As president of the San Luis Obispo County Bar Association and a local lawyer since 1976, I am proud of our community and its local lawyers, including the many who not only exemplify what it is to serve their clients but also serve the community and society as a whole.
Many if not most devote time behind the scenes to assist with programs emanating from the Bar Association to serve the community, such as volunteering to serve with respect to the Lawyer Information and Referral Service of the Bar. This and other community service programs can be located by searching the San Luis Obispo County Bar Association website at www.slobar.org. The website itself is a service to the community in addition to serving attorneys.
Our local lawyers are celebrating their function in society, especially this season when visiting speakers include the justices of the California Appellate Court for our region (noon on Oct. 20 at Madonna Inn), and then California Supreme Court Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (Nov. 17 at the Embassy Suites).
Lawyers are part of the most important aspects of society. The Constitution would be powerless without lawyers. Order is maintained and chaos avoided by the laws of society. But the laws without lawyers can do nothing. Lawyers bring laws to life. They are also the force behind removing laws when in violation of the Constitution. Lawyers help refine the law through cases they pursue on behalf of their clients. The public relies on them to protect their rights whether in civil or criminal courts. Giant companies and individuals who do wrong are brought to “justice” through lawyers. Criminals and other wrongdoers would reign and control, especially those with great resources, if lawyers were not there to bring them before the court and have them face their “peers.”
Our justice system is alive because of lawyers. Lawyers have the power to do good. They also are in positions to do harm. Where this occurs, the State Bar Association and lawyers go into action to protect the clients. Bad lawyers are brought to justice through actions of lawyers and the justice system.
In a speech given by former Chief Justice Ronald George at UC Berkeley in June of this year, he epitomized what it is to be a part of the justice system. He described being a son of poor immigrants who engendered in him a sense of service. He saw his law school experience, first at Princeton and then at Stanford, as preparing him to be of service. He selected the law as he perceived this to be the best path to his goal. At a young age, his dedication to service led to an appointment to the bench and eventually to the Supreme Court. He had exemplified the practice of law and the carrying out of justice. He said there were times during which he had to make difficult choices, and though he struggled, he knew he had to do what was right to serve society and rule of law.
Abraham Lincoln is famous for several reasons but primarily for his passion for the law and justice. He also epitomized what one should be as a lawyer. He was certainly no weakling when it came to taking on the most difficult challenges and meeting them head on with the incredible power of truth, integrity and serving justice. On the one hand, he said: “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”
On the other hand, he took on some of the most powerful and dangerous segments of society in order to protect the rights of the weakest, knowing that justice for them had to come in order to preserve the Constitution and rights of all members of society. In this regard, Lincoln said:
“This is essentially a People’s contest. On the side of the Union, it is a struggle for maintaining in the world, that form, and substance of government, whose leading object is, to elevate the condition of men — to lift artificial weights from all shoulders — to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all — to afford all, an unfettered start, and a fair chance, in the race of life” (July 4, 1861, message to Congress).
The civil rights laws passed under President Johnson were enforced by courageous lawyers who did and continue to do, as Lincoln, for the same purposes. They continue to roust out and eliminate the pockets of prejudice and inequality that once permeated as a plague on our society.
Lawyers serve functions in nearly all important aspects of life, from drafting wills and trusts, helping parties with property matters, protecting interests in transactions, pursuing legal rights and remedies, adoptions, navigating the family law arena and so on. The list is endless.
Whether encouraging and assisting clients to settle, or pursuing or defending their rights, or protecting their interests in several ways, lawyers are being of service. At this time, lawyers celebrate service to others and fulfill important roles in society.
For comments or information, the writer may be reached at 441-5884 or firstname.lastname@example.org.