too many lawyers rodney atherton attorney

By Rodney Atherton Attorney

Being a lawyer myself, I may not be the best person to suggest there are too many lawyers.  It may come across as self-serving to suggest others should stay out of this profession.  That’s not my point.

In the last 27 years of practicing law, I have noticed a disturbing trend in litigation.  There is way too much litigation and it seems that often the smallest of disputes ends up with lawyers involved advocating with as much animosity as one can muster on behalf of their client.  And the clients are stuck paying legal fees, trusting that the professional they have hired is working in their best interest.

This issue I have seen over and over is that the litigation process is expensive and disheartening for those that enter it. The judges are given imperfect facts that two parties typically recall from two very different perspectives.  A judge is asked to make a call on who is being more truthful and that judgment call is fraught with complexities that makes the judge’s job impossible to get right much of the time.  As a result, the clients are stick with imperfect conclusions by the judges and the lawyers are often left scratching their heads in disbelief with the judge’s ruling.  I have been there and I must admit that the system where parties are left to litigate their disputes should   be the absolute last resort.  Yet, the legal profession exists to provide what the lawyers claim is the ordinary citizens “access to justice.”  Yet, I see little justice occurring in the court system.

You cannot turn on the television these days without seeing a lawyer advertising and encouraging you to hire them to sue somebody and obtain justice.  Billboards litter our highways with this same junk.  We are constantly reminded to sue somebody to get what we deserve.   Really?

I believe one of the first changes we can make to create a better system is to have fewer lawyers.  I would like to see the general public find better ways to resolve their differences.  For example, there is a growing business in mediation where citizens can take their complaints to a mediator for the purpose of having an independent third party sit and listen to both sides and help the sides find a reasonable settlement.  But lawyers don’t steer clients this direction.   And as a result, the lawyers file the lawsuit and start making a living based on what I (from a somewhat cynical perspective) consider to be a system that benefits the lawyers at the detriment of their clients.

Fewer lawyers makes taking these trivial disputes less attractive.  But if a lawyer needs the hours to bill, they welcome the litigants walking into their office.

Recently, I have witnessed lawyers getting their clients excited over the slightest factual or legal analysis and even suggesting that the client’s pursue the opposing counsel for their litigation strategy.  If you don’t like the outcome of your case, you can even find a lawyer to sue your lawyer.  It does not seem to stop.

In spite of my complaints, I know that we have the best legal system among every other legal system in other countries.  But our system could be improved. And hold out little hope that it will be improved.  Instead, I would suggest that it will get worse.  The law school business model thrives on getting more students into those schools and so they turn out more and more lawyers.  In fact, they turn out a lot more lawyers than the medical schools turn out doctors.  That fact alone, should scare us.  To think that the ordinary citizen needs more legal help than medical help is disturbing.

So what do we do?  I have watched clients get sued and spend over a million dollars in defense costs.  I have been sued many times myself.  And I believe this trend for people in the business world will get worse.

Asset protection is one answer to this problem.  Take your assets and protect them from possible litigants that see you as a deep pocket – an answer to their financial woes.

There are many states that allow a person to shelter much of their assets in a self-settled trust for example.  You can set up your own trust, provide for you and your family from those assets and protect them from the reach of these litigation incensed plaintiffs and their advertising lawyers.

By Rodney Atherton Attorney