It is common for any industry, including the legal industry, to be the subject of myths believed by the general population. This is not helped by the fact that the laws and regulations which govern our society are many and not always easy to understand, and that popular culture tends to provide more entertaining representations of actual roles.
For example, popular legal dramas such as Suits, Boston Legal, The Good Wife, Rake, Law & Order and so on have provided audiences with memorable moments of witty legal humour and unforgettable characters and catch-phrases. As a result, audiences can have unrealistic expectations as to how the legal industry operates, especially when first engaging with solicitors when they are seeking legal advice.
This example is not just limited to televised legal superheroes such as Harvey Specter imprinting an untouchable, ‘god-like’ complex everywhere he struts. Whilst it provides that entertainment factor it is not always an accurate reflection on the legal industry and this article offers an insight to how the legal industry actually operates, and debunks these myths.
Just like our colleagues at the prominent firm of Santa Tooth Fairy & Clause, Mr Specter lives only through your Netflix subscription. To assist you, we have collated some myths regarding different areas of the law. This article offers an insight to how the legal industry actually operates and debunks these myths.
Myth 01: “Win – Win by all means necessary”
In these various popular fictional legal dramas, we see the frequent use of underhanded tactics and the normalisation of ethical misconduct favoured in order to gain an advantage or some favourable outcome for a client or the legal practitioner themselves.
Fictional characters will forgo their moral-ethical compass to “win by all means necessary”, which inevitably distorts the image of how solicitors conduct themselves.
In reality though, legal practitioners in Queensland are bound to the guidelines of ethical and professional conduct by the Legal Profession Act 2007 (and there is similar other legislation in the other jurisdictions of Australia). Solicitors at all times and at every stage of a matter must follow these principles, especially when dealing with clients and other solicitors.
Myth 02: “The internal competition is fierce”
Given the examples in popular culture, anyone would be forgiven for thinking that succeeding in a law firm means clambering over the individuals around.
Law firms such as ours believe that the most successful firms work collaboratively – that is, the sharing of knowledge and working together to produce the very best client outcomes.
We achieve success through teamwork and not competition. Our collegiate culture creates a positive working environment to ensure productivity and efficiency.
Myth 03: “Law firms are all about profits”
There is the general assumption that law firms exploit the misery of clients for the pursuit of profit. This is not the case.
Our approach consists of establishing quality and long-term relationships with our clients, investing in that relationship for further learning and development, and adding satisfaction and value. Performance measures are important, but it is more vital to us to demonstrate to our clients that their needs are understood and valued.
Myth 04: “I saw this on TV”
Different legal issues require different solutions. Television series such as Boston Legal and LA Law perpetuate this idea by portraying a glamorised version of working in a law firm.
We often see captivating characters use exceptional oratory skills whilst sauntering into courtrooms in expensive Italian suits and one file, and receiving a quick and favourable judgement all in the space of one week.
It is important to note that the American style of advocacy is different to Australia. Australian courts favour persuasive advocacy, along with structured and written arguments prepared in advance of a hearing. As such, the vast amount of a lawyer’s time is spent performing tasks such as drafting legal documentation, preparing affidavits, conducting legal research, sifting through evidence and reviewing documents, amongst other tasks.
Myth 05: “You’re always in court”
Solicitors work primarily with clients, and are largely involved with ‘behind the scenes’ work that involves preparation of documents. The nature of a solicitor’s work is largely transactional.
In litigious matters, however, it can take a significant period of time before a matter has even reached the trial stage or has received a judgement. Most matters are settled outside of the court through dispute resolution or mediation services.
Myth 06: “Someone I know went through the same thing”
It is common to gain a connection with friends or family who experience similar legal problems. It is imperative to note that each matter, despite any similarities, is dealt with under the circumstances at hand. Just because a friend or relative of yours went through a similar ordeal to yours, does not necessarily mean you will also achieve the same outcome or should expect similar results.
The Family Law industry, for example, is plagued with misconceptions derived from society’s general assumption that the “Family Courts favour women” when, in reality, the Court considers the relevant circumstances and makes decisions which are in the best interests of any child/children involved.
It is important to seek legal expertise and receive advice on areas of the law you are not entirely familiar with to better understand your situation.
Myth 07: “Lawyers are dishonest”
Our duty is to maintain honesty, integrity and transparency throughout every dealing with a client. It is important for a solicitor to have full disclosure from a client when working on their matter.
We are “Officers of the Court”. We must not be dishonest or mislead the Court in any way possible. This entails that a legal practitioner has a paramount duty to the court and the administration of justice is paramount, and must prevail over any duty to their client.
Throughout any dealings, whether it be to the Court or to a client, it is critical to the reputation of a legal practitioner to observe respectfulness, courtesy and professionalism.
Myth 08: “You Should Only Hire a Lawyer When You Have Problems”
It can often be problematic when hiring lawyers only when you are experiencing legal issues. If you only hire legal representation when you have problems, it can be too late.
It is better to establish a good relationship with a law firm during times where you or your business are not experiencing any legal problems.
Besides, you want your lawyers to understand your business and how it operates so they can help you proactively avoid trouble. This way, if something happens, you will already have a great working relationship with your legal team. It is cheaper to avoid a problem than it is to fix it.
Myth 09: “Lawyers are cold and heartless”
Although the profession itself is painted as cold and unemotional, the fact is that a significant number of lawyers enter the profession with a deep desire to connect with and help people.
Our manner and our education do not impede our ability to connect at a human level. We command not just law and logic, but emotion and character as well. Our objectivity allows us to deliver the correct advice.
It also ensures that our ability to give sound legal opinions is not skewed by our emotional connection with our clients. Civil procedure is a tool, however building a practice requires trust, human connection and clear communication.
ABKJ Lawyers are experienced and beyond skilful to separate fact from fiction. Our legal team is more than able and happy to assist you in understanding the law and providing comprehensive advice on how it affects your particular legal matter.
Our firm also provides exceptional legal expertise ranging from issues relating to commercial law and body corporate law, to family law, property and conveyancing. Should you have questions regarding these areas, please do not hesitate to contact our office.