In Defense of South Carolina Lawyers

April 22, 2014

By Alice Paylor
2013-14 S.C. Bar President

The political season has blossomed, and a few people are again attacking the Constitutional principles that are essential to a free society. Every day lawyers step up to the plate and ensure that each citizen is afforded the rights guaranteed to us all and essential to protect our liberties. It would be refreshing to see comment on the merits of positions rather than attacks seeking to evoke a gut response. I keep hoping.

In the meantime, your Bar is taking steps to defend the legal profession against blanket political attacks against lawyers and those who criticize certain types of lawyers. For example, I submitted letters to media outlets in response to coverage of a recent press conference featuring comments suggesting that there is a conflict of interest between representing criminal defendants and representing South Carolina as its governor.

The truth is that each and every one of us has a professional duty to ensure that justice is not rationed but is available to everyone. It is the job of a criminal defense lawyer to ensure his or her client has a fair trial, not to defend the crime.

Also, the Bar recently launched a website called sclawyerfacts.org. This site references false claims perpetuated in the media and provides education about the legal profession and the service provided by lawyers to the citizens of South Carolina. The site also features videos, pictures and news coverage that illustrate lawyers’ commitment to their clients and the community, as well as a recent economic study that outlines the reality of what the legal profession contributes in economic activity and jobs for South Carolinians.

Members of the South Carolina Bar fall all along the political spectrum, and as such, the Bar does not pledge support for political candidates. Irrespective of party lines, candidates and those supporting them should present their own credentials and experience and allow intelligent voters to make informed decisions as to how to vote based on those facts. Vigorous debate is what democracy is all about, but those involved should stick to an honest discussion about the facts. Misleading political rhetoric clouds the opportunity for honest debate on substantive issues important to our state.

When you encounter smear tactics against lawyers in your community, I encourage you to help the Bar fight back. Lawyers promote good government and economic growth. They represent the individual, the small business, the larger entities and the government. Some of those individuals are the poorest in our communities, and lawyers go to court for them without charge.

Help spread the word about what you already know about our state’s lawyers, or point them to sclawyerfacts.org for just that—the facts.