I’m not particularly defending the industry, but these myths get perpetuated even though there are good people out there that can help you. It’s just a matter of finding them.
Myth One: Lawyers are ambulance chasers.
This is perpetuated a little bit because of American TV and movies. An ambulance chaser is a lawyer who runs after someone who might have a negligence claim for an injury. Negligence and personal injury claims are far more likely in USA than they are in Australia, because the amount of compensation able to be awarded by Courts here in Australia is hardly anything compared to the States.
A lawyer who chases someone who’s just had an accident (they’re in an ambulance or something like that) and convinces them that they should sue someone for the injury that they’ve just had, is an ambulance chaser.
In Australia, there are better systems for injury in certain contexts – we have WorkCover for employees, and TAC for vehicle accidents, as examples. So we have these big insurance schemes to make sure that when people are injured in those situations, there is a process.
Most lawyers are not ambulance chasers. Most lawyers actually don’t even work in negligence.
Most lawyers work in contracts or for small or big business, or for separation, divorce, and death. So those areas, lawyers aren’t going out chasing people, convincing them to do something that they wouldn’t otherwise do.
Myth Two: Lawyers are all the same.
I find this a little bit insulting. And it is also part of the reason why I’m reluctant to tell people that I’m a lawyer, when I first meet people, because of the assumptions people make about lawyers. People make assumptions that lawyers are making money out of people’s misery, or that lawyers represent criminals and get them off.
The law has such broad areas, and just like normal humans (which lawyers are too) we’re as unique and different as anyone else in any other industry. That being said, the law degree does brainwash people a little bit into thinking a certain way, but it doesn’t completely wash us of our humanity. Most of us.
Myth Three: Lawyers are in it for the money.
Again, this is perpetuated a lot by the US legal industry; by the culture over there and by the TV that we get about US lawyers. In the US in fact, a lot of students do study law to make money. They know that the legal industry generates a certain level of income and they’re after that. Australia again is very different. A hell of a lot of students do law in Australia because they have a social justice belief; because they want to help people.
People come to practice law for a different purpose in Australia, for starters. They might then realise that they want to do particular areas of the law because it makes more money, yes. But this myth is perpetuated by the rare story that a barrister is charging $4,000 or $6,000 per day, or over $1,000 per hour. But those are the exception to the rule.
Just because someone has a high hourly charge out rate, doesn’t mean they’re earning that. In fact, the majority of lawyers (yes they are paid on average fairly well) earn between $80,000 and $140,000, which is not massive. When you think about other industries that are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars, lawyers, the majority tend not to be there. So no, lawyers are mainly not in it for the money.
Just hoping to bring a little bit of humanity to the industry and remove some of the unnecessary barriers (biases) that you might have to engaging a lawyer.