Posted on January 16th, 2021 by Zane Cagle
As an attorney, I hear lawyer jokes all the time: What do you have when you have three lawyers buried up to their necks in cement? Not enough cement. How many lawyer jokes are there? Three. The rest are true stories. And on and on…
I’ve laughed them off as we all should be able to endure good-natured teasing from time to time. But, my goodness, there is an abundance of lawyer jokes out there, far more than any other profession (and rivaled in sheer volume solely by blonde jokes). And people tell them with such vigor and enthusiasm!
It got me thinking…… I know I work in an honorable, helpful field….. Why don’t others agree?
When people think of attorneys, they often think of someone like Bill Murray in the movie Wild Things, the crooked shyster wearing a neck brace when the insurance adjuster is within eyeshot, but who’s actually just fine. When my clients ask me if they should or should not do something after filing a claim, I always say, “You gotta live your life like you don’t have a lawsuit.” When you look up “shyster,” the very definition of “shyster” is “a lawyer who uses unprofessional or questionable methods” and “a person who gets along by petty, sharp practices.” Wow, if the dictionary says it is so…
I think this image is actually a pretty common image of attorneys, especially personal injury attorneys. I’ve done enough jury selection to know that people feel pretty passionate about their frustration with lawyers. But my reality is quite different from that. The majority of the colleagues I deal with daily are actually pretty honorable, honest people (although some can certainly be frustrating at times). And, my clients, “shyster” is the last word I would think of.
So why doesn’t my reality of the legal profession jibe with the popular image?
Two reasons, I think, play a big part in that. First, if you need an attorney, it likely means you have some kind of situation you don’t want to deal with. Sure, there’s a chance you may win the lottery or inherit an unexpected windfall inheritance. In that case, you’d almost certainly be thrilled to hire a tax attorney to deal with this “issue.” But for the most part, we deal with the things people either can’t or don’t want to deal with, and it’s almost always negative. Perhaps you’ve been injured in a car accident, or you’ve been charged with a crime, or there’s been a death in the family, and the estate is tied up in probate. No one wants to go through these things, but it’s part of life. I take great pride in helping injured people through difficult times and trying to get them back to where they were before they got injured.
The second reason, at least for personal injury attorneys, is that we’re up against a multi-billion dollar industry that does all it can to smear people who make claims and tar the people who represent them. These insurance companies do everything they can to make it seem like injured people are just looking for a quick payday. From my experience, no one asks to be injured. No one leaves for working that day thinking they are going to be seriously injured in a car accident. No one goes out to dinner, expecting to be struck by a drunk driver on the way home. These people are not looking for some “get rich quick” scheme; these people are looking to get their lives back to normal. Insurance companies know the surest way to win a case is to make sure the clients never even attempt to collect. Insurance companies concentrate on keeping the perspective alive that a person should feel ashamed to file a claim or a lawsuit because someone else injures them. So when people are injured, and they may have a legitimate claim, they don’t bring it forward “because they aren’t that kind of person.” It’s tragic when people think their friends and neighbors will look down on them simply because they were hurt through no fault of their own.
We all usually admire someone who will take a stand against a popular misconception. Truly, that is what I admire most about the great people I get to represent. They have said, “Enough, I don’t want this to happen to someone else.” It’s not popular, it’s not easy, and they suffer for filing a claim. I meet and get to really know many people through one of the most trying and difficult times of their lives, usually only once. People look down and point fingers at them and make them feel sneaky. Insurance companies have amassed huge PR machines and have tremendous political pull; why do you think the topic of “tort reform” is so popular at election time?
This is not to say that there aren’t unethical attorneys. There most certainly are, just as there are bad doctors, bad policemen, bad teachers, etc. Hey, every stereotype, whether it be positive or negative, comes from someone who experiences that stereotype more than just a couple of times! A few bad apples should not spoil an entire profession. The Cagle Law Firm is proud to aspire to the highest ethical standards, and we’re proud to be personal injury attorneys to the injured in Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. If you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident and need representation, we’d be proud to talk with you and determine if we can assist you. Call (314) 276-1681 today for a free consultation.