It's Law Week and lawyers can take pride in their work


POSTED: Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The beginning of May is Law Week. So put your lawyer jokes away for a few minutes and help me celebrate. It's Law Week again and I am still proud to be a lawyer.

Almost 40 years ago my law school, Chicago's De Paul University took a chance on a group of students who had not normally been allowed into law schools. We weren't related to elected politicians, big bankers, wealthy real estate brokers or important doctors. We weren't related to anybody except normal folks, almost none of whom were lawyers. My fellow students were females, people of color, hearing-challenged individuals, blind students, physically challenged folks destined to live each school day in wheelchairs, middle-aged members of the armed forces and me (the poor white guy with eight brothers and sisters whose father repaired toilets on railroad passenger cars during the day and sold cold beer in professional ball parks at night).

Even though we were all quite different, in some ways we were very much alike. I think it is fair to say that most of my freshman law school classmates went to law school not to make money but to help families by fighting for justice. And I think that most of us were able to accomplish our goals. I know that's what I have done for almost 38 years, the last 18 years in Hawaii helping injured workers and their families.

Before you brush off my pride in my profession, take a moment to think about the thousands of ways in which lawyers have tried to help people in these troubled times. During this year alone lawyers helped people resolve financial difficulties, assisted families with probate matters and worked to protect all of us against criminal enterprises and actions. Lawyers worked to protect children and senior citizens from abuse, helped adults add family members through adoptions and worked faithfully to protect prisoners in our nation's jails.

During the past years, lawyers have worked very hard to get companies to withdraw dangerous products and to get dangerous conditions repaired before further injury can occur.

In fact, many of us lawyers spend considerable time providing notice to governments of

dangerous conditions in our neighborhoods so that those dangers can be corrected before our friends and families need to file any lawsuit for damages due to injuries they received from those dangers.

In my case, during the past 10 years I have sent in more than 100 such notices to county and state governments, and in each case the dangerous condition I noticed was corrected promptly. Think of it as my personal “;tort reform effort.”;

So let's hear it for lawyers during Law Week. And let's hear it for the rule of law and a land of laws that allows us to interact, react and reconcile differences of opinion in peaceful and calm ways.

Joseph F. Zuiker, of Honolulu, assists injured workers In Hawaii.