‘Raking it In’ or just Rankling?

2017 is off to a rollicking start, and who better to incite bad will toward the men and women who least deserve it than ‘DAILY MAIL REPORTER’: the human version of  luncheon meat made of reformed ham and 29% water (where the ‘water’ is actually sewage runoff from a condemned sausage factory)?

The headline ‘Lawyers raked in £32.2bn in just ONE year: Figure goes up by a quarter in just five years‘ is followed by immediately by the TL/DR (that’s ‘Too Long/Didn’t Read’ for you non-Redditors) bullet points that are just as misleading as the title of the article. To illustrate the travesty there are stock photos of 1) not one but TWO smug white people sharing a conspiratorial giggle (probably after having secured a victory for a blind elderly immigrant facing eviction) and 2) A WOMAN in a suit with a laptop clearly thinking about how best to leverage the hard working tax payer’s contribution to her salary into a new handbag.

On his blog A View From the North, criminal barrister @jaimerh354 provides a brilliant response to the article; taking on each misrepresentation in turn. I highly encourage you to read the piece in full, but here’s a solid quote in the meantime:

‘I did a little research into the figures quoted by the Mail. It would appear that the journalist concerned has done no more than take the figures quoted in the article from a footnote to an LSB press release which you can find here. It is the fifth footnote. If the journalist had done a little more digging then they would have gone to the source material from the Office of National Statistics. I did. And when I looked at the datasets I discovered that for the first three quarters of 2016 the turnover in the legal sector is DOWN 2.4%. But of course that does not fit in with the narrative. Or maybe the journalist just did not look beyond the footnote to a press release.’

Lawyers are an easy target. To many, being seen to be profiting in any way from someone else’s misfortune (be it divorce, a custody battle, or a personal injury claim) makes even the most devoted, underpaid, and underappreciated advocates look like opportunists. Police, firefighters, the military, doctors, and many others do not earn scorn for performing a necessary service in a time of crisis. Let’s face it, it’s much sexier to be carried out of a burning building than avoiding an employer’s liability claim. But conflating the work of private sector lawyers and Legal Aid workers is not just inaccurate, it’s irresponsible.

There is an ethical way to publish an article like this: Call it an opinion, or if you won’t do that at least put your name on it and stand by your work.

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