State Bar of California California Bar Journal
Home Page Official Publication of the State Bar of California November2002
Top Headlines
From the President
A final piece of the puzzle
Indigestion from outrageous verdicts
Letters to the Editor
MCLE Self-Study
You Need to Know
Trials Digest
Contact CBJ

A defense of lawyers and thanks

Gert K. Hirschberg

To: 4,000 lawyers, judges and justices who were my students in law school
From: Your torts teacher

The president of the United States, members of his party, members of the opposition party, the media and special interests frequently disparage trial lawyers. It does serve political expediency.

A trial lawyer is one who tries cases, generally, but not always. An appellate lawyer handles appeals. A transactional lawyer does no trials. Transactional is a misnomer. Ninety-five percent of all lawyers are trial lawyers. To defame, disparage or dishonor them is unfair, even dishonest.

I spent most of my professional life either teaching or trying automobile, products liability and medical malpractice cases. The issues to be tried were proximate cause, extent of the injuries and defenses. I was a trial lawyer. Nearly all my opponents, conservatives and members of the president's party, insurance defense lawyers, were also trial lawyers because they tried the same issues, albeit the other side. My daughter, who is a lawyer specializing in family law matters, is also a "trial lawyer." She tries issues of child custody, spousal support, child support and contempt. Trials also are conducted by prosecutors, defense counsel, bankruptcy lawyers and patent lawyers.

Were our accusers really planning to excoriate the entire profession? I doubt it. I think what our accusers were trying to target were the select few who handle class suits for dissident shareholders or those who handle catastrophic injuries against major corporations, but not their opponents, also trial lawyers.

To indict so few, but to sweep the net over the entire profession and to attribute corruption to the system of justice is name-calling which cannot be justified, even by standards of political give and take.

I am thankful that I was a torts teacher for 36 years and that my students have so much to do with bringing justice to the masses. It is the lawyers whose job it is to educate the judges who make the rulings. Since I have had so much opportunity to assist in the teaching of law, I am forever thankful because I have really learned much more from you, my students, than you could have ever learned from me.

Gert K. Hirschberg of Los Angeles has taught at five California law schools and served on the State Bar Board of Governors.

Contact Us Site Map Notices Privacy Policy
© 2024 The State Bar of California