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Image is Everything


I posted recently on a judge who is hurting a business through a frivolous lawsuit.

Rush Nigut, an Iowa business and corporate attorney, wrote about my post. He mentions a reference to the infamous McDonald's coffee incident by someone in my comments section. And Rush gives a link to a page that explains why the jury found for the plaintiff as it did.

Rush wrote because he's concerned for the image of his profession. I get that. We all worry about how we're perceived. (Rush, by the way, is a terrific guy and helps a friend of mine on legal matters. He gets a big thumbs up from me.)

But to his larger point, he says:

It sure is helpful to see how many view our justice system. I'll remember a lot of the commentary in preparation for my next trial.
There's another favorite blog of mine, Trusted Advisor. Charles writes about lawyers who pad their invoices to clients. He says this:
But this - half the industry with its thumb on the scale? Half the lawyers in the country think it’s not unethical to charge the same hour to two clients?
Everyone knows a good lawyer joke. Insert yours here...

A friend reminded me recently that perception is reality. It doesn't really matter what the truth is if everyone is convinced otherwise. People act according to what they believe is true.

Do lawyers gets a bum rap? Politicians? Muslims? Pick a group maligned disproportionately, and what they suffer is most likely not a vacuum of ethics or morals across the expanse of them, but a few gleaming and sticky examples of really bad behavior. Like it or not, it's what people will remember. Everyone finish this phrase with me now: "One bad apple..."

The question: how do you combat that image?

The answer: you fight that battle on your own turf. Lawyers ought to be the first in line to whup on others in their profession over frivolous lawsuits. Muslims should be the first and loudest to denounce violence done in the name of their god. Politicians should root out corruption in their own ranks and show their backbone against influence abuse.

I don't think that happens much. It's like Reagan's 11 commandment: never speak ill of another Republican.

But this is a different time. It's a time where PR is not centrally controlled, but is in the hands of the masses. It's a time where deeds done in the dark get highlighted on Drudge and other heavily-trafficked sites.

Today, Republicans ought to be the first to pick up stones against corrupt Republicans. If that doesn't happen, then the acts of a few become the sticky image for many. Unfair? Sure. But it ain't good news that's ever the top story of the night. The fact that a trial is fair gets no publicity. It's when it's not that it does. And that's the image people remember.


by Brett Rogers, 5/4/2007 4:47:57 PM



Andre Agassi could not have said it better. I'll admit it, I am concerned about how lawyers are perceived. One of the reasons I started blogging was to do my small part to improve the image of lawyers. My strong sense of purpose is to help educate business people and others so they can make more informed choices about their legal needs. Maybe, just maybe, some of the public will perceive the value and possibly consider that lawyers aren't all bad.

Yes, there are often frivolous lawsuits. I find it outrageous that someone (particularly a judge) would ask for $67 million over a lost pair of pants. In my view, that is wrong. But in the vast majority of cases the system works to expose frivolous lawsuits for exactly that. Often, sanctions are imposed and cases are dismissed. But those cases don't make for good stories in the media and are seldom reported. Morover, there are a great number of lawsuits that have been mischaracterized by tort reform groups and the insurance industry as frivolous, i.e. the McDonald's case. Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion but after I knew the facts of the McDonald's case I felt the verdict (and even more so the final verdict from the judge) was fair. Let's just say that if a judge says a company's conduct was reckless, callous and willful, they probably did something wrong.

Painting any profession, including lawyers, with a broad stroke is dangerous. Most lawyers I know are honest, hard-working and generous people. They enjoy helping people and care deeply about their clients. Heck, many lawyers I know even discount their time or give countless hours through pro bono projects. And contrary to the comments on "Trusted Advisor" how many accountants do you know who perform pro bono projects? And are accountants really all in a rush to discount their bills? Let me know because I haven't met one yet. And let's not forget Arthur Anderson - an accounting firm that clearly had some integrity issues in in the Enron case.

It's true the public perception of lawyers is not great. But I don't necessarily agree the fight can only occur within our own profession. Like I said, most of the lawyers I know happen to have tremendous intregrity and professionalism. Even you might agree, after all you said I was a "terrific guy" who gets a "big thumbs up". Now that's a start, right?




Posted by Rush Nigut, 5/4/2007 11:14:55 PM

Examples like you are a start, indeed, Rush.

I do think a professional outcry might shame him and others like him and at least give them pause. I could be wrong. Maybe nothing will stop these creeps.

Me, I saw a case of injustice and spoke out against that guy and the legal system that allows it here on my site.

In this second post, I wasn't painting with a broad brush the entire legal profession; hence my use of "One bad apple..."

If you find the acts of judges who use the legal system to crush a business with legal bills before the case even goes to trial, and if you find reprehensible other actions that tar the legal profession, I think it's a good idea to speak out against them. It seems an inexpensive way to shame them for their bad behavior. Speaking out on my world wide web site certainly has more effect than muttering alone to my computer screen.

And recommending good guys like you is a good idea too.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 5/5/2007 12:07:41 PM

You hit a grand slam on that one Brett. Said perfectly.

Reading the information Rush provided on background for my McDonalds "moron" was an eye opener. This is a good example of what happens when we are spoon fed information from the MSM. I love the net for the simple reason that you can get more than one perspective, often filling in the blanks. As dumb as it is to place a hot cup of coffee between your legs serving it at a temperature approaching molten lava (I think that is what Bella referred to) would definitely effect my judgement had I been on that jury.



Posted by Pale Rider, 5/5/2007 10:16:04 PM


I want to make sure you didn't misunderstand me. I agree with you concerning your right to call this guy out on his lawsuit. Again, I think it is wrong to expect $67 million from a lost pair of pants, no matter how much of an ordeal he might have experienced.

Perhaps I did not state it clearly enough but my reference to painting with a broad brush is not actually directed at you. However, that is what occured on "The Trusted Advisor" post you referenced. I just disagreed with his broad sweeping comments about the legal profession while implying that consultants and accountants would never engage in the same behavior. Maybe that comment would have been better on his blog but I felt it fit in the discussion here.

I think we are actually on the same page. I have no problems with you calling that guy out.




Posted by Rush Nigut, 5/6/2007 11:31:24 AM


We do what we can, but you guys have to do your part. No one would be bringing these wacky suits if you non-lawyers (rarely is a lawyer ever allowed on a jury) keep awarding them astronomical judgments.

We represent one of the most aggressive professions in terms of punishing colleagues who display "even the appearance of impropriety." There is absolutely nothing we can do, however, to stop them from doing things you guys keep paying them hundreds of millions of dollars to do. Indeed, I believe it would be unethical on our part to attempt to interfere with a case a jury believes to have merit.

You, as a voter and potential juror, are much better positioned, both ethically and practically, than either Rush or me, to put a stop to this.




Posted by Brett Trout, 5/6/2007 2:50:08 PM

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