Q: California is considered a very litigious state. Everyone seems to have a lawyer, know a lawyer, or have one in the family. Aren’t there just too many lawyers, lawsuits and laws?
A: There are about 1.5 million lawyers in the country,and yes, that is a lot. As to California, it has 29 code books (family law, corporation, penal, civil, commercial, probate, among them), which also is a lot. Courts here continue to be very busy and often have backlogs (which the pandemic only made worse).
Still, I remain pro-lawyer because attorneys can accomplish just outcomes. Also, laws themselves are needed to keep order and provide for a level of predictability. Thus, it seems to me that until there is a change in the way people go about things, we will continue, for the foreseeable future anyway, with large numbers of lawyers, lawsuits and laws. In part, this is because the right to redress is so strongly protected in our country.
That said, there are laws (for example, the AntiSlapp statute) that seek to hinder and create a disincentive for certain lawsuits. Sanctions and other remedies are available (to litigants and the courts) if a matter is deemed frivolous or in bad faith. Elected officials often talk about taking steps (and some certainly do) to cut down on regulations. Hence, the pendulum has swung at least a bit toward calming the waters.
Q: You have practiced law for many years. Do you find that the lawyers you deal with are decent, tolerable, or quite the opposite?
A: Over the years, I have found most lawyers to be hard working, diligent and (to use your word) “tolerable.” There are some that I would prefer not to remember; fortunately, they are the few.
The unpleasant lawyers are notably rude, difficult and disingenuous. Their behavior is such that they probably think it is more effective for their client. Instead, the “mean, nasty” lawyers could simply be overcompensating because their client has a weak or indefensible position, or they are trying to overcome their own insecurity, or both. Importantly, the very best, most effective lawyers I know are courteous, professional and collegial. They do well because they are skilled, well prepared, and “you get more bees with honey”.
Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 35 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.