the necessity of lawyers (and other legal folk)

I’ve put this in general questions just in case theres a really obvious answer i might have missed… anyway on with the show …

To my knowledge (in the UK at least) if you end up in court over breaking a law then you are expected to get yourself (or have one assigned to you) some kind of qualified law person to defend you case. I am assuming that it is ok to defend yourself but I havent heard of any examples of this happening.

Now my question is if the laws are so complicated that we need to employ someone who’s spent years learning about the law to defend us then how are we expected to adhere to the law in the first place?

Now fair enough, complicated cases require much coordination but surely that just requires a good coordinator/administrator?

surely if the laws are so complicated then we cant be expected to not break at least some of them, and if the laws in fact simple enough for the common person to understand then surely lawyers and the like are just wel organised public speakers??

I don’t question the necessity of lawyers. Unlike the world in R A Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast, I don’t forsee the time when we hang all the lawyers. Even if the laws are supposed to be common sense, it’s the questions of procedure that would require someone knowledgible in said procedure in court. Add into that the fact that business law and case law are common sense for the large majority of times, but the devil is in the details some times.

Also, IIRC, in the UK, you have two different types of lawyers: Soliciters and Barristers. Only Barristers are allowed to present cases in court. Thus, if you’re not a Barrister, you could not represent yourself. (Then again, IANAL/Legal Scholar/etc. I could be dead wrong on that.)

What I don’t understand, however, is how the common clay (i.e. non-lawyers like myself) is still expected to make a good descision as jurists. At this point in time, give the complexities of cases seen, I actually think that all lawyers should have a “jurist” period of four years (much like residency with doctors). In this time, the new lawyers would get the benefit of seeing a wider variety of cases, and society would get the benefit of people sitting in the jury box who actually have half a clue.
*This rambling brough to you before a full cup of coffee. Please me forgive if no sense it makes.

no you make a very good point so i now expand my question - jurys are not going to be made up of law experts. as such all they can go on is what the defense and the prosecution tell them, which unless its a very bizarre case are likely to be two very different things. Therefore surely the jurys decision is never going to be made on a legal basis, rather on which side is more convincing. Being convincing and teling the truth dont really have much to do with each other…

That’s what the judge is for. His or her duty is to explain the law to the jury, make sure that they understand exactly what it is the prosecution and defence have to prove, decide what evidence is admissible, make sure that the advocates on each side don’t cross over the line between “being convincing” and “telling the truth”.

If the jury don’t make their decision on a legal basis, then that means (a) the judge hasn’t done his or her job properly, and (b) the verdict is likely to be overturned.

Another reason why I think profession jurists is a good idea. Unforetunately, I don’t see that a bunch of folks telling lawyers: you now have to be gub’mint employess (slash poor) for a chunk of time before you are allowed to practice will fly very far…

Are you using jurist to mean a member of a jury? If so, the word normally used (at least in the US) for a jury member is juror. Jurist means something else entirely.

The complication is not in the criminal law. It’s in the rules of evidence, and in procedure.

You know the law says: don’t rob a convenience store. You cannot be heard to complain about not knowing convenience stores were off-limits to armed robbery.

But if the prosecution wishes to prove you robbed the store by having your roommate testify that you told him you robbed the store, should that testimony be permitted? How about if they want the jury to hear your psychiatrist say that last year, you admitted in therapy that you fantasized about robbing a store? How about if your roommate’s nowhere to be found, but his girlfriend is available, and she can tell the jury that your roommate told her you confessed to robbing the store?

There’s where the law-talking guy comes in.

What he said. As far as the role of the jury, remember that the judge rules on the aplicable law, and the jury is the finder of facts. Once the judge explains the law, the jury’s role is pretty straightforward: was the defendent reasonably in fear of his life when he shot the guy? Is such and such witness believable? Am I convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? Do the circumstances justify mitigating the charge from murder to manslaughter? Does the court pay for my lunch, or do I have to go get a sandwich somewhere? And so on.

Except for jury nullification.

It’s not that the laws (at least criminal ones) are so complicated as they are so numerous. That’s why it’s fairly common practice to hire a lawyer to advise you or look over business documents, contracts, etc. when you’re entering into an area in which the law is not common knowledge. You have the right to enter into many kinds of business dealings, but if you’re the one expecting to gain some benefit, then it’s up to you to either make sure you are conforming to the applicable criminal and civil laws or hire someone to do that for you.

For everyday activities, just use your common sense. Don’t rob, rape, steal, etc.

For more unusual activities, like carrying a gun or building an addition to your house, call your local city hall, police, gunshops, the NRA or whatever and ask if you need a special license.

For really complicated activities – like disposing of large amounts of toxic waste or setting up tax shelters – pony up and hire a lawyer.

The biggest problem with the american legal system is that the archaic language and old terminology is rampant in the way things are written up. It should be possible to write laws, contracts, etc., without using 15th century english and obscure latin terms. in addition: since lawyers are laegislators, they write new laws in such a way as to render them obscure…hence the need for more lawyers.
I never could quite understand why we are so modern (we use computers, fiber optic networks, and atomic power), but we use a legal system straight out of the dark ages!

A jurist is a legal expert–typically a judge or law professor in common U.S. parlance. I would hope they could make good decisions.

A juror is someone who serves on a jury.

The problem with the “jury of one’s peers” concept is that often one’s peers exhibit significant bias (depending on how one defines “peers”), and that it’s impractical (or not financially feasable) to turn a group of laymen into technical experts in complex trials involving science and technology. Just watch a typical jury in a high-tech patent infringement case as their eyes glaze over listening to people who spent decades becoming experts in their fields. The jurors end up ruling for whoever has the most eloquent experts, not whoever is actually in the right.

How about you quote a couple laws passed in the last 5 years that suffer from these problems and then show how you would re-write them?

That’s complete nonsense. With the exception of a few easily-looked-up Latin phrases here and there, laws, contracts and legal opinions are written in rather plain, if verbose, English.

The idea that lawyers intentionally write obscure laws to make more work for lawyers is a canard I would love to see die. The goal of good legal drafting is clarity, not obfuscation. Why would I enter into a secret agreement to make my job as difficult, tedious, and incomprehensible as possible?

I agree, but I think “precision” or “unambiguity” would be a better word than “clarity”. A law that was drafted to be “clear” (as in, easily comprehensible) to everyone would be so full of loopholes and ambiguities that it would be unenforceable in practice.

IANAL, but I have more than a passing interest and it has always been my understanding that, at least in a UK magistrate’s court (where you can be tried for minor criminal offences such as speeding or theft), you may represent yourself, without a qualified legal professional. I’m not sure whether the same is true of the higher courts, but I see little reason why it should be (in law, at least), and would be somewhat surprised if it were. Perhaps somebody who is better qualified could clarify?

And of course, as has been previously pointed out, regardless of the rules you would likely stand very little chance of winning the case, particularly if it were complex. But it’s reasonably common for people to represent themselves in magistrates courts, where things are usually more straightforward.

I disagree. In contract law, reusing phrases, if not entire sections, that have been tested in court is a much higher priority than rewriting them to make them clearer. Although I’ve never drafted legislation, I’d be surprised if it didn’t follow the same rules.

Now there is a canard I’d like to see die. It is absolutely possible to write clearly without being ambiguous or incomplete. It’s a talent that few people seem to have, and it requires training, but it can be done.

I’ll bite. Picking a random section of a random law, I came up with SEC. 1400R of the Tax Relief Act of 2005:

That’s a good example of needlessly obfuscated writing. My version should be clearer to the average person, and is shorter as well:

Making things clearer means:
[li]Using shorter sentences (my biggest objection to most legal writing is the interminably long sentences).[/li][li]Replacing traditional ancient legal terminology (e.g., whereas, wherefore, for purposes of, in reference to) with short, clear words.[/li][li]Adding explanations. At first glance, a casual reader of this law might not be clear on whether $6,000 is the maximum qualified wage or the maximum credit. The second sentence of my rewrite makes it clearer by stating both, even though it’s (technically) redundant.[/li][/ul]

Yes - such a person is a “litigant in person” in the UK, a “litigant pro se” in the USA. Unless your knowledge of the law is as good as a professionally-trained lawyer, you would be very, very strongly advised against taking this course of action. But you’re still entitled to do it.

What if the employee has another source of tax relief? Does your redrafted law restrict them to a maximum of $2400 total, or just in respect of the Katarina-specific relief? What does “This” in the last sentence refer to? The maximum, the total relief for the year, the Katarina-specific relief for the year? When you say “for any taxable year”, does that mean if my qualified wages were $6000 in 2003 but only $2000 in 2004, I can claim the $2400 relief against my 2004 rather than my 2003 wages?

With respect, a decent lawyer could drive a coach-and-six through that sort of drafting.

Good points. I spent all of five minutes redrafting this. Were I building real litigation I’d have spent a bit more time.

HOWEVER, does the original wording resolve all of these issues clearly? Is the original clearly understandable to a non-attorney?

And, by the way, “this” clearly refers to the subject of the previous sentence. That’s just English 101.