Why do we “need” so many lawyers today? I have a theory, and, if correct, it reflects poorly on who we are and what we have become as a society. To set the record straight, I believe lawyers are important; good ones assure that we can operate effectively under the rule of law – the foundation of our governing system. Just as science cannot operate without its proven scientific “facts” as a basis, a system of governance must have an explicit legal framework and competent lawyers to implement it. This is well and good.
The proliferation of legal actions and the increasing proportion of frivolous lawsuits signal an alarming departure from the virtuous and charitable attitudes that society requires in order to operate effectively. Too many in today’s world are nose-to-nose with their fellow citizens, hell-bent upon demanding every last inch of their “rights” by way of the courthouse, even in menial situations. Perhaps the following advice would be helpful: To avoid getting burned, do not get too close to the fire. Put another way, cut your fellow humans some slack and avoid the kind of nose-to-nose confrontation that is becoming more and more common in our society – as in road-rage, for instance. Recently, Korea and its DMZ (demilitarized zone) were in the news. The DMZ is a physical buffer-zone between borders designed to minimize unintended “flare-ups” from occurring between North and South. It seems that society should keep that concept in mind when going about its daily business.
Respect for and courtesy toward others could solve so many of our societal problems that, today, end up in courtrooms. Of course, it is our individual duty to earn the personal respect that we all crave; it is part of the bargain. And whatever happened to the gentleman’s agreement and handshake over a pending venture? Implicit in the trust required for such agreements is the personal integrity and good faith of both parties. Life today is too complex for that sort of “unwritten contract,” but I like to think that the concept that a person’s word is as good as gold is not totally dead and laughable. Am I being too naïve?
A more charitable attitude toward others is one panacea for many of society’s problems – including excess lawyers, but, alas, this cannot be learned in a courtroom; try church!
Years ago, I read a treatise on why China had so few lawyers, something like seven times fewer per capita compared to the United States. The reason cited? Chinese society applies social pressure at a very local level to its citizens who step out of line, minimizing the situations which must be handled by the courts and authorities. In Japan, “the nail that protrudes gets hammered down!” Not quite the American philosophy, but perhaps when taken in moderation, not without merit!
I do not advocate abandoning the great American spirit of personal independence in favor of the Asian way, but perhaps there are some valuable lessons to be gleaned; perhaps in our society it should be just a little less about ME and quite a bit more about US as a society. Perhaps we would not need so many lawyers.