Roger writing the LAWmag

Lawyers: Rulers of the Known Universe

The Question

A son or daughter of a lawyer makes that inevitable statement, "Daddy (or Mommy), I think I want to be a lawyer", as the parent inevitably nuzzles their chin and looks to the heavens for wisdom and inspiration, much like answering a question from justice so-and-so.

The pause ... the deep search for knowledge ... but this time, it's not for effect in Court. This time it's for real.

Just how relevant are lawyers to today's society? There has to be some Canada Council money in that.

And not just in the courtroom or their offices. Shoot high - as world leaders; as movers and shakers in the law-making arenas.

What They Don't Need to Know ... Yet.

We know already that in those areas that they can control - the courtroom and law books - lawyers do a dismal job of managing change management. In fact, if you ever want to give a change-management analyst a heart attack, let them sit in on any meeting of judges or law society meetings. They won't believe how behind the eight ball those that lead law have let us become.

Lawyers becoming less relevantBut that, a topic for another consultant who can make a few bucks and get a few trips to the enabling law schools of the world to expound in some new way on the self-evident theory of the increasing irrelevance of lawyers but proposing no outside-the-box solutions such as ... and with apologies for professional blasphemy ... a simpler justice system?

Two rule books instead of one does not a simpler justice system make. Changing preaecipe to requisition and ex parte to without notice is nice hair styling and ... what? ... 60 years overdue? When did they stop teaching Latin?

But we digress. The reality for any parent is that there's money in dem dar hills.

And since we are the parent facing the question, what better place to start then the state of the nation, as it were.

Statistics is an area which even lawyers can't ignore, unless you're an insurance defence counsel.

So before you answer your son daughter, consider what follows.

Where Are The Lawyers?

The premise, of course, is the oft-cited words of Alexis de Tocqueville who wrote, in his 1835 book Democracy in America:

"The authority (the people) have entrusted to members of the legal profession, and the influence which these individuals exercise in the government, is the most powerful existing security against the excesses of democracies."

That's nice of the Frenchman since he was not a lawyer but a philosopher.

He was right too: in the mid-1800s, lawyers and state-builders, society-makers, were synonymous -  Abraham Lincoln ... John A. Macdonald ... we have a Law's Hall of Fame full of them.

But, the prevalence of lawyers on the world stage is diminishing.

Vuk Jeremić, president of the United Nations, not a lawyer. He has degrees in theoretical physics and public administration.

The Queen of England, Elizabeth II is not a lawyer. She was, ah-hem, "educated privately at home".

The English prime-minister, a fine Tory, David Cameron, is not a lawyer either. He studied "philosophy, politics and economics." {Note to the Canadian Prime Minister: the writer has a college degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from prestigious St. Lawrence College in Quebec City.}

American president Barrack Obama is a lawyer but Mitt Romney, who has a juris doctor, never practiced law. He's a business owner and manager.

The current "paramount leader" of China is Hu Jinato, at least as of 9:51 a.m.. on October 22, 2012 Pacific time. Jinato is a hydraulic engineer which is different from being a lawyer although it would certainly be helpful in the room when the judges next meet to reform the rules - with no disrespect intended to the word reform. Jinato's official C.V. notes that he apparently also excelled in singing and dancing - both essential skills for any courtroom lawyer, especially dancing.

The prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh is an economist but the president Pranab Mukherjee has a degree in law. Mukherjee leveraged his degree to become a teacher.

The perfect face for the Court of AppealRussian president Vladimir Putin has a dour face which certainly could come handy, maybe not for lawyers, but certainly a good fit for the bench. And, to borrow from the Johnny Carson show, heeeeeeee's a lawyer! Well, if a degree in international law and no courtroom experience but employment in the K.G.B. counts. I wonder what the Canadian national joint committee on the accreditation of non-Canadian common law lawyers would think of that work experience?

The Australian prime minister Ms Julia Gillard? Yes! Bingo - she's a lawyer and she has practiced law although she's done labour law which, if you've ever suffered through a labour relations board hearing, you'd know is an oxymoron.

What about Germany? Sorry. Angela Merkel is a physical chemist which begs the question, what is a theoretical chemist? And why don't law schools offer degrees in Theoretical Law™?

François Hollande, president of France? Another post-secondary education not in law but in public administration.

Nobody knows what Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda is although he has at least two things in common with lawyers: he's feisty and he wears black - he has a black belt in judo.

The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has degrees in architecture and political science. How do these guys get elected?!

With Muslim states, legal wisdom is omnipresent since, as theocracies, you pretty much have to be an Islamic law expert to get anywhere, and again using the word law with some reservations (and don't even get us started on the word reform). The president is a lovely man, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who, it has to be admitted, lists his occupation as engineer.

In the small, Nordic, igloo-infested state of Canada, the prime minister, a certain Stephen Harper is an economist but the completely irrelevant position of Governor General is occupied by a lawyer: David Johnston. Johnson has another attribute which instantly puts him into the legal elite: he once played ice hockey.

And just to wrap up this reverie, the 238-million people of Indonesia have a professional soldier as president - Susilio Bambang Yudho who may not have a law degree but just imagine the advantage of that middle name in Court:

"That's Lloyd Bambang for the record my Lady, acting on behalf of Google Inc."

Brazil's president Felipe Calderón has a law degree but he went and spoiled it with a master's in economics.

Brazil's president is Ms Dilma Rousseff - not a lawyer - another economist (are you seeing a disturbing pattern here?).

Ms Rouseff was apparently a one-time guerrilla and she was nabbed, jailed and tortured in 1970. Can't make fun of torture but the well-versed will imagine the similarities with the experiences some lawyers go through in chambers.

Been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt.

State of the Nation

As with all good things, the reverie ends.

Is what de Tocqueville saw in 1835 a disappearing phenomena? Can penguins fly? Are judges ever wrong?

Still, the disappearance of lawyers at the seats of G8 and G20 meetings is a sign of loss of influence, edged-out slowly.

It's no stretch that the embedded inability to effect change has caught up to lawyers who are increasingly not welcome as leaders in a world that must spin on a dime. For proof of this see the dismal state of reform in Court rules and procedure anywhere in the free and democratic world.

Maybe lawyers are just taking their per-ordained destinies as worker ants servicing the nest because in spite of the evidence in regards to world leaders, just about every law-making body in the world is dominated by lawyers who still form the largest professional body of politicians - but even that is changing.

Hate to wake you up but your son or daughter is still standing there, now wondering why you're taking so long to respond.

"Daughter (or son). That's great news. There's so much you can do with a law degree! Why, look at me...."

Posted in Law Makers, Politicians, Legal Profession and Lawyers
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