A well written law student from Delaware temporarily enjoying Carlisle Pennsylvania, Mark Cutrona, has written a nice piece about the decayed public image of lawyers, and suggests steps to help us improve that image.
I agree with Mark's suggested steps, and add just one more:
I believe that the root of the public's misperception of the profession is in its misunderstanding of it. As in many things, one dark side of human nature is to shun or disparage things that are different and insular and particularly those things that are not understood. And so I believe for the image of lawyers to be improved, it is necessary to educate the public as to what we do and how their hard earned dollars are spent.
We can go a long way towards this by dispelling myths, such as: "all the lawyers do is fill out a form, and for this they get way too much money". Almost without exception, my estate planning clients exclaim that the process involves many more legal issues than they had previously imagined. Writing a Last Will and Testament for someone is vastly more complex than filling their name into a blank on a form. But until the public understands this, they will never understand why it costs more than $20 for a Will.
The catch 22 is that to fully educate the public as to the complexities of the paths we attorneys walk with them, we almost have to make lawyers of them all.