In TV and movies, for every lawyer of noble character like Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, there's a corrupt snake or a bumbling idiot such as Lionel Hutz from the Simpsons. *Photos supplied
In TV and movies, for every lawyer of noble character like Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, there's a corrupt snake or a bumbling idiot such as Lionel Hutz from the Simpsons. *Photos supplied
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Myth #1: Lawyers are unfeeling, greedy and cold people who make their living off the misery of others.  

Ridicule of the legal profession, often to the point of contempt, is a widespread cultural phenomenon. 

Every time you turn on the television or go to the movies, there’s a new lawyer for you to love to hate or maybe hate to love.  

For every noble character like Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, Jack McCoy from Law & Order or Alicia Florrick from the Good Wife, there are dozens of corrupt, greedy and incompetent lawyers taking advantage of their clients and the system. 

The general public is more than familiar with money hungry Jackie Chiles from Seinfeld, the corrupt and criminal Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad and Patty Hewes  from Damages,  publicity hungry Billy Flynn from Chicago and even the bumbling idiot Lionel Hutz from the Simpsons. And don’t even get me started on the jokes about lawyers! 

There was a time where I would dread the initial stages of a dinner party or worse a wedding reception when people would ask the innocent question, “So what do you do?” Upon hearing the answer, “I am a lawyer”, an awkward pause typically followed.  Then the dreaded follow up question, “What area of law?” 

In the beginning, I would often mumble family and matrimonial law and then try to change the subject because let’s face it; divorce lawyers must have the worst rap amongst the bar.  

The fact is that many members of the general public have misconceptions about the legal system and the lawyers that operate within it. Many of these misconceptions are repeated so often that, even when false, they end up having the ring of truth, much in the same fashion as an urban legend.  

By writing this column, the attorneys at Marshall Diel & Myers Limited hope to dispel some of the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the legal system and its lawyers. Our attorneys practice in the areas of civil and commercial litigation, matrimonial and family law, employment and immigration law, property and estates, insurance and re-insurance, bankruptcy and insolvency and general advice. Twice a month, we will use our knowledge and experience to answer some of the most common questions we hear when meeting with clients and in doing so provide an accurate thumbnail sketch of different areas of practice.  

As a starting point, let’s address the negative stereotypes of lawyers. The Barristers’ Code of Professional Conduct 1981 sets the standard for lawyers’ relationships with their clients, other lawyers and the court, and a good lawyer takes these requirements very seriously. 

Good lawyers discharge their duties with integrity, and are candid and honest when advising clients. They invest themselves in their client’s cases and care about what happens to them. 

Good lawyers are transparent about services and fees, and try to give clients an idea of the monetary commitments involved in a matter.  

Good lawyers are responsive and build a good rapport with their clients. The lawyers at Marshall Diel & Myers Limited have always moved beyond the negative stereotypes, and held themselves to the standards created by this Code.  

We hope that this column will be the starting point of dispelling the common misconceptions, myths and stereotypes about the legal system in Bermuda and the lawyers who practice in it.  

And maybe in doing so, we will show that attorneys can be honest and hard-working individuals who are dedicated to their clients. 

And who knows? Maybe one day an honourable television law firm providing excellent client service will be based on the lawyers of Marshall Diel & Myers Limited starring a brilliant and passionate matrimonial attorney who is committed to assisting clients as they navigate through the difficult issues surrounding the breakdown of marital relations. 

Rachael Barritt is a director of Marshall Diel & Myers Limited and Member of the Matrimonial and Family Team.  A copy of this article can be found at the firm’s website at www.law.bm. 

This column is for general guidance only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. Before proceeding with any matters discussed here, persons are advised to consult with a lawyer.

• Today is the first in a series of articles by Marshall Diel & Myers. The articles will run every other Wednesday in the Bermuda Sun.