By Brian Kisomose
IN reference to Prof George W Kanyeihamba’s article titled, Law: A profession with rotten reputation in one of the publications of February 2, 2014 I seek to take an entirely different view of the profession.
Ironicaly the rallying cry of the lawyer bashers has become Shakespeare’s famous quote from Henry VI The first thing we do, Let’s kill all the lawyers. Those who use that phrase pejoratively against lawyers are as miserably misguided about their Shakespeare as they are about the judicial system which they disdain so freely.
Even a cursory reading of the context in which the lawyer killing statement is made in King Henry VI part II (Act IV) scene 2, reveals that Shakespeare was paying great and deserved homage to the venerable profession as the frontline defenders of democracy.
Shakespeare’s acknowledgement that the first thing any potential tyrant must do to eliminate freedom is to “kill all the lawyers “is, indeed a classic and well –deserved complement to the distinguished profession.
Great trial lawyer Daniel Webster said “Justice is the greatest concern of man on earth”. There is no greater professional calling than to stand as a lawyer at the bar of justice and breathe life into the constitution, the bill of rights, statutory law, and common law by defining, asserting and defending the rights of citizens both individual and business.
I call upon the legal fraternity never to lose sight of respect of which we deserve for the role we play in society, a role which extends beyond the court room, bring talents to bear to defend freedom with probono work for the disadvantaged consumer, Protection, advocacy, protection of civil liberties of every individual whose rights are threatened and legislative advocacy both offensive and defensive in a state.
In twentieth century Europe, Adolf Hitler the quintessential despot asserted “I shall not rest until every German sees that it is a shameful thing to be a lawyer.”
His assertion was aimed at frustrating advocacy of individual rights by the lawyers so as to fulfill his selfish interests. Of all people I expect professor Kanyeihamba to appreciate better the doctrine of presumption of innocence.
It is not right to say that some lawyers accumulate wealth through notoriety ,corruption ,deception ,protection of despicable clients and protecting ‘thieving clients’.
It is only a competent court of law that can declare such a client as a thief upon such a person being found guilty or pleading to that effect and as a lawyer or advocate one is entitled to defend such a client throughout the trial but before trial the client is not a criminal, thief or murder as the case may be.
There are lawyers or Advocates who may do acts contrary to their ethics of the profession and such are subjected to the law council for disciplinary measures but it is not true that the profession has a rotten reputation.
Majority of lawyers today are earning money without indulging into litigation that requires representation of clients in courts which is the basis of bashes but undertake to do transactions like estate management ,those that are commercial in nature and working as in-house lawyers.
It is a fact that professor Kanyeihamba is a retired supreme court judge who is now practicing law as an Advocate and should be in position to appreciate the fact that ,A good lawyer is one who can take two sides without prejudicing his or her client’s interests.
This calls for intellect, aggressiveness and vigilance which is exhibited by majority of Advocates in practice which professor Kanyeihamba cannot adjust to.
I therefore urge the legal fraternity not to shirk on the noble profession but follow legal ancestors in preserving freedoms which lawyers have defined and have defended for centuries .We shall strike to deserve the compliment .Thank you Shakespeare.
The writer is from school of law, Makerere University