All for one and one for all

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All for one and one for all

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Though the law was not my first choice and chosen for me, what matters, in the end, is that I answered when called.

Having dwelled in the realm of legal practice for a while when I total up all the ugly, bad and utterly miserable moments with all the good, delightful and inspired moments that I have had in legal practice, the net sum is I take pleasure in the law, legal practice, and matters related and tangential to them both professionally and personally.

When I traveled overseas, I would visit the courts of a country when able. A country’s legal system, court architecture, and legal practice are of interest to me. I like talking to lawyers from other jurisdictions to know and understand about those things.

In my spare time, I read cases, legal texts, articles, biographies of judges and lawyers, etc. even though I don’t have to. I read up on areas of law, practices of law, contract and pleading precedents I don’t need to. I wrote a book on advocacy I didn’t have to. I discuss hypothetical arguments and fact scenarios with my legal colleagues.

I keep the tools of my trade in working order: reading, writing, thinking and fashioning arguments. This blog is a documentation of that. I listen to podcasts to listen and learn from great lawyers talking about their craft, experience and thoughts. It is a great place to find ideas and strategies to experiment with.

I do not do all these things because it helps me directly in any case, my career, more money or to win any legal trivia. I do these things out of curiosity, interest and pleasure. I enjoy doing them as ends in themselves. I am grateful my interests dovetails with my duty and responsibility to remain current with my practice whilst continuing to evolve.

Let me be clear that I did not share my off-work legal activities to boast or show off how passionate, clever or great I am. Far from it; just telling it like it is. So it is important to know that I don’t do all or even some of those things every day or all the time. There have been times I don’t do any of it at all, happily even. I do have other interests, responsibilities and pursuits besides legal practice. Though law takes up much of my life, I continue to draw a hard distinction between the two.

But I’d like to think that I do those things regularly enough to be able to say with confidence that my interest in the law exceeds its professional bounds by a significant margin. I feel love is too strong a word to explain my relationship with the law. And yet, a great affection would still under describe it.

I am clear I am not a legal savant. I am more of a legal affeciendo. For me, the savants possess a mind unnaturally shaped to the accommodate the rigours, strictures and contents of law and matters legal together with a deep and intense interest in the law. The legal affeciendo has that intense interest in law but lacks the mind unnaturally predisposed mind for law that so distinguishes the savant from the rest.

My personal affection for the law and legal practice naturally leads me to take pride in my work and my profession, to cultivate a reputation of being a competent, credible and reasonable lawyer. And that affection and sense of pride drives me to improve myself as a lawyer for myself and one in charge of others.

But it is those same affections that often gives me instances that leave me disturbed and unhappy on far too many occasions. As someone with great affection for the law, it pains and hurts me when my profession and our work is disrespected and denigrated.

I have accustomed myself to taking it from the public. But I still have difficulty taking it from a member of my own profession because I feel there is an obligation on each of us lawyers to be at least working towards being an ornament to our profession. We may not be one, we may not get there, but for heaven’t sake, give it our best shot.

How do my colleagues-at-law disrespect and denigrate their work and profession?

By not abiding by our rules of practice and etiquette. By behaving unreasonably. By having a sharp practice. By treating others disrespectfully. By denigrating others who have not earned their denigration. By helping clients evade the law instead of complying with it. By saying client-serving things in the media which are completely unreasonable, immoral and illogical. By cheating their clients. By being dishonest to the court.

The further we stray from our professional values and ethics, the more we chase profit over practice, and the more we choose glamour over facts, the worse we look to the general public as a profession. And that terrible general reputation of the profession is inherited by every lawyer in the profession. It does not matter how properly, reasonably and honest I may be or reputed to be, I will inevitably be tained by the general reputation of the profession.

It is for this reason, each lawyer and firm should be committed to maintaing the good reputation of the profession as a whole, because eventually that is the same reputation we will be judged by. The more of us and the more regularly we practice professionally, ethically and competently, the greater the likelihood that that is the precise impression we will give the general public and in that greater confidence in our legal system and practice.

The act of one lawyer affects us all just as the act of many lawyers affects the one. There is a dynamic relationship between the act of one and the act of many in the shaping our profession’s general reputation. It is important that the standards for one reflect the standards of many and vice-versa. Ethical, reasonable and competent practice starts from the one and if that continues through each and every one, it becomes the practice of the many.

In a profession, any profession, where our reputations are concerned, it all for one and one for all. The sooner we realize the different interests we serve professionally does not bar us from realizing our common, shared professional interests of maintaing a good reputation of our profession, the better.

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