De ce oamenii urasc avocatii

Glumele avocatului sunt cele mai bune

Societatea noastra infloreste pentru ca este bazata pe un sistem de reguli care se aplica tuturor si care fac din societatea noastra un loc sigur si previzibil pentru a face afaceri … cel putin asa fac daca stiti regulile si le respectati. Numim aceste reguli „legea” si fara ele nu ar exista contracte care sa ne ofere un cadru pentru schimburile noastre zilnice de bani pentru bunuri, nu exista protectii ale consumatorilor care sa impiedice producatorii lipsiti de scrupule care vand copiii nostri jucarii periculoase sau alimente toxice, nu ar exista politie pentru a-i prinde pe cei care ar cauta sa ne faca rau, deoarece, desigur, fara legi, nu ar exista reguli care sa interzica ranirea altora, in schimb, in ​​cel mai bun caz, am avea dreptate vigilenta. Fara legi care sa ne structureze societatea, am fi inaintat mult dincolo de violenta si violenta varstei medii asemanatoare? Aceste legi pe care le oferim structurii societatii noastre exista doar pentru ca avocatii le elaboreaza, le dezbat si le aplica.

Shakespeare a recunoscut importanta legii si a avocatilor atunci cand l-a avut pe Dick the Butcher, brutalul sau criminal ucigas al rebelului Jack Cade, rostind linia nemuritoare: „Primul lucru pe care il facem, sa omoram toti avocatii.” De ce a sugerat Dick sa ucida avocatii? Pentru ca Cade voia sa fie rege si stiau ca legea si judecatorii stau intre Cade si putere.

Deci, de ce oamenii urasc atat de mult avocatii?

Sunt sigur ca exista o multime de motive potentiale care incep cu o lipsa de intelegere a ceea ce fac avocatii. De exemplu, in urma cu cativa ani, am primit o reclamatie de la un fost client ca i s-au taxat 200 de lire sterline pentru producerea unei singure scrisori. Ceea ce nu reusise sa aprecieze erau cateva ore de examinare a documentelor, luandu-si instructiunile si asa mai departe, care trecuse in produsul final, scrisoarea unica. Realitatea este ca, daca aveti o problema complicata si doriti consiliere juridica, avocatul va trebui sa lucreze pentru a intelege acea problema, iar munca respectiva necesita timp.

Atunci exista perceptia ca avocatii ajuta oamenii rai. Vedeti ca in ziarele cele mai multe zile sunt continute in povesti despre legea drepturilor omului folosite pentru a ajuta o persoana urata. Din nou, desi oamenii tind sa uite ca, daca legea drepturilor omului ii protejeaza pe oamenii rai, ii protejeaza si pe oamenii buni. Oamenii uita, de asemenea, ca daca un avocat reprezinta o persoana rea, va exista un avocat din partea opusa care va ataca baddie.

Acestea sunt motive intemeiate care pot duce oamenii sa urasca avocatii, dar cred ca este relevant aici.

Oamenii vad avocatii ca niste nenorocitori de bani.

Now, this is a point that is easy to understand, even for lawyers… if they try hard. I have instructed a number of lawyers in my time for various reasons. I have never been charged less than £180 per hour and at most I was charged £1,000 for an hour of a very junior barrister’s time (although there I’m falling into the same fallacy as a I mentioned above because although she was with me just less than an hour she would have had to undertake hours of preparation for the meeting – I don’t know how many but I’m still angry so I’m sticking with a grand an hour… bloody money-grabbing lawyers). Of course, there are good reasons why lawyers cost so much – because it’s really expensive to be a lawyer. That said, when you look at criminal law you’ll find lawyers working for far less than minimum wage so not all lawyers are fat cats.

Imaginea care strange bani nu este ajuta de verii nostri americani si de dragostea lor pentru procesele de actiune de clasa si asta este ceea ce vreau sa privesc in detaliu.

Bine Nick, ce este un proces de actiune in clasa?

Ma bucur ca ai intrebat. O actiune de clasa este un caz in care una dintre parti este un grup de persoane care sunt reprezentate colectiv de un membru al grupului respectiv (multumesc Wikipedia). De ce ai face asa ceva? Ei bine, exista doar doua tipuri de persoane care dau in judecata alte persoane. In primul rand, ii ai pe cei care anticipeaza o sansa buna sa obtina ceva ce isi doresc din actiune, de exemplu, compensatie, ordin injunctiv, declaratie ca au fost nedreptatiti de un organism public etc. In al doilea rand, ai oameni atat de suparati de ceea ce vad ca o nedreptate (mare sau mica) pe care o dau in judecata pentru a demonstra un punct. Majoritatea coplesitoare a cazurilor se incadreaza in prima categorie, din motive evidente. Deoarece majoritatea oamenilor dau in judecata numai daca este util din punct de vedere financiar, aceasta inseamna ca persoanele care nu dispun de resursele pentru a-si da in judecata nu isi pot pune in aplicare drepturile, indiferent care ar fi meritul cauzei lor.

„Actiunile de clasa pot fi, de asemenea, o modalitate de a nivela [sic] terenul de joc pentru indivizi saraci sau mai putin puternici din punct de vedere economic. In mod normal, o persoana, in special o persoana saraca, este intr-un mare dezavantaj intr-o cauza judecatoreasca impotriva unui adversar corporatist bine finantat, care isi poate permite avocati cu preturi ridicate. Dar, atunci cand cererile sunt reunite sub forma de actiune de clasa, suma totala poate fi suficient de mare pentru a face posibila angajarea serviciilor unui avocat la fel de calificat. Eficienta actiunilor de clasa in abilitarea celor neputinciosi din punct de vedere economic impotriva celor puternici din punct de vedere economic poate fi unul dintre motivele pentru care acestea au fost atacate aproape constant de interese de afaceri si politicieni conservatori. „

In theory, class actions are a way for groups harmed by others to seek justice and compensation. In reality, are they always used that way and if the loss to each individual is very small, to the point that it is not worth lawyering up, then how do these cases come about? The answer is that lawyers push them as they might push a product for sale because lawyers are, in the US at least, incentivised to bring private group enforcement actions. I wrote about an example back in February 2011 when my in-laws became involved in Sobel et all v The Hertz Corp et al. In that case, three teams of attorneys worked for many years to assist claimants, none of whom gave a monkeys about the case or their losses, in recovering a $10 car hire voucher because a small fee had been misapplied to some car hirers. Incidentally, since I wrote that post in early 2011, I have discovered that the final settlement didn’t happen until May 2015, six years after the last erroneous charge was applied. What fee did the lawyers negotiate for themselves from this staggering win? A cool $1,400,000, or to put it another way, a fee that is 140,000% larger than the compensation awarded to the individuals in the group. 

One of the problems with class actions is that because the compensation sums are so small there is no benefit to the client in supervising the lawyers – they simply aren’t going to get enough out if they win and they have nothing to lose, which makes taking a detailed interest in the case worthless. Therefore, these cases are likely to be entirely lawyer driven, i.e. the lawyer will spot the claim, recruit clients, manage the case and take the biggest share of the winnings so the lawyer has the most to gain or lose in these cases. Now, if I’m a lawyer looking to make some cash would I been keen on fighting a case to trial and taking the risk of losing my fee given al the hard work I would have put in or would I aim to settle as early as possible? Here’s an example of what could happen from Ms Cooper Alexander from Duke University,

[S]uppose a lawyer brings a class action. Immediately after the case has been filed, the defendant offers to settle the case for $100,000. Let us say that in this state, the lawyer expects to be awarded a fee equal to 20 percent of the total recovery, or $20,000. The lawyer has spent 10 hours preparing the complaint. Thus the lawyer would be compensated $2,000 for each hour of work. Let us suppose that the lawyer believes that by litigating the case for 3 years, spending 5000 hours of lawyer time on the case and expending $100,000 in litigation costs, she could win a judgment of $1 million for the class. This would clearly be a better outcome for the class. They would share $800,000 rather than $80,000, after the 20 percent attorney’s fee is deducted from the recovery. But for the lawyer would receive only $36 per hour worked.”

The US Supreme Court is currently hearing Frank v Gaos, a matter dating from 2010 in which the personal data of 129 million Google users, including their search histories, was sold to third parties without the users’ permission. There is clearly a strong public policy issue at the heart of the action, namely whether internet users can expect their data to be protected by online companies. But, is this a case being driven in the interests of clients or lawyers? Mr Frank certainly thinks it’s being driven by the lawyers interests and took the matter up with the Supreme Court after Google agreed to settle the case for a fairly paltry $8.5m – I can’t help suspecting that the user data of 129m users must be worth far more than that, especially had the data breach caused financial or personal harm to users, something of which Google appeared uninterested at the time.

I’m no mathematician but, $8.5m divided among 129m users equals about $0.06 each.

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Or, it would do if that $8.5m was all for the users. In fact, $3.2m of that is going to pay the lawyers, which means there’s $5.3m left over, which equates to a grand total of $0.04 per member of the class. A magnificent win (for the lawyers). Obviously, the stamps to distribute these teeny-tiny cheques will cost more than the award so don’t expect to see a cheque from Google any time soon. Instead, the plan was to apply the cy pres comme possible rule, which means “as close as possible”, or to put it another way give the money to somebody else who will do some good with it to benefit the users who had their data sold. You’d expect the cash will be going to good causes and organisations who will fight for users’ rights wouldn’t you? It definitely won’t be going to Google’s mates and the attorneys’ alma maters will it now? Um… well 47% of the award is going to the law schools attended by attorneys for the class litigants with the remainder going to organisations that already have close links to Google, in other words, organisations they probably would have given the money to anyway. Who has won in Frank? So far as I can see, only the lawyers. Justice Samuel Alito seems to share my view when he remarked that the “attorneys get money, and a lot of it,” while users, “get no money whatsoever”.

Class actions aren’t nearly as big a thing in the UK as they are in the USA, but few people understand that and it is difficult to read about lawyers taking huge pay-outs while doing almost nothing (in Frank, literally nothing) for the people they represent. Maybe that’s one of the reasons lawyers are so despised.