Explaining the Unpopularity of Lawyers:
A recent Gallup poll on public opinion towards various professions has the legal field once again near the bottom: Only 25% of people polled had a positive view of lawyers. I thought I would blog a bit on some of the reasons why, and whether those reasons are justified.

  I'm no expert on this question, but my sense is that the low public regard for lawyers has some origins that are justified and others that are less so. On one hand, I think lawyers are properly criticized for how they often use their power to protect the guild. Get a group of lawyers together and have them craft some new laws, and the chances are pretty good that the new laws will be favorable to lawyers. Given how much power lawyers can exercise, I think it's often fair for non-lawyers to look askance at the legal profession for this reason.

  On the other hand, I suspect that the low public regard for lawyers is partly explained by isolation effects that result when lawyers take on advocacy roles in controversial disputes. Lawyers represent clients. And if you have a high-profile dispute with popular and unpopular sides, people are likely to remember the person who took the unpopular side. That person will often be a lawyer for the unpopular side, fostering a very negative impression of lawyers.

  Think about a legal dispute in which you identify really strongly with one side -- perhaps a criminal case in which the crime is heinous and evidence of guilt is overwhelming. Imagine you turn on your TV and you see a show about the case, and the lawyer for the other side is on the show. You're likely to think that lawyer is a shyster: He keeps ignoring the evidence, changing the subject, and saying all these implausible things to try to help a very evil client. The sheer audacity of the lawyer representing the defendant slimeball with a straight face can leave a bad taste in your mouth -- a bad taste about lawyers.

  Sure, the good guys have a lawyer, too. And you'll agree 100% with what that their lawyer says. But you won't remember that as much as you will the lawyer who took the side you find so offensive. I'm no expert in the question, but I suspect that this sort of reaction helps explain part of the low public regard for lawyers.