I recently attended a lunch with the Australian FederalAttorney-General Robert McClelland("AG") and several other lawyers. A national newspaper had reported him as saying that anyone using a lawyer to resolve a dispute was "well and truly up the creek without a paddle". In fact,he had been misquoted and the AG had only nice things to say about lawyers.
When asked why lawyers were unpopular the AG explained that they were like politicians, clearly that explains it.
He complained of the isolation of being a politician, “the divorce rate is 80%”. Only politicians seem to find this surprising. He blamed the many hours away from home. I suggested that in the case of some politicians this may help, but no.
He said that Australian lawyers compared very favourably to US and UK lawyers in terms of their fees which after an initial feeling of euphoria made us all feel depressed. He added that Australian lawyers were ahead in terms of value too but the thought that we were charging less and doing more made us even more depressed.
He said that in dealing with constituents today he asks them the same question he asked clients when he was a lawyer in private practice which is “There are two ways that we can play this, what you want to hear or honest advice?”. Surprisingly, his clients and his constituents have always picked the “honest advice” option. I wondered if Labor has tried this in Queensland.
(c) Paul Brennan 2010is a business and property lawyer on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland. However, he attended this lunch as an occasional correspondent for the Hearsay section of the Australian Financial Review.