Attorneys must not take independence for granted

first_img August 1, 2001 Regular News Attorneys must not take independence for granted Eminent lawyer Michael E. Tigar who has represented such famous clients as Angela Davis, H. Rap Brown, the Seattle Seven, the Chicago Eight, Allen Ginsberg, and Terry Lynn Nichols in the Oklahoma City bombing case looked around and said: “There are a lot of gray hairs in this room. How many of you have fired a client?”Most of the hands went up at the joint luncheon of the Trial Lawyers Section and Chester Bedell Memorial Foundation at the Bar’s Annual Meeting in Orlando June 22.And Tigar seized upon that to make his point about the independence of lawyers and how to embrace and preserve that independence that is too easily taken for granted.“Independence of judgment is key to a lawyer-client relationship,” said Tigar, also a law professor at Washington College of Law at American University. “Our brothers and sisters of the bar will not revile us for cases we choose to take.”Or choose not to take.“We’re not as rich as investment bankers or dot-com people used to be. But half the investment bankers are in Club Fed,” Tigar said. “virtue of our good fortune, we have the ability to make independent decisions.”Here was the kicker of Tigar’s speech: “But what are we doing with it? We can wander around transfixed by our independence. Is it heretical to ask: Can the independence of the bar be justified?”As July 4 was the holiday around the corner, he asked: “What is the Declaration of Independence? It is a justification of independence.. . . Suppose those of us in this room would say, `Let us justify the independence of the bar.’ How well is our stewardship?.. . Are enough people getting enough justice?,” he asked, noting the cutbacks in legal aid to the poor and unprecedented numbers of people on death rows without adequate counsel.“How is it that lawyers are not spending enough time on pro bono cases? Could we, in short, write the justification of the independence of lawyers that would command the decent respect of others?”Tigar challenged lawyers to “take seriously and not make it cliche what it means to be an independent bar.” “We do not own and did not invent the law,” Tigar said. “We’ve received it from others before us.”Lawyers’ duty, he said, is to make sure the law is not damaged, and to “make it a little better during the time that we have it.”“If we can do that, like the people who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, we are entitled to our independence.”center_img Attorneys must not take independence for grantedlast_img