Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life For Me
I was gambling in Havana I took a little risk Send lawyers, guns and money, Dad, get me out of this.
Warren Zevon, "Lawyers, Guns and Money"
As an attorney who has been practicing law for over
twenty thirty years, I’ve found that the public perception of the legal profession could sometimes use a little work. In fact, the quote that I considered using for a lead-in to this column,:"First thing we do let's kill all the lawyers", is sometimes too close to today's public opinion.
However, many people don’t realize that the Shakespearian character who uttered those words was a villainous sort who was out to take over his society and he realized that in order to be successful he needed to get the lawyers out of his way.
Most people do not appreciate the work that lawyers do until they, themselves, need one. Just as the police have sometimes been referred to as the "thin blue line", separating lawful society from the criminal element, criminal defense lawyers are sometimes referred to as "liberty's last champion", the last line of defense between a free society and an over-reaching government.
There are laws and rules that are required to maintain a free, civilized society and when the government accuses one of us of not following the rules, it's my job to make sure that the police and prosecutors also follow the rules in trying to prove their accusations.
When I am asked, "How can you defend those people?", my response is, “Who are ‘those people’"? Often times they are people like you, me, your sons or daughters and brothers or sisters. The same rules apply whether a citizen is accused of murder or loitering.
If the government is allowed to take shortcuts and ignore the rules on "guilty" people then what is to stop them from taking shortcuts on people who are not guilty?
One thing I enjoy as a lawyer is the exposure I get to every part of society. In law school I had a professor who told the class that being a lawyer allowed you to become an expert in whatever field your client was involved in. He represented a "widget" company that was being sued for millions of dollars and, as part of his case preparation, he became familiar with every part of the "widget" manufacturing and sales process.
In my years of practice I have had to become familiar with the ins and outs of various ventures.
Several years back I successfully represented a waste water treatment and water supply company in a variety of actions, including a state prosecution for “littering.” I became a bit of an expert on aerobic waste water treatment vs. anaerobic (septic tanks vs. treatment plants), ground water mounding, one hundred year flood plains, pollution discharges from non-point source origins and the differences between secondarily treated effluent and sludge.
I have gained expertise in the chemical make-up of a variety of illicit drugs, decomposition rates of human bodies and the differences between a high-velocity jacketed slug versus a soft hollow-point bullet's effect and I have researched the anatomy of a variety of North American animals to determine whether a polished claw set in silver is a “portion of a bear carcass.”
I now know a bit about horses and what's involved in an equine artificial insemination (trust me, you don't want to know).
A good lawyer must know, not only the rules, laws and practices involved in the legal system, but also must develop a detailed knowledge of each individual client's situation.
For better or worse, lawyers and laws and the ability to work within them or get around them are part of everyday life. And, as we’ve recently seen, you can’t even die without the assistance of a lawyer. (Randall C. Grantham is a lifelong resident of Lutz who practices law from his offices on Dale Mabry Highway. He can be reached at LUTZLAW@aol.com. Copyright RCG)