3 myths about Lawyers, and the ‘TBA Law’ truth
by Rochelle Manderson
We have all heard them, myths and generalisations about lawyers, none of them flattering to our profession. Walk down the street and you will hear comments questioning the morality of lawyers, how much we earn, or that we are only interested in lining our own pockets. So, this blog is one that is close to my big, caring and empathetic lawyers heart, 3 myths about us lawyers and the TBA truth to dispel the myth. Cynics, take note!
Lawyers are dishonest people
If there is one thing a lawyer should never be, it is dishonest. Lawyers are officers of the Supreme Court, and they should act accordingly. As an officer of the Court, our highest duty is to the Court, and the Court’s only duty is to justice. Our profession relies on the assumption that lawyers will be truthful with their dealings with other colleagues within their profession, with their clients, and most importantly with the Court. For example, a solicitor or barrister who knows their client is guilty of a crime cannot plead not guilty to a criminal court, they can only plead no case to answer. Nor can they lie on a document in a civil matter or mislead the court as to the financial position of their client. This is partly why a solicitor will often require full disclosure from their client when working with them on a matter.
Additionally, we are bound by the Legal Profession Uniform Law, and case law has often stated that absolute honesty and trustworthiness is required of legal professionals. Indeed, before a person is admitted to practice law (i.e.: to become a lawyer), they must be found to be a ‘fit and proper person’ to practice. Any past dishonesty will make it much more difficult to be admitted to practice. Once admitted, dishonesty can be grounds for professional misconduct. Courts take this very seriously, as should all legal practitioners. A good lawyer will never lie to the Court, to another lawyer, or to their client.
And you can believe me when I say that, because I am a lawyer.
Lawyers only care about lining their own pockets
This one is rather common, and so untrue it almost borders on offensive. A lawyer’s highest duty is to the Court; however, they also have a duty to their client and a duty to justice. We as solicitors have a duty to represent you and your best interests, and we are fearlessly loyal to our clients. Should someone attend our office to be represented that will cause a conflict of interest for us to represent them, we will not act for them in that conflict situation. Yes, that is correct, we will turn away ‘business’, or people to ‘line or pockets’, if it will cause a real or perceived conflict of interest to represent them. We have three duties enshrined in law, and none of them is the duty to make as much money as possible. A good lawyer will care more for their client than their client’s money and will only charge their professional fees. And then of course, there is pro bono work, where we do not charge at all.
Lawyers all earn huge wages
Don’t believe everything you hear, and don’t believe this either. Solicitors are professional, and as with any profession their wage will reflect that, however many solicitors are not earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. There is a huge difference between the wage of, say, a Senior Counsel (once called Queens Counsel) and your local solicitor working in regional Victoria. In fact, according to PayScale.com, solicitors average annual wage in Australia is $64,078.00. With experience comes increased wages, so your entry level solicitor in their first few years of practice could be earning a wage as low as $46,000.00 annually, which is not a huge figure for the years of training and education behind every solicitor in practice. As a solicitor’s experience increased, so does their wage, and it is not unusual for a solicitor to earn between $70,000.00 and $80,000.00 annually. Solicitors with years of experience, often who have specialised in large city-based firms, can be earning as much as $100,000.00 annually.
Lawyers study for years and continue to learn and develop their skills to bring their client the best service they can, and they are held to a high level of accountability within their profession and responsibility to their client. Many solicitors and barristers have entered the profession primarily to help others, and they enjoy the challenges the work brings daily. Given the nature of their work, comments about a lawyer’s honesty, or annual wage, or motivation is so often not only inaccurate, but rather unfair.
Next time you hear things like this, you can think to yourself, that’s an unfounded generalisation, now you know the TBA truth!