I saw an article in The Times about that on-going debate” do we have too many lawyers”? I understand the number of solicitors qualified to work in England and Wales has increased by more than 35% over the past 10 years, according to the Law Society. The number holding certificates – which excludes retired lawyers and those no longer following a legal career is about 130,000– up from about 115,000 seven years ago. That said, the number in New York State is more than 150,000 and to show statistic mean whatever you want,the number in Italy is not too far from the number in England and Wales.
One particular point caught my eye.The idea that because there are so many lawyers there is so much law. The point seemed to be more lawyers — more law BUT less lawyers– less law. My response was ” wrong / wrong !” . Having been a member of the Good Law Initiative www.gov.uk/good-law, I have given this some thought. From my totally amateur research, certainly in the world of business law where I work, most lawyers don’t have any particular interest in how a bundle of ideas gets to end up as a particular statute. Some who have a passion for a subject, might,but that I suggest will be rare. Lawyers work with what they are given. So give me The Companies Act 2006 with its 1200 sections and 14 (or whatever) schedules and I don’t sit and wonder where it all came from.I just get on and find what I need.
I have suggested before those lawyers who try genuinely to look after the best interests of their clients ( and those who like to go home earlier than late at night ) would be happier to see a lot less law. And this takes me to another point; that of potential professional liability.We have sadly adopted an aspect of the US legal system which is to think that every deal or other piece of advice will throw up a risk, every client is a potential litigant against his own lawyer and therefore every lawyer, like so many others giving professional advice, now has to be 100% (or more) careful and cautious.
In a recent piece by Mike Atherton ( ex-captain of English cricket team for those not aware) headed ” law enforcement should rest with umpires “he makes a number of fairly unkind comments about lawyers and you know what, who can really blame him? For example he suggests, in connection with cricket’s codes of conduct, these will attract “armies of lawyers ready to exploit any loophole”. One further point he makes is why cricket, (like other sports I assume),spends hundred of thousands of pounds on legal fees.
Why? I suggest because those running these organisations, like so many others have essentially abrogated their roles and duties, for reasons I don’t understand.Clients and others instructing law firms in so many cases need to take up more responsibility. How often do I hear ” Oh its the lawyers”; but hey, lawyers are advising or working with a client, so why the cry? Years ago I read a book by Mary Ann Glendon, a professor of law at Harvard called ” A Nation under Lawyers”; I never thought it could happen here;why has it?
Or more accurately the question is, I think, why do people think we are a country run by lawyers? Is law too complex and difficult for all but lawyers to understand? If so it is a damning indictment on those who are responsible for legal drafting and who, as I know,work hard to make sure it is intelligible.There is no doubt some laws are difficult, for everyone, even judges. Or is the problem a legislature which comes up with complex ideas and wants these turned into rules with little time for anyone to really think about them. Micro-managing the world so that every rule is set out in vast detail ( for example 31 sections on the rules on company names) really doesn’t help many people.
Back to gouldsmatra ( repeat after the writer) :
too much law;
too much bad / complex law;
laws which are unenforceable; and
laws which are enforced.
and never mind the number of lawyers for now .