Opinion: Working for the American system of justice

By CHRISTOPHER J. SEUFERT

Published: 09-24-2023 7:30 AM

Christopher J. Seufert, Esq. is a New Hampshire attorney.

I usually agree with the opinion pieces by Jonathan P. Baird in the Concord Monitor, but I believe that “Corrosion of the legal profession” (Monitor, My Turn, 9/18) misses the mark.

The level of civil disdain we see in this country is frightening, one party says right, the other party automatically says wrong, one party says up, the other says down. Civil debate has turned into civil discourse by default. What the legal profession is being accused of, corrosion, is not the legal profession, but the state of our democracy.

Yes, there are fringe attorneys supporting false propaganda, but the Bar Associations of the various states where those attorneys are licensed are in fact bringing those attorneys to justice.

As to the state of the legal profession attempting to corrode our republic, the opposite is more true. They are trying to save our republic. Over the past 30 years, countless lawyers have volunteered their time to monitor or “poll observe” the thousand varied polling stations throughout this country at each election, from both the Democratic and Republican parties, to make sure each citizen gets to vote.

I have volunteered each year that the program has existed to “observe” various polling stations throughout New Hampshire, sometimes alone for the Democratic Party, sometimes with an attorney sent by the Republican Party. When my “opposition” joins me, we have friendly discussions but a common purpose, every citizen deserves to vote.

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Most times we have been able to offer advice to the official poll workers to speed up the voting lines, sometimes just bringing water or snacks to hand out at the entrance doors to the polling stations. Other times, especially during very contested elections, I have brought cartons of clipboards to pass out to new registering voters waiting in long lines to register, so they have a hard writing surface to be filling out the new voter registration forms while standing in line so these are all completed when they get to the front of the line to the poll worker to check them in. We are all in this together.

To answer the critique that law schools are so expensive that most newly minted attorneys must work at “big corporate law” to support their student loans: A law degree is expensive, it requires a bachelor’s degree to get into law school, and then a 3-4 year law school after that. The cost is prohibitive. But “big corporate” can only employ so many of these new attorneys, so most new admittees end up going into the government sector as prosecutors or administrative law, the public defender program, or join medium and smaller law firms.

The pay may be smaller, but satisfaction is higher. Medium and small law firms throughout this country handle most of all the legal needs of the communities they practice in, be it representing families in divorce court, criminal court, injury and workers compensation claims, real estate purchase and sales, and drafting estate plans.

These “lawyers for the people” shoulder enormous debt to do what they do for the people. Without these firms, the system of justice would not work. I, like others in my profession, donate hundreds of hours each year to sit on many state and local non-profit boards. I have served as chairman of many of these state and local non-profit boards over my 40-year career.

I also represent many local non-profits on a pro bono basis, assisting in various roles including getting and keeping their 501-c3 charitable status. Many attorneys do similar pro-bono hours each year.

I take and return phone calls with my clients, early morning and late evenings, because sometimes they just need to hear a reassuring voice. Many of my clients are multi-generational; I represented their grandparents, their children, their now grandchildren.

Many people like to make comments about lawyers until they find themselves in need of one.

While I do understand other points being made, and the right to express them, I respectfully disagree. Most lawyers are serving their clients, their communities, and this system of government that we call a republic, to make sure the American system of justice works.

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