A report issued last week reveals that lawyers are held in pretty profound distaste by many Americans (until they need a lawyer, I assume).
As the report from the Pew Research Center says:
“While there have been modest declines in public appreciation for several occupations, the order of the ratings is roughly the same as it was in 2009. Among the 10 occupations the survey asked respondents to rate, lawyers are at the bottom of the list. About one-in-five Americans (18%) say lawyers contribute a lot to society, while 43% say they make some contribution; fully a third (34%) say lawyers contribute not very much or nothing at all.”
“Nothing at all.” Sheesh.
Media reaction that I’ve seen has been muted (maybe because they felt no surprise). And the press being as self-involved as any other profession, the area they seemed to focus on was the sharp decline in Americans’ views of journalists.
Salon managed to do both: navel-gaze at its own profession while writing a headline that disemboweled attorneys: “Poll: Journalists only slightly less despised than lawyers”
The American Cities Business Journals examined the survey mainly in regard to its take on—you guessed it—business executives (who deserve more respect, one writer claims). But even as Washington Bureau Chief Kent Hoover decries the poor ranking of business leaders (valued by 24 percent of respondents), he still takes a moment to mention lawyers:
“Only 18 percent of Americans think lawyers contribute a lot to society, which comes as no surprise. Lots of people have detested lawyers since at least the days of William Shakespeare, who put these immortal words in the mouth of Dick the Butcher: ‘The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.’”
Lost amidst the numbers is the fact that business executives have risen in respondents’ eyes since 2009. Sure, their numbers aren’t great, but the impression they leave with people has increased over the past four years. (In fact, business execs are the only profession of the 10 studied whose perception was improved!)
Shall I list the business scandals and economic disasters wreaked by business mismanagement and worse in that time period? Wow.
But I don’t write today to fault the business community for its success in the public-perception game. But given recent criminal Wall Street activities that have rocked our nation to its core, and the valuable role lawyers have played throughout U.S. history, I have to wonder about how U.S. history is taught. And do Americans ever read a newspaper, or watch a news report?
Well, now I just sound like a curmudgeon. Why don’t you get a big cup of coffee and read the entire Pew study here?
Let’s hope the week improves.Follow @azatty