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The 'good' lawyer?

If you work for the Davids, rather than the Goliaths, are you on the right side?

10 October 2014

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I recently spoke at a conference where I was the only lawyer on the panel. It was a mixed audience of charities, entrepreneurs and mainly the public sector. When introducing myself I found that, in among the great and good, I was almost apologising for my profession and my role in it.

It’s not as if I think we (or I) have anything to apologise for. Indeed, most of what I write in SJ and elsewhere is celebrating the work that we do as lawyers both for our clients and the wider community. But here, in this company, I felt humbled. I got around it by making a little joke and confirmed to the people there that I was a lawyer, but a good lawyer. This invariably got me thinking about what makes a ‘good’ lawyer. 

This week we have seen the profession celebrated again. The Law Society’s Excellence Awards have provided an annual excuse for our notable and deserving colleagues to dress up, drink fizzy wine and, depending on the outcome, revel in victory or commiserate at the bar (no, not the Bar, although some might slope off there too).

As expected there were many good lawyers collecting awards, across a host of categories and practice areas, but are they good in the old-fashioned ‘good versus evil’ sense?

Does a good lawyer only work for the disaffected, the disenfranchised or the underdog? If you work for the Davids, rather than the Goliaths, are you on the right side? 

I work for all sorts of organisations, from multinational corporations through to small local charities and for genuine ‘do gooders’, as well as bankers. In my experience, misconceptions about the people or organisations we work for can sway opinion about our own roles in advising them. Can it be the case that all human rights lawyers are intrinsically good but M&A lawyers are bad? Of course not.

Soon we will be looking ahead to the great work achieved by members of the profession during the annual pro bono week. Dare it be said that this is the profession’s way of balancing the books? Possibly, but it is also a tradition that we continue to live and work by, not because we must, but because we choose to.

I for one will be joining that celebration  and holding my head high, as we all should. Am I a good lawyer? Damn right I am!

Finally, I’m not around for the next couple of weeks, so in my absence, roving reporter John van der Luit-Drummond will be keeping my seat warm. Don’t get too comfortable though, John. Like an evil nemesis, I’ll be back.

Kevin Poulter, editor at large

@SJ_Weekly #SJPOULTER

 

editorial@solicitorsjournal.co.uk

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