What it is to be a Lawyer?
To tell it in one word: ‘CONFLICT’.
A lawyer is always in conflict. Torn between courts, matters, clients and family. Extended work hours does not make it easy. No doubt as the lawyers grow old they become snappy.
Classes of lawyers:
But let’s us first be clear as to who is a lawyer. Under English Law, there are two classes of lawyers i.e. Barrister and Solicitor. Barrister is supposed to be expert in law, an expressionist, an orator and a court artist. Solicitor is a lawyer who is supposed to be expert in Procedure, Handling clients, Properties, accounts, and with fair working knowledge of law. It is a different matter that UK is moving toward unification of two classes. But the above distinction of proficiency in law or procedure always exists. The reason ? Well that is another story. In UK there is a sub class of Barrister called ‘Queen’s Counsel‘.
They are chosen out of Barristers for supposedly outstanding performance in Court Room but in practice partly due to their better social skills. In India Queen’s Counsel has its counter part as Senior Advocate. They wear different gown and a rather smaller coat which does not extend below waist.
Rest of the world except those which were never a colony of England, follow a more or less similar pattern. USA, India and its neighbours have one class of lawyer called attorney and advocate respectively. But that is on statute book. In reality the lawyers are not always lawyers. The word ‘lawyer’, I would suppose, possessing thorough knowledge of LAW. It depends upon the nature of work. Just like the Barristers and Solicitors.
In fact, in England also some Barristers work like Solicitors i.e. appearing in routine matters involving factual controversies as against matters involving law and its interpretation.
Worst is the position of specialist lawyers. Unlike medical professionals, specialists are at the bottom of hierarchy of legal profession. Not in terms of earning but in terms of knowledge of law. Specialists may have deep knowledge of the subject of their practice but not the breadth of laws they routinely follow everyday. Specialist lawyers are proficient in their field and one must approach a specialist at the first instance.
The problem however arises when a new complication or new law or an amendment comes into being. Ordinarily, the specialist are trained to follow the law not to challenge it. For the latter, one need to get into touch with a Barrister or its equivalent in the concerned jurisdiction.
Therefore from a distance you may assume that all the lawyers are same but it is not. For God sake do not confuse doctors with lawyers. While every doctor will know how to inject an injection, in legal profession it is not so. Every lawyer have his field of operation. Some lawyers are in consulting practice who have not seen the face of courts for years. Ordinarily the lawyer should frankly disclose his area of proficiency but sometime for the sake of saving face, some lawyers do not do that. Therefore understand what you need. Generally a lawyer is required for following purposes:
- Legal advice on a problem to find a solution.
- To defend a civil suit filed against you
- To file a civil suit against somebody
- To obtain a probate
- Drafting of legal documents like Will etc.
- To defend in a criminal matter
- To get real estate documents executed
- Some dealings with customs
- Some problem with Income Tax
Now except for serial No. 2 to 5 all matters are of different branches of specialists. Therefore take care in selecting. Please note that serial No. 5 and 7 may appear same but they are not. Conveyance deeds etc. in a routine matter are different from drafting of Will. Hire a proper lawyer for your will. 7 out of 10 Wills drafted in India are wrong. Because probate is not mandatory in most places, this problem is not apparent.
Supreme Court and High Courts are not specialist courts. The judge(s) who is hearing criminal matters today would be hearing income tax matter tomorrow or vice versa. Similarly there are advocates/lawyers in these courts who do not specialize in anything. In fact it is a good thing. Because the core of law practice is about interpretation. A lawyer practicing in one branch, when takes up matter in another branch, he/she carries the principles of interpretation with him/her. Thus it is helpful to the court as well as the cause of client. It is for this reason legal profession is upside down vis-à-vis medical profession.
In fact in medical profession there is a new but rare branch of Diagnostician who deal with complicated cases which could not be treated properly. These diagnostician are on top in medical profession working above surgeons and other branches of specialists but they are general practitioner. This is emergence of our good old General Practitioner in a new Grand Avatar in hospitals in place of individual practice.
So guys, take precautions while hiring a lawyer and do not commit the mistakes most people do.