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Good News! People Think Lawyers Have an Average Amount of Integrity Now.

"Close-up of evil and angel eggs, against blue background."
By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. on February 21, 2020 9:58 AM

Lawyers have always had a mixed reputation. For every popular portrayal of a lawyer as a crusader for justice, there is another willing to lie, cheat, and steal for a buck. Every personal injury attorney will be called an ambulance chaser at least once. Criminal defense attorneys will hear themselves called some variation of crooked. Still, most people who are injured in an accident or find themselves facing criminal charges trust their lawyer to guide them and behave ethically.

This is reflected in a recent Gallup poll measuring public view on the honesty and integrity of various professions. According to respondents, lawyers are somewhere in the middle, trusted above politicians, car salespeople, advertisers, and executives. They lag behind nurses, doctors, teachers, and engineers, among others. Whereas journalists were viewed with high integrity by some, and as very unethical by others, lawyers are squarely in the middle, with most respondents believing legal professionals to be of about average integrity.

An Improving Reputation

While no lawyer is satisfied with average, this is something of an achievement for legal professionals. In 2018, the same Gallup poll found 18 percent of those surveyed thought lawyers were ethical; in 2020, it rose to 22%. In 2013, a 2013 Pew Research Center poll found that one-third of all respondents thought lawyers contributed little to nothing to society, the least respected profession of the time. So, it's getting better.

Today, 4% of Gallup respondents thought lawyers were "very ethical." Meanwhile, law school applications are up, meaning there is renewed interest in a career in law.

Baby Steps

Lawyers have been the target of hatred and jokes for as long as there has been a legal profession; that isn't going to end anytime soon. It does appear as though lawyers are being viewed more favorably, however, even as Chief Justice John Roberts warned last year that "we have come to take democracy for granted and civic education has fallen by the wayside." Perhaps that is one reason for the improved view of lawyers: Despite our previous reputation, the role attorneys play in a healthy society is vital. While the title of this blog is somewhat sardonic, it really is good to see a renewed appreciation for the good and ethical work done by many attorneys.

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