lawyers as “sleazeballs,” “scumbags” and “pricks.” Rather, laymen will praise them for their wisdom, knowledge and skill. After all, laymen will now be at the law’s mercy. They will have no idea what confronts them. They will be lost without us. They will need us to save themselves—and their money. In so doing, we will restore honor, pride and power to the profession.

Blawtelford lexingham terrington ferinthiast quo tan! If you cannot understand that, we advise you to consult a lawyer.

1 comment:

SteveW said...

Nice. :-)