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Why do people hate lawyers so much?

Why are lawyers at the butt end of so many bad jokes when the legal profession can boast some of the most distinguished and learned people as members?

user iconFelicity Nelson 18 February 2015 SME Law
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Society’s deep-set anathema towards lawyers has always been a mystery to Folklaw. In an, admittedly lazy, attempt to determine the underlying causes of this serious problem, Folklaw decided to consult a free think tank (i.e. Facebook).

Three main causes for the bad reputation of lawyers emerged from the 47 responses: 1) lawyers “cost shiploads” and “come across as leeches feeding off human suffering”; 2) ignorance of the law and legal ethics generates unfair stereotypes; and 3) lawyers are “smart arses” with “egos the size of Texas”.

Folklaw’s hands-down favourite comment came from Justin Case from Melbourne, who wrote that lawyers’ litigious lifestyles are to blame for their lack of popularity. 


“[People hate lawyers] because it is an adversarial system … The losing person is going to hate not only his own lawyer but also the other side’s,” noted the upbeat Mr Case.

This means that effectively, 50 per cent of all people engaged in litigation will end up hating at least two lawyers, he added. You can’t beat this logic!

Melissa Asimus put dislike of lawyers down to their awkward habit of leaving clients in financial ruin after “tortuously slow” legal disputes.

“It is so rarely about truth and justice. It is more usually about who can access the most funds to keep kicking the other side while [they are] down and/or dragging the proceedings out until the other side can no longer keep fighting,” she said.

Sandaldeep Singh said working with lawyers is rarely a positive experience since clients approach lawyers when they have a problem and are often burdened with exorbitant fees. “Problems and fees both are negative things,” he said. 

Additionally, most lawyers are perceived to be more concerned with the six-minute unit than with actually helping the client, Mr Singh continued.

Kellie Pledger argued that the general public misunderstands the structure of the justice system and does not realise that there are ethics in the profession — and that ethical lawyers actually exist.

Berk Karcioglu alleged that at the heart of the problem was an elitist conspiracy to condition the masses to believe that lawyers are “money-motivated shysters”.  

“After all, the lawyer is the guardian of the rule of law — the notion that all humans are equal before the law. This notion is grossly at odds with the elitist mindset,” he wrote.

The top comment (by popular vote) came from Patrick Spelman, who said that people dislike lawyers “because they do not appreciate our witty and insightful humour and are intimidated by our classical good looks”.

While the evidence is clearly on Mr Spelman’s side (just ask George Clooney!), others took issue with his point: “Even lawyers hate lawyers,” Ella Rose noted. “We can be pretentious jerks,” added Kim Richardson.

Edwin Nelson from Sydney went so far as to jokingly describe members of the legal profession as “evil”, while others used the words “liars” and “scum”.

Meanwhile, Penelope Trundle patiently explained that, “the amazing learned [lawyers] are busy quietly becoming amazing rather than strutting around like they own the world because they have a law degree”.

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