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Legal Profession is Noble, Proud Calling

By Mark B. Rubin

(Article published in the New York Law Journal)

"JUSTICE FOR ALL, all for Justice" - a wonderful theme for this years law day observance. This phrase summarizes the fundamental values which form the core of our way of life, and the basic freedoms which we all too often take for granted.

As this article is written, the leaders of Russia are engaged in a struggle which may determine whether the people of that country can achieve a just and free society during this generation.

Fortunately, the struggle for justice in our country began over 200 years ago, when through the genius of our founding fathers our Constitution created the framework within which the ideal of justice for all became, and remains to this day an achievable goal.

Obviously when our country was founded there existed justice for only a very few - the white, landed gentry. With the passage of time there have been many advances towards a society characterized by justice for all. Freedom of speech and religion, the right to peaceably assemble, to petition the Government to redress grievances, to be secure in your home from unlawful searches and seizures, to due process of law, to a speedy trial by an impartial jury are all guaranteed by our Constitution. The abolition of slavery and the right of all to vote were important landmarks in this quest.

We must not forget that less than 75 years ago women could not vote, that less than 50 years ago blacks could not play professional baseball in the Major Leagues. The last 200 years have witnessed the struggle to give substance and meaning to our guaranteed freedoms.

The legal profession has been in the forefront of the fight to create, foster, and further a just society, and to keep our country inching every closer to that ideal which remains within our grasp.

We all know how fashionable lawyer bashing and trashing has always been, from Shakespeare killing all the lawyers, to the Maritime Center in Connecticut, which last summer offered free admission to lawyers to their shark exhibit, as a professional courtesy. Lawyer bashing reached its height during the Republican National Convention when then President Bush used the national forum of his nomination acceptance speech to declare war on trial lawyers, with his tasseled loafer remarks.

We all know that a war against lawyers is a self defeating attack, which if won would forever sound the death knell of our democracy, and end the dream of a just society for all.

Ours is a noble and proud profession. We make no apologies for the work that we do, and for the services that we provide, and none is owed. Let any individual get into trouble with the law, have an accident, buy a home, enter into a contract, or have any legal problem, and suddenly the lawyer bashing, and trashing will stop, and that individual, or that company, or that President of the United States will be in your office, or my office seeking our help. We will of course, be there for that client, aggressively and passionately pursuing and protecting their rights.

We must continue, by our words, and by our deeds to demonstrate that far from being a cause of what ails our country, our profession has always been, and continues to be a vital instrument in making, and keeping America great.

Our profession can take justifiable pride in its extensive pro bono work. No other profession has voluntarily undertaken such a massive effort in its field of expertise, to provide free services, devoting thousands upon thousands of man hours nationwide, to ensure that the poor and disadvantaged of our nation have access to the legal system. Let those who denigrate attorneys take the same time from their productive business days to benefit the less fortunate.

We have a long journey ahead. Many injustices continue to exist. People do not feel safe in the streets. The sanctity of our courthouses are invaded by shootings, and killings. People are comforted by the sight of metal detectors, and gladly wait on long lines to pass through, thankful for the added measure of security they provide. We recoil at the horror of the World Trade Center bombing and the randomness of terrorism and its aftermath.

Our country, however, continues to be a noble experiment. With our Constitution as our guide, and through our legal system, and our profession, which gives it life, and makes it function, if as a people we are "all for justice," then perhaps one day we may truly achieve "justice for all."

Mark B. Rubin is a former President of the Bronx County Bar Association

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