If you don’t live under a rock, and I would assume that would be true for most of us, you have probably heard a lot of "facts" about lawyers. Truth be told, most of these golden nuggets of information are fool’s gold. Here is a list of some of the most common legal myths you are likely to hear:
Most lawsuits are frivolous. You probably hear the term “frivolous lawsuit” A LOT. In reality, you seldom come across a lawsuit filed by an attorney that one could reasonably term ”frivolous”. If a lawsuit is actually frivolous, it would be thrown out of the civil justice system in short order. Only cases that have merit ever get far in the civil justice system. Cases are expensive to file and pursue, and typically a Plaintiff’s attorney does not get paid unless the case has some merit. Additionally, there are sanctions for attorneys who file a case with no good faith reason to believe that it has merit.
Lawyers only care about making money. Charles Dickens said “The one great principle of the English law is to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings.” With all due respect to the father of great British literature, not all lawyers got into law for the money. Often times, the opportunities for money to be made in the law are few and far between, and no matter how much money you make being a lawyer, it is not worth getting up in the morning to fight for issues you don’t care about. Most lawyers get into the practice of law in order to help their clients and do something they believe in.
The best law firms are big and fancy. Commercials and TV shows would have you believe that if you have a legal problem, you should go to the biggest, fanciest, most suit-wearingest law firm in town. In actuality, it might be better to go to a smaller firm. This is not to discredit huge law firms altogether, because there are definitely some good ones with some good attorneys; however, smaller firms come with a lot of perks. A small firm’s lawyer will likely be more involved and invested in your case and the firm’s staff will probably know you by name.
Lawsuits are quick and profitable. A lot of anti-lawyer tort-reform types would like to have you believe that that lawsuits are simply a way for people to make a quick buck. This is nowhere near the truth. Lawsuits can be a long and emotionally painful process. It is true that a “slam-dunk” case may settle quickly for a compromise amount, but slam-dunks are rare, and most cases are fought tooth and nail until the jury reaches a decision, which may be a year or two, or even more, down the road.
Lawyers make A LOT of money and live a glamorous life. We have all seen the classic scene in a movie or TV show of two lawyers sitting on the high-rise balcony in one of their corner offices in New York City smoking cigars and sipping whiskey after they won a big case, and we probably thought of how great it would be to be a lawyer if we had that kind of lifestyle. In real life the average attorney makes about $64,000 a year, which, don’t get me wrong, isn’t too bad. However, when you add in factors like student debt and office overhead, many lawyers make less than that per year. That average salary is offset by the handful of attorneys making more than $150,000 a year, and they probably can’t actually afford a lifestyle as glamorous as that of Denny Crane or Harvey Specter.
Trials are dramatic and interesting. If you have watched a lot of legal or crime dramas, you probably have a grand vision of an action-packed trial with lots of finger pointing, crying, surprise witnesses, a distinctive soundtrack, all ending with a powerful closing statement and perhaps someone getting shot on the courthouse steps. Actually, these things rarely happen in a real legal proceeding. Interesting things do happen at trial, just not nearly as much as Law and Order would make you believe.
|Gentlemen of the Jury|
Lawsuits hurt doctors and increase the cost of medical care. This is another one of those falsehoods that the tort reform people have dreamed up to put in their argument arsenal. Lawsuits do not keep doctors from practicing medicine, and they do not drive up the price of health care. What they really do is make health care safer, and they give people a voice when they are unable or don’t know how to advocate for themselves. When you sue for medical malpractice, you are not going after the doctor’s bank book, that’s why doctors have malpractice insurance. It is similar to having car insurance. Just because you get into a car accident does not make the cost of cars or gas go up and insurance will pay for the damages. Although the cost of medical care in our country is a huge issue; malpractice suits have very little to do with that.
If you have any questions about legal myths or the law that you would like us to address on the blog, let us know in the comments!