Across the “blawgiverse,” law-related weblogs have been closing 2006 with a ten-day Lawyers Appreciate Countdown (find links here). In addition to writing a piece on what lawyers appreciate, each participant “tags” three other webloggers, and Robert Ambrogi brought me into the appreciation circle with a tag-invitation today.
Of course, there is no way that I can say what the million-plus practicing lawyers in America personally appreciate. Instead, my declaration is hortatory and aspirational — stating what I hope lawyers do, or soon will come to, appreciate.
As “officers of the court”, members of the Bar have a special obligation to help assure that justice is available to all who come within the judicial system. As holders of special rights and powers within our legal system, lawyers have the additional duty to help assure that every person in our society has meaningful access to justice.
In this context, lawyers appreciate pro-se-friendly courts. Lawyers know:
- the courthouse door is effectively blocked for a majority of Americans, if entry can only be accomplished after retaining a lawyer at market-level fees
- the fundamental right to appear pro se cannot itself assure that justice is done fairly and effectively, if the pro se litigant does not understand his or her rights or cannot comply with procedural requirements that are prerequities for being heard, or for presenting facts and equities in a competent manner
- the image (and reality) of pro-se-intolerant or unfriendly courts will keep many individuals from asserting or protecting their rights in court, despite meritorious claims
- justice will not be achieved in individual cases, if opposing counsel takes unfair advantage of an unrepresented party’s ignorance of the law or lack of adversarial skills, so that the court is unable to consider all important facts and factors
- justice will not be effective, efficient, or timely within a court or court system, if the court is swamped with unprepared pro se litigants
- the attitude of the organized bar toward self-help assistance in courts is crucial to achieving meaningful access to justice — and
- they must, therefore, renounce action that opposes self-help assistance (in a misguided attempt to preserve the financial interests of the legal profession), and instead must use individual and organized efforts to promote and create adequate, integrated self-help resources in every court (see, e.g., resources and strategies discussed here, here, and there)
p.s. I am hereby tagging George Wallace, in his Fool in the Forest or Declarations & Exclusions persona; Martin Grace of RiskProf; and “Ed”, the anonymous Editor of Blawg Review, and hope they will be able to tell us their version of What Lawyers Appreciate. My alter egos at f/k/a — Prof. Yabut and dagosan – may also get into the act before the Dec. 31 deadline.
update (Dec. 30, 2006): To no one’s surprise, our Blawg Review Editor friend Appreciates Link Love, and spreads it around rather liberally. And, (Jan. 1, 2007): thanks to the miracle of time zone differentiation, our multi-faceted weblogging buddy George Wallace got his appreciation duties posted in time from his California home in the waning hours of 2006. His piece, Lawyers Appreciate the Widsom of Socrates, is well worth the wait and your time. George echoes Socrates’ “all I know is that I know nothing”, an approach that (like the zen concept of “beginner’s mind“) offers the optimal method for finding the right facts and the right answers.