I love being a lawyer and have loved being a lawyer since I was admitted to practice more than 30 years ago. So, as a lawyer who loves being a lawyer, I have always been somewhat saddened and confused by the general population’s contempt for lawyers. We’ve all heard the numerous lawyer jokes and seen folks roll their eyes when you offer an opinion and then tell them what you do for a living. “Oh of course, you think that, you’re a lawyer.” But when President Trump issued an executive order banning travel from certain predominantly Muslim countries and when that ban caused US residents – including some green card holders – to be detained at airports throughout the country, it wasn’t doctors or plumbers that people needed. The legal staff of the ACLU and other organizations around the country – as well as a large group of volunteer lawyers – sprang into action and obtained a stay of the executive order which granted those detainees freedom and the right to travel.
Social media exploded over its love for lawyers. It was heartening to see the ACLU lawyers cheered like rock stars as they walked out of the Eastern District Courthouse with Judge Ann Donnelly’s order in hand. Pictures of Lawyershuddled together over laptops in airports populated Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But most lawyers work in anonymity and without any praise or thanks (and often without any payment). Yet, their work is just as important to the client they are representing. Whether its a spouse trying to get out of a bad marriage; a crime victim trying to obtain justice; or even a local business fighting a small claims dispute, they rely on lawyers to protect their interests. Lawyers are society’s protectors from overreach, negligence, and misconduct. We are here to make sure that the system works fairly for everyone. Yes, there are many of our profession who take advantage of people and manipulate the court system to their advantage, but those are few and far between compared to the thousands – tens of thousands actually – of lawyers who just do their job to the best of their ability and who profoundly believe in the equal application of the law. Sometimes we work on big, important issues, sometimes on very personal and specific ones. But no matter what, please remember that we are always working on some other person’s behalf who has entrusted us to prosecute or defend their rights.
President Trump’s executive order on an immigration ban highlighted our Constitutional system of checks and balances. It displayed the nature of judicial oversight when the Executive Branch potentially oversteps the bounds of the Constitution. It only took about ten days for there to be a Constitutional clash in the courts under this administration. There will be more; it is inevitable, particularly with the way this Executive will seek to wield power. But lawyers will be ready when called upon. We will bring challenges to policies and procedures that violate Due Process or the Equal Protection of Law. We will be there as a shield for individuals and entities harmed by unconstitutional actions or government overreach. We will take the jokes and teasing because now at least most people get some idea of why what we do is important and necessary to running of a fair democracy. April 11, 2017 is National Be Kind to Lawyers Day. Please mark your calendars.