Personal responsibility

by Chris Markham. 0 Comments

Not a lot of people know this, but I thought Id let you all in on a little secret of mine. Ready? Ok, I work for free. Thats right you come to me, we discuss your matter and I do all the work gratis!

Isnt this a great country? Why should you have to pay for my service Im your friend, we like each other, we have a relationship no need to cheapen everything with money.

Even though I have my tongue planted firmly in cheek, a great many people feel this way, and there are a few barely logical underpinnings that are used to justify their opinion of my very low cost.

First, the putative client shouldnt have gotten sued in the first place. So why should they have to pay an attorney?

Second, they got taken by someone it isnt their fault. Why should they have to get an attorney for what is so rightfully theirs? Third, theyve all seen Law and Order and can do whatever an attorney does. As a result, Im just a back up to their masterful strategy.

Finally, and I have to thank my brothers and sisters in the legal profession from the personal injury bar for this one you know the old catchphrase theres no fee unless we get money for you. This just isnt, and shouldnt be so.

Even though public perception of attorneys is at a low point (I know, thats a shocking revelation), we are still needed, especially in this day and age. We all know that nothing anyone does is their fault; its always the other guy thats in the wrong. Attorneys try and get to the bottom of these controversies, sometimes gracefully, and other times, well, weve all heard the phrase winning ugly (and Im no stranger to that).

When I was a kid, and we broke a window, or dented a car or busted up someone elses something, we had to take responsibility for it. Sure, wed run away, but sooner or later our parents found out about our transgression. Then, after getting yelled at, or grounded, or whatever the in-house punishment was, wed have to go to the neighbors house, apologize and offer to pay for the damage in either money, or in-kind chores.

Very few kids got away with anything in my day. And we lived in a mud puddle and had to eat what we found on the road after getting out of bed two hours after we went to sleep, etc.

These days, there isnt that component of personal responsibility if something is broken during childish spiritedness, the retort is that (insert object here) shouldnt have been there where my kid could have broken it. Or that (insert object here) was already (broken, damaged, old, weak) youre just blaming it on my kid.

I would like to believe most of us, if they are embroiled in a controversy such as the one described above, and were approached by the opposing party in a meaningful, authentic way, would logically work out the matter at hand without lawyers and the courts. There would be apologies (unheard of these days) and a general plan to work out repayment or replacement. However, once someone approaches another with guns drawn and a-blazing, a rational resolution of the issues is not on the agenda.

A couple of years ago, I went to career day at my sons day care. I happened to follow a fireman who gave away some really cool erasers and a chemist who gave away really cool test tubes so the kids could conduct their own experiments. Needless to say, I was not going to be the most favored adult at this particular party.

I did have a handout. I gave each and every one of the kids a copy of the first page of the United States Constitution. I told them that the document they held in their hands was the most important document ever written. And it was my job to make sure that everything in that document was followed by all of us. That all people are equal. That there are rules that must be abided by.

There were some quizzical looks among the class because what can you do with a piece of paper? Its not an eraser, a test tube, or even candy, but by and large, I think they got it. So hopefully, the next generation of Americans is primed so that the number of lawyers will decrease, and the number of paying clients will increase.

Christopher Markham writes a regular column at

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