AJS South Africa


They deserve it.

When one thinks about the legal system – and lawyers in general – it’s often tainted with snide remarks, jokes at a lawyer’s expense and assumptions about their high earnings. Hardly ever complimentary. 

In fact, there is a rather well-known joke –

“What do you call a thousand lawyers at the bottom of an ocean? A good start.” 

We all laugh at the crudeness of the joke, while entirely missing the point. 

Yes, there are some legal practitioners around the globe that kind of give the profession “a bad name” – the likes of Better Call Saul come to mind. And sure, “Saul” is based on a character in a series (and not a real person), but the point here is – in just about every crime drama (or comedy) that has ever graced our screens, there’s a lawyer involved in the storyline. Somewhere (our emphasis here is on the crime bit).

Either they are on the right side of the law, or they are erring on unscrupulous, dodgy behavior where the character is rather “greasily” portrayed – the role is filled with insinuation and pseudo-constructive-criticism bordering on outright poor character portrayal. 

Lawyers – in general – are characterised (unfairly) as almost shark like creatures – swimming around a dead carcass just waiting to strike. It’s an awful analogy but sadly common. In fact, there probably isn’t a single person on planet Earth that can honestly say they haven’t heard the comparison of a lawyer and a shark. 

It’s a sad and unfair comparative but it does give one insight into how the general public feel about their legal touting folk.

It also doesn’t help the legal practitioners cause that there are actual articles circulating within our own local pond about real-life lawyers being corrupt. Falling into the same poor narrative as Hollywood often does their best to dramatise.

But if we are going to stereotype lawyers (and the legal profession in general), then why not take another approach? Look at it from another (better) perspective? Because with all the jokes and insinuations, we forget about all the good guys – the lawyer’s protecting and defending the rights of the citizens of their country, upholding the law, and defending or prosecuting with all the right intentions. 

We forget about the likes and struggles of Andrew Beckett and Joe Miller in Philadelphia, we disregard the formidable Erin Brockovich, we have little faith in Lt. Daniel Kaffee (a lawyer) fighting for the lives of marines in A Few Good Men, we find Rudy Baylor in The Rainmaker too good to be true and we worry about Jake Brigance’s authenticity in A Time to Kill (with one of the best closing arguments on screen). 

And yet, these are characters fighting on the right side of the law. So why is it that their stories and their “brilliance” is so hard to believe? Because it exists – trust us. 

Why does the general public find it easier to believe in a legal villain like Al Pacino in the Devil’s Advocate over Jake Brigance? It’s just unfair. 

But, if we are honest, with the likes of John Hlope skulking the passageways of judicial halls, it’s not hard (we guess) to understand why.

However, it’s so important that we don’t forget – on the opposite end of the spectrum to the Hlope’s of the world – are the sassy, relentless and formidable Erin Brockovich’s as well as the late and immensely great Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ruth Bader Ginsburg – or the Notorious RBG as she came to be known (a must see is the documentary chronicling her incredible life titled RBG). Real life, living breathing people. Not a “based on” anything story.

All fighting on the right side of the law.

Real life legal heroes do exist. And they should not only be recognised but applauded – with great enthusiasm too. 

Because there are so many lawyers that stand up for the rights of others in the most incredible, goosepimply kind of way.  

And the fact that the Devils Advocate is easier to believe in, than the Notorious RBG, says something. Doesn’t it?

Let’s give a round of applause to our legal heroes 

At AJS we proudly service the legal industry and as such, we witness – almost on a firsthand, daily basis – how lawyers work tirelessly to uphold the law, to defend the rights of their clients and always go above and beyond to ensure that the rule of law is something that is not only abided by but is protected and respected to the nth degree.

Not every single lawyer is newsworthy. Not every single lawyer will change the world. But there are lawyers that will change the lives of the people they serve every day. And that there is immensely important. 

It’s funny how, as we enter the month of March, one is reminded of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar when he said – “Beware the ides of March”.  A warning to be wary of betrayal and pending misfortune. Those of us in South Africa reading the news headlines can understand the sentiment. Wholeheartedly. Especially when it’s dominated by the four crime cartels in Eskom, the end of Eskom as we know it, the ANC laying charges against Eskom’s ex-CEO, news on the impending cabinet reshuffle and article’s aplenty about the ongoing gender based violence, xenophobia, human rights challenges and corruption within South Africa’s borders.

But it’s in these troubling times that we all find ourselves squarely facing, that our legal system does shine. Men and women fighting against “the bad” on the daily basis – and their stories can be found everywhere if you just look (we suggest reading hereherehere and here as just a taste). 

And if those articles don’t convince you of the work our South African legal system is managing to do – often fighting against their own President to see justice done – then perhaps reviewing the articles written by law firms on legal challenges faced and overcome on GoLegal will. 

While the matters listed above or those that appear on GoLegal may not seem “earth shattering” they are indeed noteworthy. Because it’s our legal system that has remained steadfast in weeding out those that are corrupt, it’s our legal system that continues to fight for the rights of the citizens within our beautiful country’s borders and it’s our legal system that ensures that those that have broken the law face the consequences. No matter if that person is the President or a lay person on the street. 

And it’s not an easy job either

Amid the long hours, emotionally charged matters, daily stress, late nights away from family and the pay that is not all it’s cracked up to be – being a lawyer isn’t as glamorous as it looks like on Suits. Far from it in fact.

And yet – for some or other reason – our legal professionals (in all their forms) get up every single day, get dressed, give themselves an uplifting talking to “you got this” (and all that) and arrive at work pumped and ready to slay the day. Whatever matter they are working on, in every sphere of law or commerce, our legal professionals fight for us. Often without thanks or even a modicum of gratitude. 

It’s a thankless vocation. It’s hard and it’s often ruthless. In fact, there is unsurmountable evidence that the legal sector has a very real mental health problem

The funny thing is, our legal heroes still go to work every day with the same goal – to uphold and promote the law. And if you ask us, that isn’t just noble, but it’s incredibly brave too. Heroes in the real sense of the word. 

So, instead of another distasteful joke or a snide (and horrible) comment about the lawyer that is working to save your skin (while you insult them) – how about applauding them instead?

Because quite simply – it’s deserved!

At AJS we are extremely proud of the industry and the people we serve. The people to whom we owe our own success to and the people to whom we look up to – especially when the going gets tough. 

In March, instead of worrying about impending misfortune, let’s perhaps recognize our legal professionals and legal system for all they do for us. Even those things that are unbeknown. Because let’s be honest – it’s our legal heroes that face “impending misfortune” on a daily basis by the simple virtue that the law is not always “black and white”, justice often being found in the very grey areas. 

And that’s a hard pill for anyone to swallow. 

We leave you with the following quote by Frank T. Read that we feel is more appropriate for those that protect our rights – 

“At the most pragmatic level, lawyers are society’s professional problem solvers. Lawyers are called upon to make distinctions, to explain how and why cases or experiences are alike or different. Lawyers are expected to restore equilibrium, to be balancers. Every discipline, every profession, every job, and every calling has a cutting edge. At that cutting edge, lines are drawn. Lawyers and judges are society’s ultimate line drawers. On one side of the line, the conduct, action, or inaction is proper; on the other side of the line, it is not.”

AJS applauds our professional problem solvers, our balance restorers, our legal compass holders.

Thank you for all you do!

In our next article we will be paying homage to our own legal heroes – those who helped pave the way to a new South Africa. We hope you will join us in honouring their efforts. Until then…. 

– Written by Alicia Koch on behalf of AJS

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.