As lawyers, we have an opportunity presented by the uncertainty and risk facing America and the world. Unlike laymen, lawyers have information and tools at our disposal to contextualize a significant part of what’s going on. The gift of context can be shared. And the more you share, the more value you create for yourself and the world.
As lawyers, we have a gift that most non-lawyer citizens, politicians, propagandists, and pundits lack. We can parse the flood of legal information and be a voice of reason. We can champion the promise of the Constitution and of a peaceful society built upon laws that are designed to provide all people protection equally. We can call out when laws are not applied equally, are misstated or are misapplied. We can guide the public discourse so that we the people can get closer to recognizing the aspirational promise of America.
The house that is our nation is burning. But the foundation, the underlying promise of the laws upon which our society is built, is solid if we can figure out how to apply them without prejudice.
This crossroads that we are at requires that lawyers speak out with compassion and with reason, and that we guide our non-lawyer citizens toward a peaceful and enduring application of our laws that not only promises to recognize everybody as equal, but that actually empowers everybody to know that they are equal because they experience that equality every day.
Without lawyers speaking out on behalf of the law — not on behalf of a constituency — the law becomes a weapon to be wielded by whatever group is bold enough to harness it by political process or by force. With the nation’s attention directed to pandemics, economic crisis, social unrest, and what looks to be the most polarized election of my lifetime, lawyers have an opportunity to become thought leaders.
In my lifetime so far, the spread of misinformation has never been more prevalent, nor rendered with greater financial incentive by its purveyors. People without legal training are propagating legal misinformation which stokes the confirmation biases of every group of our fragmenting society. Too often, well-intentioned people are sharing and endorsing without reading or understanding the materials and their sources. This is dangerous and it’s accelerating.
And there’s a conspicuous shortage of lawyers correcting the record or providing laymen with the tools to recognize propaganda for what it is. Instead, I see “legal analysts” and opportunist legal scholars stoking little fires with speculation and misinformation in service of ratings, clicks, book sales, and political points.
As a citizen, I can’t always tell when the media and politicians are lying. But I usually can when they talk about the law, and when I’m unsure I have the tools and skills to research their points. When I know that they are spreading misinformation about legal topics, I don’t trust them on other topics about which I know little.
A few months ago, I wrote that during the COVID-19 crisis we’re all wartime lawyers. In that article, I point out that waiting for a return to the status quo is a risky bet, and that there are ample opportunities in the present to make your law firm’s future much better than its pre-crisis past. One way to do so is by speaking up and becoming a voice of reason and guiding light for individuals and communities in need. Talking about the impact of COVID-19, I said:
You can make a big impact (and likely earn significant money) by addressing these and other legal issues that are being created, mutating and proliferating like a virus before our eyes.
But this is not limited to the pandemic. It’s equally applicable in many other important issues. Many of these issues are not getting full-time news coverage at the moment, but they’re nevertheless shaping (and too often dividing) our country.
By writing, in your own voice, on your own website, you can add much-needed context to the public discourse. You can help our country make the systemic changes that are needed to truly become a nation built on laws that work for everybody.
At LawLytics, our team is united in our mission to provide lawyers with a platform to grow their practices by communicating directly with clients through their websites. We are inspired by lawyers who are out front leading the online conversations and shaping the future of our country, and we are proud to support them as they lead our country through this time of uncertainty and evolution.