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Professionals .... bah

Having just paid close to 100k in legal fees, I say shoot the lawyers.

My problem with the legal profession is almost that it exists to ensure that the legal profession exists.

The law, by definition should be simple (ignorance of the law is no defence).
Similarly, it should not be exclusive (anyone should be able to decide what level of legal representation they want even if it is my Uncle Guber).

The law however, says that to have your day in court, you need a lawyer.... GUARANTEED DEMAND. In certain courts, you need certain types of lawyers (who cost even more).  The only folk that determine who can become a lawyer (read how many qualify) are other lawyers... LIMITED SUPPLY.  Most politicians are lawyers, so the folk writing the laws  have a vested interest to ensure the need for legal professionals.

The exact same scenario with accountants.
The law says that every company needs to have its books signed off by a Chartered Accountant... again DEMAND GUARANTEED by LEGAL STATUTE. The folk who determine who qualifies as an accountant are existing accountants....

Before you talk about the level of professionalism in either industry, I just want to make a couple of points.

1. If the value in the services was self evident, they would not need protection through legal statutes. eg. As an investor, I might not invest in a company that did not have its books audited by a big five firm. MY decision!! If a business thought there was value to be derived from association with a Chartered Accounting firm, they would do so without prodding from the law.

2. Enron anyone?? There was an article in the FT not too long ago about one of the big international legal firms padding their billing to clients. These are the big ones that the press pick up on... A lot of small firms and small folk getting shafted daily.

3. I am not convinced that accreditation by these bodies is all that. What would you rather have freshly minted MSCE or someone with 3 years on the job.

Read "Next: The future just happened, by Michael Lewis" http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393323528/qid=1050059977/sr=2-2/ref=sr_2_2/103-0280361-3040607

and I quote "... Markus, a bored adolescent stuck in a dusty desert town and too young to even drive, becomes the most-requested legal expert on Askme.com, doling out advice on everything from how to plead to murder charges to how much an Illinois resident can profit from illegal gains before being charged with fraud"

Given my issues with all these closed shops (ahem industry bodies), and protectionist cries how can I then condone certain sentiments expressed on this forum like "do not export our jobs to India ..... we are so much better than Indian coders ... we need to form a Developers Union" ?

True professionals do not need the law to coerce people to use their services or products. The value of their service is self evident to those who use it.

Some food for thought....

ON why they exist
"It has become fashionable in some quarters to argue that women ought to be able to make such [breast implant] decisions on their own. If members of our society were empowered to make their own decisions about the entire range of products for which the FDA has responsibility, however, then the whole rationale for the agency would cease to exist.
-- FDA head David Kessler, New England Journal of Medicine, quoted in the Wall Street Journal 6/24/92"

ON govt thinking for us
"But Lisa, that's why we have government officials, so
we don't have to think.
-- Homer Simpson"

tapiwa
Friday, April 11, 2003

Yeah, having no standard accounting practices would do wonders for the market.

      
Friday, April 11, 2003

Wow, it must have been one bad day in court. 

IANAL, and you have some valid points.  Enron did show the system can fail.  However in the absence of making certain they do not, what alternative would we have.

You said, "an investor, I might not invest in a company that did not have its books audited by a big five firm. "

What is my recourse if they just "say" they did?

On David Kessler's comments, his point is slightly out of context.  We are empowered to make decisions, however we need someone with near unlimited resources to ensure we get the proper information to make them. 

If you owned a Pinto, or a Ford Explorer and legal options were not available what incentive would exist for a company to correct the issue?  While it might be "they may not sell more cars" who is to say?  It may be they pay the 200 people killed and require a non-disclosure.  What about those of us who own them and still haven't been killed?

The issue you touch on is merely a symptom of our problem past.  Many of these were put in place to protect us from people who did real damage.  Some were put in for really dumb reasons, no doubt.  Which side of the line depends on your point of view on the issue. 

Mike Gamerland
Friday, April 11, 2003

The lack of standard accounting practices should not in itself be a reason for Govt to mandate them.

Industry bodies would establish their own. Do you recall the ISO9000 craze a little while back?? Hotel rating?? (5 stars anyone?) Michelin rating for restuarants??

All I am saying is that I do not want anyone dictating what I can or cannot do, even if it is supposedly for my own good.

Recommend something. Highlight the dangers inherent in others, but do not make it illegal for me to disagree with you.

If someone says their books are audited by the big five, and they are lying, then that is fraud aka theft. Then you have legal recourse. But to force everyone to use the same standard is silly. It almost says that this is as good as it gets, and that any other competing standard is sub-standard. :)

Consumers vote with their $$ when not compelled to use one product by the law.

People talk of the technical merits of Betamax..... Should the govt have mandated that as the standard instead of VHS, which (for reasons I will not go into here) was a commercial success. Would we have been happier then?

Extend this argument to the EU directives on banana's (what curveture and size can be imported into the EU) on the one extreme, accounting standards on the other.

The govt does know better than Tapiwa, what is good for Tapiwa.

tapiwa
Friday, April 11, 2003

The worst thing about lawyers is that they create spiraling demand for other lawyers (because the poor shmucks they sue need to hire lawyers, too).

Joel Spolsky
Friday, April 11, 2003

Maybe the Indian gov't should open a U.S. law school in Bangalore ;-)

GiorgioG
Friday, April 11, 2003

Tapiwa, the point is that - at the serious study and work level - everyone is protected except software developers.

If we're going to have global competition, let's do it for everyone, including the people who get extra bonuses by sacking their software developers.

Let's remove all borders so that Mr CEO has to sit in traffic jams for three hours and knows his house could be raided by armed gangs. That's equality.


Friday, April 11, 2003

The reason there are mandated standards for these things is make life easier for the non experts. If every company could audit their figures any way they wanted, everyone would. Maybe a 'de facto' standard would emerge, but maybe it wouldn't. And without any legal backing anybody could say they followed the standards when they didn't. Or maybe they say they follow their own standards, which are just as good as the industry ones. But to check that that is really true you would need an accountant, and how to you know that the accountant is any good?

The big difference this would make to us is that no small investor would ever invest in a company, because the risk would be too high.

Doctors is another good example. Do you really want a situation where anybody can set themselves up as a doctor, and the only way you can find out if they know anything is by doing extensive research into their background.


On another topic, where are you required to have a lawyer to get your day in court? In Canada and the UK I believe everybody has the right to defend themselves if they want (and I have a personal example of someone doing just that against a serious charge)

David Clayworth
Friday, April 11, 2003

100k legal fiees are quite common in civil cases in the UK.

There are numerous cases of a houseowner taking a nuisance case out against the neighbour and one or both parties losing their house at the end of the process to pay the lawyers fees.

This doesn't happen anywhere else in Europe, but the ant-Europe lobby, to which tapiwa so clearly belongs, consider this, like unsafe convictions and deaths in custody to be one of the defining glories of the Anglo-Saxon legal system.

An acquaintance of mine had a court case in Barcelona he had inherited, and asked me to translatate to his lawyer over the phone. He was amazed to find that the lawyers fees for taking the appeal to the Supreme Court (in Spain almost all cases go to appeal as a matter of course) was around one thousand pounds sterling all inclusive!

The main reasons that civil legislation in the UK is a mnefield are firstly the fact that you are normally obliged to pay the loser's costs, so that even if you can afford to handle the case yourself, and most cases can be taken as far as the Lords by a reasonably intelligent layman (look at the McLibel case for example), you are still facing financial ruin if you lose.

The second fact is the stupidity of Anglo-Saxon Common Law which gives the most importance in any decision to judicial precedence. That means you can have a clearly won case but if the other side can come up with a decision based on a case from an entirely diferent field of law two hundred years ago, then you had better be able to answer it or the rest of your case won't be taken into account. This is why junior lawyers at big firms in the States spend 12 hour days looking up case law in the libraries for the big corporate clients.

You won't get anywhere by mixing up the issues of legal malfeasance (overcharging clients is standard among all country and market-town solicitors) and  having regulations in the first place.  Definitions are particularly important where they effect the distribution of public money (in the case of bananas  there is a special EU regime intnended to protect Carribean smallholders against competition by exploitative giants such as United Fruit), but are needed everywhere (if you work in drawing up software contracts you should know this). And do bear in mind that all European governments, including the French, Spanish and German, attempt to pass the blame for their own decisions on to Brussels or Strasbourg.

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 11, 2003

"Industry bodies would establish their own"

They have.  The govt let's them establish what is acceptable.  Google FASB, GAAP, et al.

next question please....
Friday, April 11, 2003

"Tapiwa, the point is that - at the serious study and work level - everyone is protected except software developers."

Any other form of engineering, any science, mathematics, and any humanities graduate has probably LESS job security than a software developer. And, there already IS global competition for executives.

Yes, law is a self-policing profession...BUT unless you go to the right law school and make the right connections to get into the right law firm, and then bill 4000 hours a year to get a fat bonus, your salary is going to be LESS than that of a decent software developer.

Medicine also is self policing, but again, unless you go to right school and become head of neurology, you are not going to be making astronomical sums. In fact, the best paid doctors are probably elective surgeons (plastic surgery) and dermatologists...and at that point, you are more of a businessman than a doctor anyway.

The number of whiners in this industry is sometimes amusing, and sometimes annoying. You are basically being paid to goof off. And, this is one of the only industries where you can essentially make money out of thin air...the redistribution cost of software has become $0. Write a $30 game or shareware program and sell 2000 copies of it a year and you have an annual salary greater than 99% of the world's population.

choppy
Friday, April 11, 2003

Actually, lawyers and accountants (and to a lesser extent architects) are very vulnerable to losing much of their bread and butter work to the web.

For example in the UK a solicitor normally pays the rent through conveyancing work, which he charges for at solicitor's rates but has done by lowly paid clerks. You can download packs from the web to do this; the same goes for tax returns and other basic accounting stuff.

Now maybe I ought to bulid that house in Sri Lanka and then advertise my services over the web. $25 an hour for fillng in forms on the laptop by the swimming pool doesn't seem so bad!

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 11, 2003

Lots of messages in this thread seem to assume that professional certification or accreditation is meant to protect the profession itself. 

This is wrong.  Actually, the accreditation is intended to protect the consumers!

I do say "intended" because I'm not sure that it always works out that way.

But in may cases I think it does. 

A few random thoughts:

1.  Someone suggested accreditation in itself wasn't worth much: "Would you rather hire an MCSE with no experience or someone without an MCSE with 3 years experience?"  On that question I'm not so sure.  But I'm pretty sure I'd hire an MCSE with 3 years experience over either of them.  And it doesn't take a genius to know that you're better off hiring a lawyer with experience than a lawyer fresh out of law school. 

2.  Someone suggested that lawyers create a "spiralling" need for other lawyers, because when one lawyer is hired the other side needs to hire a lawyer, too.  I fail to see how this creates a true "spiral", which would require a never-ending succession of legal-employements, one after another after another, all related to the initial hiring.  Sure, the employment of one lawyer will often prompt an opposing party to hire one of their own (and there may even be lots of opposing parties who get dragged in), but there is no such thing as an unending spiral.  All this is just related to the fact that law disputes are adversarial.  Of course lawyers will often need to be employed in pairs, with representation for each side.

3.  I don't believe there is any court in the U.S. where you are required to be represented by a lawyer.  You can always represent yourself, and this goes for corporations as well as individuals.  What you aren't allowed to do is to HIRE someone other than yourself (or an employee of your corporation) to represent you.  If you are a corporation, though, you can hire a person as a permanent employee, and this person can provide legal services without being accredited (unless the person needs to appear in court, which is often not required for corporate counsel).  Would anybody care to guess how many people hired for corporate in-house counsel are nonaccredited or haven't attended law school, even though corporations can hire anyone they want?

4.  I don't have any numbers on this, but my guess is that among major professions law is near the top for professions where individuals who have received a degree and accreditation are no longer working within that profession.  Lots of lawyers practice just a handful of years and leave for other jobs to run business, be teachers, program (I'm one of those), etc.  If law were the boondoggle lots of you assume it to be, don't you think people would want to stay with it once they worked themselves into that privileged position?

I could go on.

All of this isn't to say there aren't problems with the legal profession.  But I do think that many of the criticisms of it are misguided.

Herbert Sitz
Friday, April 11, 2003

They have.  The govt let's them establish what is acceptable.  Google FASB, GAAP, et al.

Herbet, next-question-please and others... My biggest criticism with these professions is not that they are closed shops.... anyone can and should do as they please, including the freedom to associate.

What I have a problem with is govt regulation compelling me to use the services of XYZ in an matter especially a legal one.

Accreditation is fine. There are a lot of competing computer qualifications. Still, there is no law stating that "if you are running a server facing the public you should employ an MCSE".

That alone is my biggest gripe with the law. If someone hits me with a nuisance lawsuit, I want to be able to get Uncle Gruber, who is a retired comedian, spends his days in courtrooms listening to cases, and is probably more competent to argue my case than some £300 per hour QC.

Unfortunately the law, in all its infinite wisdom, deems that this would be a BAD thing.

tapiwa
Friday, April 11, 2003

Sounds like your uncle should go to law school, or you should be looking to hire a better caliber of lawyer...

next question please....
Friday, April 11, 2003

to the best of my knowlledge a solicitor can appear in all cases where a barrister was previously required. You still can't have a barrister without going through a soliicotor first though.

One of the reasons for insisting on accreditation is to avoid too much of the court's time being wasted. Though it doesn't always work that way. My favourite time in court was when the employer took us all to the labour court to get the union elections overturned and his in-house "lawyer" (who had just got his degree after 25 years of studying and had not yet joined the college and thus couldn't wear the toga) said to the judge who was tearing his case to pieces with some tactful prompting from myself and our lawyer, "It isn't as easy as it seems, your worship".

"No case is as easy as it seems," the judge shot back. "Next time get yourself an lawyer."

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 11, 2003

"If someone hits me with a nuisance lawsuit, I want to be able to get Uncle Gruber, who is a retired comedian, spends his days in courtrooms listening to cases, and is probably more competent to argue my case than some £300 per hour QC."

It's not that the law is stopping YOU from getting Uncle Gruber to represent you, but the prohibition is against Uncle Gruber offering legal services (although that essentially brings the same result).  Without that regulation, there would be thousands of "Uncle Grubers" around the place offering legal services to people and landing them in jail or bankrupt from lost lawsuits, after which they would move on to their next money-making scheme.

Anyway, you could still represent yourself and have Uncle Gruber sit in court watching you, giving you advice between sessions (as long as he isn't getting paid to do it).

T. Norman
Friday, April 11, 2003

That reminds me of 'General Contractors'.  You know, the guys that build houses.  These guys aren't regulated in my area, and all sorts of con men abound.  To get a good one, you have to KNOW the references that they provide.  If you're good, you can get a lot of business by word of mouth.  If your a client though and you don't know anybody, it's a crap-shoot.

Frank Fellowes, III
Friday, April 11, 2003

tapiwa said, "What I have a problem with is govt regulation compelling me to use the services of XYZ in an matter especially a legal one."

tapiwa -- Nobody's compelling you to use anybody's services.  You can act as your own lawyer, or you can hire any accredited lawyer you want.  If you have no money at all, in most U.S. cities you can find nonprofit organizations offering legal services for free.

Because of the requirement of legal accreditation, you and everyone else can approach someone who holds themselves out as a lawyer and be confident that their service will meet at least some minimum standard of quality.  That standard may not be terribly high.  But it's far better than having no standard at all.  At least that's the argument, and nothing you've said has anything to do with whether that argument is valid or not.  You don't like the idea of requiring accreditation.  That's fine, but unless you have evidence that consumers would be protected as well without it, then your feelings aren't worth much.

Also, the need for accreditation has nothing to do with quality of legal services being "self evident".  Actually, it's the exact opposite.  Absent accreditation, it would not be self-evident to consumers what lawyers were capable of satisfying certain minimum standards of representation.  With accreditation, it does become self-evident, i.e., all lawyers are certified as satisfying the minimal standard.

By the way, there are lots of lawyers around.  Why did you hire one who charged so much?  I can virtually guarantee that if you shopped around you could have found one for less than half the cost.  Would that have been a wise hire?  Would eliminating the requirement of accreditation lower the hourly fees of the good lawyers?

Herbert Sitz
Friday, April 11, 2003

"Would eliminating the requirement of accreditation lower the hourly fees of the good lawyers?"

I think it would decrease the fees of lawyers in general, but increase the fees of those who are good and known for being good ... because they would be overstocked with clients, while unknown lawyers (even if they are good) would have hell trying to attract clients at even $15/hour.

T. Norman
Friday, April 11, 2003

May I suggest, tapiwa should consider visiting Iraq this spring - I hear the lawlessness is quite invigorating.


Friday, April 11, 2003

The Enron debacle is an argument for *less* regulation?  Is today Upside-Down Day?

Hardware Guy
Friday, April 11, 2003

<RANT>
I say "professionals - YEAH!" Where can *I* get a slice of that Amurrican dream?

I think it's interesting to read techies lambasting the law occupation - they wind up trying to impose the same commoditizing crap and lack of explicit standards on lawyers that we face.

Our problem as techies is that we believe almost like a folk religion in the self-affirming meritocracy of free enterprise. So we believe that just as we are commoditized and shoved into a little "skill set" box and made to perpetually push the boulder up the mountain like Sisyphus, we expect every other profession to suffer the same fate.

Our problem as a "profession of sorts" is that we don't want to learn from the examples of history, from other professions, or even from each other all that much. Coders want to believe that they invented it all right now. Each of us wants to stand on our own laurels. So each of us negotiates and gets screwed over individually.

My strong feeling is that the immaturity and ego that is endemic in this industry is our downfall. If programmers as a group had any street smarts, H1B and offshoring vogue would not be the factors that they are today.

Flame on.
</RANT>

Bored Bystander
Friday, April 11, 2003

" If programmers as a group had any street smarts, H1B and offshoring vogue would not be the factors that they are today."

Well, the individual programmers with street smarts tend to make bank even when the market trend is against them, and let the herds of wanna-be teamsters whine about protectionism and professionalism. Joel seems to be moving in to new manhattan office space, doesn't he?


choppy
Friday, April 11, 2003

With respect to reasons for professional accreditation, I don't see programming as very different from engineering, which is a controlled profession where certification is required.  But I don't think salaries for engineers are much different from those for programmers. (Programming has a wider range of pay, though, I think: in general, I would say that low end programming jobs pay less than most low-end engineering jobs and high-end programming jobs pay more than most high-end engineering jobs.)

The engineering career cycle seems very similar to that of programming:  (1) initial salary out of school is decent, higher than almost any other bachelor's degree; (2) pay goes up fairly quickly but also reaches a ceiling fairly quickly; (3) people with more than a few years experience end up going into management to make more money.

If professional accreditation requirements haven't given engineers the same salaries as doctors and lawyers, why would anyone think they would do that for programmers? 

I think requiring accreditation for programmers would protect consumers of programming services because it would guarantee a minimum competence level.  And to some extent it would protect people with accreditation against losing out on jobs to people without accreditation who would otherwise be able to bamboozle employers or clients.  But I'm not confident it would make a big difference in average salaries.

Herbert Sitz
Friday, April 11, 2003

Accreditation is actually something different from the protection that other professional groups have acquired for themselves. It's part of it, but not the whole picture.

Engineering comprises several groups. Civil engineering does indeed require that people who build bridges know what they're doing, and for this reason that discipline forms into partnerships like law and accounting, and the partners do reasonably well. Another factor is that a lot of civil engineering jobs are in government, and this holds pay down a bit.

Electrical engineers are actually suffering much the same downward pressures as software developers.

Re representing people in court, which I mentioned in connection with the restrictions on practising law, I was referring to representing other people,  not yourself.

Compare software development with the law. In software, someone often with inadequate expertise briefs the developers and also tells them how long to take and everything else. The developers often suffer stress because of this and do a job they know is poor.

In law, the lawyer tells you how long it will take and how much and makes sure you pay it.

In software, a manager who doesn't like the salary or fees demanded by good people simply hires much cheaper people, generally with very little regard for expertise. Then when things go wrong, they slam software development.

Here's an article about accountants writing software:

http://www.cioinsight.com/print_article/0,3668,a=38859,00.asp


Friday, April 11, 2003

Nothing will change until those who use software development services are legally required to meet certain minimum standards.

This means banks and others will be legally required to use knowledgeable people to develop and protect their web systems and databases, and so on.

At the moment, they can cause all sorts of damage, and then just throw their hands in the air.

Note the important distinction - the legal requirements must be on those who USE the software development services, not those who provide them. The first will create the latter but without the first, good software developers will always be undercut by incompetents.


Saturday, April 12, 2003

How much innovation would you say there is in these regulated and certified industries like accounting and bridge building where things are sufficiently standardized to be able to test in the ways proposed?

Dennis Atkins
Saturday, April 12, 2003

Hmmm... free people from all government restrictions, just listened to the french news, it seems to be working just fine in Iraq right now.

Daniel Shchyokin
Saturday, April 12, 2003

Accreditation in law and medicine is just an excuse for a closed shop. A closed shop means high wages. In the UK the print industry was a closed shop until a few years ago. Only the very lucky and relatives of existing print workers got print jobs. Their wages even during recessions were at least 3 times the national average. Thatcher smashed that closed shop. Many of us wanted her to do the same to the doctors and lawyers but they were too powerful. Can you imagine what the wages of computer programmers would be if they decided how many new people each year could become computer programmers?

Taffy
Saturday, April 12, 2003

>"Accreditation in law and medicine is just an excuse for a closed shop."

Actually, it's the *lack* of accreditation in software that has now caused it to become a closed shop.  A new college graduate probably has an easier time getting into medical school than being hired as a programmer.

Think about it this way ... suppose they remove all the standards and restrictions for being a doctor, so anybody can call themselves a doctor and do surgery and diagnose people.  The market floods with self-called doctors who read things like "Teach Yourself Knee Surgery in 24 Hours".  For some number of years, patients have horrible experiences all over the place.
Eventually, most patients refuse to go to a doctor unless they're vomiting blood.  Hospitals lay off doctors and decide to hire only those who have at least 5 years experience and numerous references.  Others only hire those who have experience in all of brain surgery, heart surgery, eye surgery, orthopedics, and dermatology.

After all that has happened, a bright 22 year old arrives on the scene and wants to be a doctor.  Do you think he/she will stand much of a chance of getting hired by a hospital or running a practice that attracts enough patients to earn a living? In such a scenario, the lack of accreditation causes the medical field to become MORE difficult for newcomers to enter.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 12, 2003

As I just explained, all high-paying professions eventually become closed shops with or without regulation by government or an industry body.  The problem with the software industry is that it has become a closed shop with power on the side of the employers, as opposed to the regulated professions where the balance of power is somewhat in favor of the practitioners.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 12, 2003

Well done Bored Bystander!

Johnny Simmson
Saturday, April 12, 2003


I disagree that all high-paying professions become closed shops of their own accord. Most efforts to regulate minimum standards come from existing professionals, and one strong reason is to stop competition from those who haven't invested the same time and effort in achieving certain capabilities.

Society generally considers this OK. We do a deal with doctors. They do seven years study. We agree that, in return for being sure of having good doctors, we let them exclude untrained competition ( via legal statutes.)

In the case of lawyers and accountants, the deal has swung too far in their favour, without return to society.

Teachers and journalists have strong unions in most countries, and they represent another social contract.

In software, there is no deal and so other people - businesses - profit from our years of expertise and work, and actually farm us, in a sense. That's what recruiting is.


Saturday, April 12, 2003

"I disagree that all high-paying professions become closed shops of their own accord. "

They all ultimately become closed shops, but not always of their own accord.  It could be society at large (without government intervention) that closes the doors to newcomers -- such as the doctors scenario described above in which people refuse to be treated by new doctors.

Software has now become a closed shop, with the employers being the ones who slam the doors to keep newcomers out, instead of developers controlling the gates.

Since there is going to be a closed shop anyway, we would be better off if developers were the ones controlling the door instead of mindless corporations and HR drones.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 12, 2003


If there were no restrictions on who practised medicine, this is what would have happened by now:

1. Non-medical businessmen would set up heavily marketed medical centres and hire cheap 1 and 2-year trained staff at bargain rates. If they occasionally needed a real doctor, they would be able to hire one cheaply.

2. Pharmaceutical companies would provide 10-week courses specific to their products, and heavily promote the worth of the resulting certification to hospitals and the managers of the medical centres. Completion of the courses would be denoted by heavily marketed 4-letter acronyms.

3. Large recruitment businesses would arise to find cheap staff for the medical centres. These recruitment businesses would market the pharmaceutical company courses to young people, and then place them in jobs afterwards.

4. Job ads for doctors would call for experience operating certain types of stethoscope and administering certain brands of anti-biotic.

5. Hospital financial officers would sack medical officers who questioned hospital medical policy, and business magazines would carry stories about uppity doctors.


Saturday, April 12, 2003

British Medical Schools generally limit the number of doctors to many less than necessary. That is why the UK is always importing doctors from other countries, though it is also why British Medical Schools have a very high reputation.

The basic problem with the law in Britain is that the system is intended to make it so outrageously expensive that as few people as possible go to court. It is actually quite easy in the UK to become a barrister or a solicitor - you do not need a law degree.

Incidentally, I think you will find that the median computer science graduates salary is higher than that of the average law graduate in the US or Europe. It's simply that people only think of the high flyers.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, April 12, 2003

And, oh, I forgot:

6.  Lots more people would become more sick or die because of lower quality health care and the inability to rely on the skills of their doctors.


Saturday, April 12, 2003

And:

7. People would become very, very afraid to go to the doctor, which would drag down the number of employment opportunities for doctors, probably to even less than the limited opportunities that exist with official standards in place.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 12, 2003

The claim by Stephen Jones that anyone in the UK can become a solicitor or barrister is not quite true. To become a solicitor or barrister, regardless of what qualifications you have gained,  you need to be taken on as a kind of apprentice by an existing solicitor or barrister. This is how our lawyers maintain their closed shop and restrict the number of people entering the legal profession.

Doctors, Lawyers and Chartered Accountants all restrict the number of people entering their professions in order to keep their fees or wages high.

I do not object to accreditation I object to the way it is being abused. In the UK there are only a few medical schools. Far more people would like to become doctors than there are places in these medical schools. All that is needed is to stop the BMA, the trade union of the British doctors, determining how many people should train as doctors. This could be done by opening private medical schools and allowing the number of doctors to be determined by the market.

In the UK IT world accreditation is not very important. Many of the best IT consultants I have worked with had failed at university. They got work by showing what they could do rather than telling someone what they knew.

Taffy
Sunday, April 13, 2003

I think there's a big difference between vendor certification and independent certification.

Sort of like the difference between being a 'licensed professional civil engineer' vs. being certified in 'canam steel joist construction'.

Al
Sunday, April 13, 2003

Dear Taffu,
                  I have never met anybody who wanted to become a barrister or solicirtor but was prevented from doing so by not finding a "sponsor". The problem with taking the bar exams is that they are incredibly difficult; you really need to have money saved up to pay for a year to eighteen months off in order to study for them. And the barristers who live off legal aid work are hardly better paid than code monkeys.

                    Many solicitors are badly paid. The small firms are in general dependent on conveyancing and other property related work, and in the medium to large firms it all depends on your position in the hierarchy. A salaried solicitor will probably earn considerably less than a salaried programmer, whilst the senior partner can take skiing holidays in Switzerland and drive a Rolls, particularly if like one famous Bury solicitor he can persuade all the old dears whose wills he's executor for to leave him a nice juicy legacy.

                  The situation with doctors is strange, since the consumer does not directly pay for health care. Certainly there are excellent reasons for increasing the number of medical places, though that would require Central Government funding, and the government may decide it is cheaper to plunder the products of Third World Medical Schools than train more native doctors, who may go off to the States anyway.

                      Dentists is another thing, and a total scandal. Dental care is actually cheaper, and much more convenient, in countries where it is completely private than in the UK where it is nominally under the NHS. And let's not start with opticians!

Stephen Jones
Sunday, April 13, 2003

This is departing from the topic a bit, but as I mentioned, "accreditation" is only a minor part of the way established professions protect themselves.

However if we're going to mention it, then it's important to realise that accreditation would not necessarily be synonymous with university degrees, and in fact shouldn't be in software development. Other professions use this approach, but software is quite different.

A useful accreditation scheme would probably be based on deep peer assessment, like the awarding of Ph D's. (Even though they're degrees, the process for obtaining and assessing them is different.)


Sunday, April 13, 2003

Sounds to me like Tapiwa (and some others on this thread) has NO idea what it takes to become a lawyer and then practice law.  They charge a lot of money because it's damn hard work to a) become a lawyer and b) to practice law.

You think all law should be simple?  Have you any idea what that means?  Do you mean tort law?  What about criminal law?  Shipping law?  Environmental law?  Have you considered that each law is probably fairly simple, but there are thousands (millions?) of them, and each has a huge volume of case history shading its interpretation.

I have an idea, go to your local university and buy yourself a 1200 page legal textbook on, say Corporations.  Read that whole book and memorize it.  Great!  Now, you done some of the work of exactly 1 class in 1 semester of 1 year of law school.  You're about 1/30 of the way there.  Oh, and after that, you'll need to learn more to get that cheap accreditization you blather on about.

ps.  No, I'm not a lawyer, but I do sleep with one.

David
Sunday, April 13, 2003

Tapiwa,
I agree, the law seems to exist just to prepetuate itself.  What a great racket. 

Bella
Sunday, April 13, 2003

Rather than being a "closed shop" I think law is different in that it seeks to artificially expand the viable supply of lawyers. Of course, the difficulty and expense of law school and the bar exam has the effect of driving away many from the profession, but if anybody could call themselves a lawyer, people would rarely use lawyers.

Lawyers love ambiguous and controversial laws like the DMCA, and will actively participate in helping to get them created.  They are especially happy with the Patent Office's attitude of "rubber stamp everything and let the courts sort it out."  And of course, many of the politicians who passed those laws were or still are lawyers.

T. Norman
Sunday, April 13, 2003

I'm not sure lawyers do love especially ambiguous and/or controversial laws.  On the one hand they do bring in business for some lawyers.  On the other hand, a lot of lawyers don't like to deal with them.  As one example, asbestos cleanup and related litigation has been literally a mini-industry within the law profession for quite a while, and has made lots of lawyers rich.  But most lawyers I know would have no interest in working on those cases. 

Regarding ambuity itself, I get the impression that many non-lawyers think laws should (and could!) be more carefully crafted to leave less ambiguity and therefore less work for lawyers.  I think this view is almost entirely mistaken, and that laws by their very nature will always have a fairly high level of ambiguity and/or vagueness, no matter how hard legal-drafters work to get it out. 

I think the essence of the problem with legal ambiguity relates to what programmers think of as "orthogonality."  Programmers work hard to make sure that all modules of a program are independent of one another, so that actions taken in one module will have no effect on other modules of a program.  This is difficult for programmers to do, even when they have complete control over their program/system.  It is virtually impossible for legal drafters to do:  lawmakers and law-appliers work in a system of rules that is far more complex than any computer system out there, where there is not even any definite answer to what the laws currently are since the interpretation of existing laws is always changing as they're brought to bear on new fact-patterns, and where new laws will always interact with existing laws (formerly thought to be "orthogonal") in ways completely unforeseeable to the drafters.  It is the job of lawyers representing their clients' best interests to point out any ambiguity or vagueness in laws that favors their client, and the job of judges to resolve these ambiguities or vagueness.  I don't see any way around it.   

I do see how people outside the law could be suspicious and see ambuity and vagueness as left in the law to create work for lawyers.  Perhaps that does happen on some few occasions.  But trust me, the nature of law is that there will always be plenty of ambiguity and vagueness no matter how much care is taken in lawmaking.  It's largely because (1) laws are written by human beings in a natural language that is not as conducive to clarity as something like a computer language, (2) these laws must be interpreted by judges, who are fallible, and (3) laws interact with other laws within an unbelievably huge and complex non-orthogonal system.

Herbert Sitz
Monday, April 14, 2003

There will always be some amount of ambiguity and controversy in laws, but it doesn't have to be nearly as much as it is in America.  Other First World countries operate successfully without nearly as much controversy, complexity, and ambiguity in their laws and have far less litiguous societies.

T. Norman
Monday, April 14, 2003

Maybe, but that doesn't mean their laws are any less ambiguous or vague.  I doubt there's any correlation between the degree of litigiousness in a society and the ambiguity or vagueness of its laws.  I think degree of ambiguity/vagueness is roughly constant between most modern legal systems, including "civil" law systems in Europe that appear to be cleaner than our own because they depend to a lesser extent on case law.  The degree of litigiousness, on the other hand, is more of a cultural thing. 

Herbert Sitz
Monday, April 14, 2003

Again, I ask

Read "Next: The future just happened, by Michael Lewis" http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393323528/qid=1050059977/sr=2-2/ref=sr_2_2/103-0280361-3040607

and I quote "... Markus, a bored adolescent stuck in a dusty desert town and too young to even drive, becomes the most-requested legal expert on Askme.com, doling out advice on everything from how to plead to murder charges to how much an Illinois resident can profit from illegal gains before being charged with fraud...."

If the legal profession is so hard that not anyone can dole out legal advice, how did the above happen?? Similarly, how many lawyers are later discovered to be 'frauds' and not qualified/certified, after years of successful practice?

tapiwa
Monday, April 14, 2003

Come on tapiwa.  All that story proves is that people shouldn't rely on bulletin boards for reliable, professional information.  Just like I'm sure that unqualified people give out medical info on the medical boards, tax info on the tax boards, programming info on the programming boards...

Al
Monday, April 14, 2003

"If the legal profession is so hard that not anyone can dole out legal advice, how did the above happen?? "

In the states , I don't think anyone can claim that the legal profession is very "hard" in the intellectual sense. Certainly it takes more thought than breaking bricks but any moderately intelligent human can get into law school somewhere. A friend of mine is studying for the LSAT and I took a practice exam with her, and scored in the mid 170s (180 is the highest score.)

Most people I know who went into law did so because they trained as scientists or engineers and didn't think they would ever see more than $50,000 a year in the field they trained in. For them, law was an easy and stable field to get into.

There is some statistic bandied about that over 70% of people going to Yale law school decided to go into law because they couldn't think of anything better to do.

choppy
Monday, April 14, 2003

If you don't go to a good school (top tier), lawyer jobs suck. 


Monday, April 14, 2003

Al, YOU are missing the point. Read the book. The point they were making was that this little kid was matching the heavyweights pound for pound.

I think all the advice was peer reviewed, and this kid was in HOT. I think issues only came to head when it was somehow discovered that it was just a kid on the other end of the keyboard, and not some hot shot $$$$ per hour big office lawyer.

tapiwa
Monday, April 14, 2003

I don't want to buy the book.  I googled Markus Arnold and the only reference I found for him was in the book.  If he made any news stories, and surely he did, could you please point them out so that I may read them?

I checked out askme.com, and it looks like they sell to companies.  They don't have an online bbs.  Who was employing this kid?

Lastly, I know nothing of the nature of the questions, but I know that if more people knew how to use a library or the internet, about 99% of them are easily answered.

It's the 1% that gets you.

Al
Monday, April 14, 2003

Just did a google search on Marcus Arnold. Here are some excerpts .....

"So highly-rated was his advice, that the users of one prominent website voted him the best legal expert out of a field of over one hundred offering advice, many of them much better legally qualified." - bbc.co.uk

"soon became the number one ranked lawyer on the site, even beating qualified lawyers. Arnold had never read a book on the law, and had gleaned all of his information from television (Court TV and the like). However, the advice he was giving was correct, and the legal profession obviously wasn't happy about this state of affairs."  -- FinanceAsia.com

"Because questioners rank the answers and "experts" get star ratings, the message board seems to have become very competitive, rewarding speed, clarity and frequency of responses. LawGuy--whose real name is Marcus Arnold, but who signed his messages "Justin Anthony Wyrick Jr."- became well-regarded, in the Top 10 of the 150 or so lawyers answering questions in the law division." -- wendytech.com

"When he finally revealed his true identity, a few of the actual professionals revolted, but a tremendous groundswell of support from Arnold's clients suggested that the information was more important than the source." -- theonionavclub.com

"Another teen, Marcus Arnold, incurs the wrath of lawyers by setting himself up as a legal expert on the Web site AskMe.com and offering advice solely from what he learned watching court television shows. Yet his "clients" largely didn't care; they apparently found the advice sound." -- businessweek.com


Why did I pick on the lawyers ?? Because the law says I am not allowed to get this kid to represent me in court. The ratings show that he can match punches one for one with the Bar certified lawyers.

That alone is the problem I have. The protected market that lawyers have. The fact that the law says that I cannot choose whom I want to argue in my defence, except from a pool of qualified lawyers.

Boss Tweed once said --
"I don't care who does the voting, as long as I get to do the nominating."

Same story with all these professional qualifications  mandated by the law as the only ones allowed to practice a specific activity.  Do all the voting you want (pick any lawyer from all the competing firms), but only from my nominees (only the folk we have deemed worthy of being lawyers).

Oh yes, we are doing this for your own good :)

tapiwa
Monday, April 14, 2003

tapiwa, check your results again, all of those are plugs for the book.  None of them are actual news stories.

Al
Monday, April 14, 2003

Or, since I already did it...

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=%22marcus+arnold%22+site%3Abbc.co.uk

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=%22marcus+arnold%22+site%3AFinanceAsia.com

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=%22marcus+arnold%22+site%3Awendytech.com

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=%22marcus+arnold%22+site%theonionavclub.com

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=%22marcus+arnold%22+site%3Abusinessweek.com

Al
Monday, April 14, 2003

Wait a minute, you're griping because you don't think there's ENOUGH lawyers?!

sheesh
Monday, April 14, 2003

Al, what's your point???

Are you saying that the fact that you could not find it in popular media makes it any less real?? Remember Sklyarov and the DMCA ... did not see much of that in the popular media.

Are you disputing the facts in the book??

The WendyTech article begins thus ....
"In what is either a wonderful or horrifying development, a New York Times Sunday magazine article describes a 15-year old who has been answering legal questions online on a site called askme.com" ... and continues to take a pot shot at the journalist, Michael Lewis.

They still concede that the facts as stated about Marcus Arnold are true.
NOT A PLUG.

Lexisone, the resource for small law firms', writes "A recent front page story in the New York Times featured a fifteen-year old boy who was answering legal questions on a Web site called Askme.com, with knowledge he gleaned solely from Court TV and Judge Judy's televised courtroom." http://www.lexisone.com/practicemanagement/pmlibrary/pm121201b.html

Can we please not be pedantic, and have an adult discussion.

tapiwa
Monday, April 14, 2003

OK, fine, Tapiwa.  You win.  One 15 kid duped a bunch of non-lawyers into thinking he was a lawyer.  I'm sure his advice was very well received because all he had to go on was his "common sense, " so his answers were very simple.

Fine, if you want very simple legal advice that's easy to understand, watch TV.  If you want to make sure that the advice is correct and complete, you're probably going to have to pay someone who actually knows what they're talking about.

David
Monday, April 14, 2003

choppy: And how many people go into schools other than Yale for degrees other than law because they couldn't think of anything better to do?  I'd bet it's at least 70%.  My classmates would've agreed.

Brent P. Newhall
Monday, April 14, 2003

Tapiwa,
            Why did you waste your 100k when you could have asked around the internet and then gone in and repeated the advice yourself? Shit, you could have posted here and I could probably have answered you.

            All that the actual story you refer to shows is that the poor in the States get crap lawyers, and that in the real world Perry Mason doesn't spend his time answering questions for free on an internet chat board.

            Another lawyer student of mine once told me the standard lawyer's story which happens to all lawyers at least once in a lifetime. The client came with a question and he went to his bookshelf, got out the book, glanced at the appropriate paragraph, and answered the question. His client complained that he was being charged a small fortune for two minutes work. The next time the client came my lawyer student reminded him of the previous conversation and told him he could get the answer to the question for free this time. "There," he said, "are the books. You look up the answer." The client never complained again.

            In Spain they have a kind of half-lawyer called a "graduado social" who has done three years of law instead of the five a full lawyer does. They often take advantage of a loophole in the law and represent people who don't know any better (nearly always cheapskate  employers) at the labour courts. I've been on the other side twice with top class labour lawyers, and it was a real pleasure to watch them squirm as we set about dissecting them.

Stephen Jones
Monday, April 14, 2003

Here's a link where you can read the actual NYTimes article that talks about Marcus Arnold. 

http://cybercon98.harvard.edu/stjohns/NYT-internet.html

Anybody who thinks this provides a good argument for abandoning requirements that laywers pass the bar is seriously misguided, in my opinion. 

Still, it's an interesting story.  And I don't doubt the truth of any of it.  It just doesn't show that certification of lawyers is a bad thing.

Herbert Sitz
Monday, April 14, 2003

My point is that I wanted more 'facts' from a news source rather than 'spin' from an author.  Thanks Herbert.

Al
Monday, April 14, 2003

Very interesting.  I think the quote from lexisone probably sums it up:

"The need to distinguish between ANY legal information, which LawGuys can provide, and GOOD guidance, which knowledgeable lawyers can provide, remains paramount. "

Al
Monday, April 14, 2003

                       
"choppy: And how many people go into schools other than Yale for degrees other than law because they couldn't think of anything better to do?  I'd bet it's at least 70%.  My classmates would've agreed."

brent, point taken. indeed, if when i was 19, I knew that what i really wanted to do in life was become a bazillionaire music producer and fashion mogul like Puff Daddy, i probably would have not majored in math.

i guess the point i was trying to make, was that most people who go into law don't really have any burning desire for law, they just go into it because it looks like it is stable and pays a lot.

choppy
Monday, April 14, 2003

Some people seem to be saying that because this kid gives his legal advice for free it is no good. A lot of people give free advice on this site. Is that advice no good as well ? I've learned a lot on this site. I've just learned something about Stephen Jones. What a man! There seems to be no country he hasn't lived in and no occupation he doesn't know about. I've learned  that Stephen Jones is a pseudonym. He read my name as Taffu instead of Taffy and no one with the surname Jones would not know what a Taffy is.

Taffy
Monday, April 14, 2003

"A lot of people give free advice on this site. Is that advice no good as well ?"


It's worth every penny you paid for it.

Al
Monday, April 14, 2003

"A lot of people give free advice on this site. Is that advice no good as well ?"

Some of it is no good, just plain wrong (I know; I've given some of it).  Some of it is okay.  And some of it is very good.

That brings up one of the big problems with getting information advice over the internet.  The people getting the advice often aren't in a position to judge whether the advice they're getting is good, bad, or mediocre. 

A similar thing would happen if professions like lawyers and doctors were completely unregulated.  Many consumers would be unable to judge the quality of service they were getting.  There might be a few (like tapiwa?) who perhaps could tell who was good and who wasn't without outside guidance.  Many others wouldn't fare as well.

Herbert Sitz
Monday, April 14, 2003

Dear Taffy,
                  Apologies for misreading your name; put it down to a combination of the fonts Joel chooses, the underlining for the hyperlink, and presbyopia. On the other hand there might be a psychological explanation - when I first moved to England it was the unfriendly nickname I was given and possibly I am trying to cut out the bad memories.

                I don't know that many countries; apart from the UK I have only lived in France, Spain, Saudi, Kuwait and have spent many long vacations in Sri Lanka. The States of course one gets as part of one's birthright as Nyere remarked when he said that the people of Tanzania got so much news about the American Presidential election rammed down their throat that they ought to be allowed to vote in it.

                I worked closely with lawyers as a union rep in England and Spain, and also taught a fair number English so that is one occupation I do have some knowledge of. I don't think you'll find me laying claims to know a lot about optimetiricians, garbage disposal experts, spies, accountants or even computer programmers.

                I may add that any knowledge I have is more the patina of age than any talent for acquiring wisdom.

                 

Stephen Jones
Monday, April 14, 2003

It's a dead argument for those crazy libertarians - they think laws are bad news anyway, the whole thing is just a scam, so who needs legal advice from anyone? No matter how cheap and internet based they may be? Just make it up yourself as you go along - someone owes you money, take their car. Someone takes your car, burn down their house... What a whacky world that'd be.

Getting back to internet legal advice - yeah, that'd work about as well as internet medical advice. Innocuous symptoms like 'a sore throat' always turn into a deadly cancer as soon as you type it into google. How much FUD would internet lawyers start creating once they needed to compete with one another?


Monday, April 14, 2003

Here is my personal reason for hating lawyers. Back when the WWW was new, I registered a common word as a domain name. Eventually, due to the policy of Network Solutions at the time, people thought that if they had a trademark for a word, it meant they had the right to own a domain name.  One person keep contacting me  and claiming they had the right to the domain, blah, blah, blah. I did research into the current law about domain names, and found that the guy was full of it. Now, I don't know if he knew he was full of it, or really believed he had a claim. Anyway, I played dumb, I didn't want to give him any information, so I offered to sell the domain to him. He never replied. At this time if you had a registered trademark you could make NS shut down a domain if you presented the registration to them. Fortunately for me, he didn't have a registered trademark. So about a year goes by, he gets his registration for the trademark, contacts me again, I reply that he is wrong, and he contacts a lawyer. I get a letter from the lawyer saying that they have a trademark, they want me to turn over the domain to him, etc. At no point in the letter do they actually accuse me of committing trademark infringement or dilution. It is obvious to me that they know I am not doing anything wrong, but are hoping I don't know enough and will be scared. I wrote them a very formal letter citing recent court cases, various facts about trademark law, and the fact that this guy brought up the issue over a year ago and didn't do anything about the implied infringement. I told them, if you really think I am infringing or diluting the trademark, tell me and we can talk, otherwise this is all a just a waste of time. I never heard from them again.

The part I hate is that his lawyer knew I wasn't doing anything wrong, but rather then telling this to the client, they hoped that I was ignorant and would cave in to scare tactics. If they had even a tiny thread of an idea to hang a case on, I might have had some respect for them trying to represent their client, but they didn't even do that. To me, this is on the same level as a doctor taking out your appendix when there is nothing wrong with you, because they need the money.

Bill
Monday, April 14, 2003

Bill, you just don't get it.

HIS lawyer is working for HIM. His job is to represent his client and short of sending the mob round, anything goes.

Now if he was YOUR lawyer who had given you the bad advice you would have a case.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

The law as it is practiced in the UK is a scam.

This was well documented in "Lawyers can seriously damage your health" a book written and privately printed in 1984 by Michael Joseph, a lawyer who wanted to come clean. He wrote another book called "Conveyancing Fraud." I think The Law Society, the lawyer's trade union, stopped him practicing law after he spilled the beans. Joseph died when he was quite young.

In the first book Joseph describes some of the scams practiced by tradesmen like publicans and caterers and then he mentions the scams practiced by lawyers. The latter usually consists of paying a lot of money for things which are not really needed or if they are needed you could easily do them yourself. The difference between the scams of the tradesmen and the scams of the lawyers are :

1.If you think a  tradesman is cheating you then you can go to another tradesman but in the UK all solicitors use the same cheating practices.

2.You can sue a tradesman if he has cheated you. In the UK you have to make a complaint to the lawyer's trade union.

3.You can go without a tradesman's goods but you can't get away from lawyers. When you buy a house or even whey you die they come looking for their money.

Stephen Jones talks about “sending the mob around.” Well in the UK some of our lawyers are mixed up with some very bad people. The son of  the man in charge of our legal system – Lord Irvine – has just been released from an American prison for a rather unpleasant crime. The UK's most famous lawyer – George Carman - died a year or two ago. His main trick was to reduce to tears witnesses who committed some minor sexual indiscretion.  When Carman died his son wrote a book exposing him as a cocaine snorting, wife bashing, cross dressing, bisexual nutter.

Taffy
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I'll tell you about a scam - 'Financial Services'. You can't avoid them in the UK. No bank account=no wages (cash? you're joking right). No mortgage=no house (or no bank account=no home rentals either in most cases). No insurance=no car. No shares=no company pension. No shares=less untaxed savings. The list goes on.

If only we actually *could* keep all our money under the bed...


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Taffy, you got it in one.

tapiwa
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Mr Blank, why is it such a hardship to have a bank account? In the UK, unlike a lot of countries, setting up a personal bank account costs you nothing. If you keep pretty much any amount of money in it, normal transactions cost you nothing. If you want your wages in cash, go down to the bank the day they are paid in and withdraw them. If getting all these services for free is a scam, people can scam me more often.

David Clayworth
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Taffy,
          The duplicity of some lawyers has been documented since the time of Chaucer, and I am sure we can find examples in classical Sanskrit literature if you want to go back far enough.

          I mentioned conveyancing fraud in another post. In fact you can do your own conveyancing, and it has become commoditized to a large extent as a result of the internet. As I said above solicitors are one of the branches of professionals most affected by the internet because their routine work can now be outsourced, and because if you simply want legal information as opposed to advice on a specific case you can get it from many places, including from clued up 15 year olds on chat boards.

          However big a scam you may consider certain aspects of the law to be there is one scam that is much greater, and that is IT. Customers are routinely charged for what they don't want, held to ransom in order to get their data back, made to pay for vaporware and sold things that are manifestly unfit for the task and run double over budget anyway. Most if not all of the participants on this board willingly bankroll their lavish consumer lifestyles as a result of this scam and I am sure you can find a forum of lawyers where a lawyer has just be stung to the extent of 100k or more by some kind of sleazy IT consultant and wants to know why the law protects these kind of sharp practises.

            To give the example of the son  of a lawyer as proof of mob connections is well a..err..-cheap lawyer's trick- :) and anyway whenever they do a bust of child pornograhpy and paederast rings you can be sure to see loads of computer programmers up there in the headlines.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

David Clayworth, I could say I resent banks investing my money and therefore making a profit in return for a service (which you could do yourself, but who wants all that cash under the bed?).

But I could just own up and admit, I was just being sarcastic about this thread - some people complaining about lawyers, who make a profit in return for a service (which you could do yourself, but who has room in their house for all those law books?).


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

> HIS lawyer is working for HIM. His job is to represent his client and short of sending the mob round, anything goes.

Stephen, 
You seem to be saying that lawyers put their clients wishes ahead of the law, and that this is expected of them. I think lawyers would get more respect if they put the law slightly above the wishes of their clients.

Bill
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Legal Paternism disussion in Joel's forum. Very interesting. If we could get Joel Feinberg here...

There is limited supply of lawyers. But I don't see a big problem here -- it's not like rental price ceiling or minimal wage.

There is market failure after all, otherwise we won't have microsoft or the asian stock market crash.

Rick Tang
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Bill,

I think you might be making the mistake of assuming that the law is a fixed, unchanging, unmalleable entity.

        
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Bill -- All lawyers are "officers of the court" and are duty bound to put the follow the law in everything they do.

Given that lawyers also have a duty to represent their clients' best interests, these duties can sometimes conflict.

There is no question that a lawyer's duty to follow the law is paramount, and that they may represent their clients' interests only within the bounds of the law.

The bounds of the law are often unclear, though, and some lawyers come closer than others to those bounds.  It's often a difficult call, though.  Being way too conservative means that you're not representing your clients' interests to the extent to which you're bound, not being careful enough means you violate your paramount duty as officer of the court.

In any case, I don't see that the lawyer who contacted you regarding the trademark did anything illegal.  In fact, you yourself say, "At no point in the letter do they actually accuse me of committing trademark infringement or dilution."  If you were using a mark identical to theirs, they certainly could have accused you of that and filed suit against you, so long as they had a "colorable claim".  "Colorable claim" doesn't mean a winning claim, just that they have some legal grounds up on which to base a suit that isn't purely frivolous.  A smart and creative lawyer can often make an apparently crummy cause-of-action into one that's winnable.

It's entirely possible that the lawyer involved said to the client, "You don't have a very strong claim here against Bill.  You'd almost certainly lose if we went to court and I wouldnt' advise it.  It might be worth sending a letter, though, and seeing if we can scare Bill into abandoning use of your mark.  It's your call."  Failing to give the client that option would likely be a violation of the duty to his client.  There is nothing illegal in the letter you describe.  The client considers the trademark to be their own, even if they have a weak case against you.  The lawyer is duty bound to do whatever the client wants within the bounds of the law.

I think one of the main reason lawyers are disliked (among several) is that in addition to working for someone (their clients), lawyers are also usually working _against_ someone else (people with interests adverse to their clients).  So lots of people feel like they've been screwed over by lawyers.  Contrast this with doctors, who serve a purely helpful role, and it's easy to see where part of the dislike for lawyers comes from.

Still, that's no reason for not having your own lawyer (or for disliking your own lawyer, if you have a good one).  Used wisely, a good lawyer can be very helpful to you and your business.  They work as your agents and are duty bound to serve your best interests.  That's a good thing to have, if you ask me.

Herbert Sitz
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Another reason people don't like lawyers is that at least half the time you are paying them and on top of it you get nothing out of it as you lose the case. If more than half the time you bought a consumer good such as a car or washing machine it didn't work and often trashed the house as well you certainly wouldn't be happy.

Andi it's well known that when you win a case it's because you were in the right, but when you lose it's because you had a lousy lawyer.

I once asked a highy successful commerical lawyer acquaintance of mine what proportion of cases he won in court. He looked at me as if I'd mentioned an unspeakable vice. "Court?", he said. "Don't ever want to go there! I think I had a case in court once when I just started. Lost it and vowed never to get into that kind of mess again!" I suspect that if Tapiwa's lawyer had his attitude Tapiwa would be less annoyed.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

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