Somewhat off-topic for a Canadian blog on politics, as this is MY soapbox, I'm going to comment on an event in the legal profession that embarrasses me as a lawyer.
I am very involved in the promotion of Collaborative Law or Collaborative Practice, which is a dispute resolution process effectively invented by Stu Webb, a Minnesota lawyer in the early 1990's.
This process was created as a way to help people find a way to resolve differences, primarily in family law and divorce situations, in a manner which was constructive rather than destructive - an option other than traditional litigation practice where two sides hammer at each other until one says "uncle" or until a Court imposes a solution upon them.
The earmarks of this process are as follows:
- Lawyers who participate must be trained in interest based negotiation - a process where the parties interests are fully examined and where solutions to their interests are sought out - not retribution or revenge;
- All negotiation takes place face to face, between lawyers and their clients - and the lawyers and their clients must commit to being respectful, honest and open in all regards;
- The lawyers, and their clients, commit to a contract which limits the lawyer's retainer to "negotiation only". The lawyers are barred from EVER going to court against the opposing party - focusing lawyers and clients on ONE goal - finding a solution to whatever is in dispute.
Over the last several years, the IACP (International Academy of Collaborative Professionals) has been working very hard to pass a piece of draft legislation called the Uniform Collaborative Law Act in the United States.
And that legislation has been widely endorsed by lawyers all over the U.S., Canada and in fact the world as a good fundamental piece of legislation that assures some uniformity of practice and helps to solidify Collaborative Practice as a widely recognized alternative to the traditional litigation practice of resolving disputes.
I'm advised today that when this piece of legislation came before the American Bar Association for approval, by it's House of Delegates, it was rejected.
Well, there are all sorts of reasons which will be given - effectively wall-papering over the real "interests" at work, such as former ABA President Carolyn B. Lamb, who said:
“An essential tenet is that the legal profession is a self-regulating profession." Instead, she said, it calls for legislatures to pass laws controlling lawyers and how they should represent clients.”
We should reject a move to encourage civil resolution of disputes because it may impose a "control" on lawyers and how they represent clients?
I'm sure. The ABA and the respective State Bar Associations have done such a bang-up job on assuring that the public is well-served by our profession, haven't they? The suggestion that lawyers take advantage of others' misfortunes, and that they may even encourage litigation to their own best interests is completely and utterly without basis in fact, isn't it?
See.. here is the thing.
We're all, in a sense, self-interested. We would all like our lives to be easier instead of harder and more comfortable instead of less. But, the key is, every once in a while, you recognize the reality of the effort to achieve your own self-interest and you agree to give up a little bit of your comfort for the benefit of others. That's called living in a civil society.
I am a lawyer. And I make very good money going to court when people have a problem. But - I'm happy to make a little bit less, if it helps my clients get their problems dealt with quicker and easier and more peacefully.
But today, reading this article, I am embarrassed of my profession.
Today, I freely accept the jokes, the derision and the criticisms - and in fact, I join in.