Myth #24: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
Most people are familiar with this commonly quoted phrase as being from one of Shakespeare’s plays. It is used to mock and vilify lawyers and exemplifies the ordinary person’s frustration with the complexity of the law, and the confusion that can sometimes surround it. But a close consideration of the context of the line reveals that, perhaps, Shakespeare was complimenting lawyers. This line was stated by a character in “Henry VI” and he thought that if he disturbed law and order by ridding society of lawyers and judges, he could become king. Many have argued that Shakespeare was portraying lawyers as the guardians of the rule of law standing in the way of chaos and anarchy.
By writing our column over the last year, the attorneys at Marshall Diel & Myers Ltd (MDM) have been dispelling some of the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the Bermudian legal system and its lawyers.
But my spouse cheated on me, I shouldn’t have to pay them anything if we get divorced!
I am not paying more than the “going-rate of $100” for child support payments!
Fathers are only entitled to weekend access with their children!
I inherited our family home from my parents so my spouse is entitled to claim against it!
In my practice as a matrimonial and family lawyer, these are the common misconceptions that my clients believe when they come to meet with me to get legal advice. It is my experience that many of these misconceptions are repeated so often that, even when false, they end up having the ring of truth, much in the same fashion as an urban legend.
“Urban legends” have been defined as modern stories of obscure origin and with little or no supporting evidence that spread spontaneously in varying forms and often have elements of humour, moralising or horror. Whether these stories end up being an unsolved mystery, a popular misconception or a big hoax, urban legends are an inevitable part of any culture and the fact is that many members of the general public have misconceptions about the legal system and the lawyers that operate within it.
Some of the other common myths that we have tackled include:
• That an employee has no choice if an employer changes the terms of his employment.
• That you will be paid immediately once you obtain a money judgment from the Court.
• That the best contracts are full of complicated legalese.
• That the wheels of justice are always slow to turn and there are no forms of urgent relief.
• That once you have paid off your mortgage, you own your home.
• That divorced or separated parents cannot successfully co-parent their children.
• That freehold is always better than leasehold when it comes to buying a property.
• That law students working at law firms spend their days pouring coffee and shredding paper rather than learning how to become lawyers.
• That your personal or business information and data is safe in the “cloud”.
At MDM, our attorneys practice in the areas of civil and commercial litigation, matrimonial and family law, employment and immigration law, property and estates, insurance and re-insurance, bankruptcy and insolvency and general advice.
We look forward to appearing twice a month in our new partner, The Royal Gazette, in an effort to use our knowledge and experience to answer some of the most common questions we hear when meeting with clients and in doing so provide an accurate thumbnail sketch of the different areas of our practice.
We hope that this column will be the starting point of dispelling the common misconceptions, myths and stereotypes about the legal system in Bermuda and the lawyers who practice in it.
This column is for general guidance only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. Before proceeding with any matters discussed here, persons are advised to consult with a lawyer.
Rachael Barritt is a director of Marshall Diel & Myers Ltd and member of the Matrimonial and Family Team.