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February 15, 2013

4

In the Line of Fire: How Dangerous is the Legal Profession?

by Sam Ranard

A majority of people do not realize how dangerous the legal profession is. As an aspiring attorney and legal blogger, I stay current on legal news and in effect I am more conscious of reports and situations in which attorneys and judges are threatened, injured or killed.

The following is a compilation of a few of the most recent tragedies involving the legal profession. This is only a small sample of the reported attacks and killings of attorneys and judges:

  • On February 3, the 28-year-old daughter of an attorney was murdered by one of his former clients, an  ex-Los Angeles police officer.
  • Then again on January 30 2013, an Oklahoma man facing assault charges attacked his lawyer, Larry Monard, in court. He punched, kicked and choked Monard.
  • On January 22 2013, two attorneys, who should have known better, got into a fight in which attorney Scott Radman was severely beaten by fellow attorney, Sean Murphy, inside of a courthouse.

In result of the January 30, 2013 murder of Mark Hummels in Arizona, the State Bar of Arizona released a statement regarding the danger of being an attorney as well as the senseless murder that should have never taken place.  Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the State Bar of Arizona, John F. Phelps, issued this statement in response to the death of Hummels:

“The death of our colleague, Mark Hummels, is heartbreaking on so many levels. The loss of any life is tragic. But in this case, Mark was killed as a result of simply trying to do his job. We all know that attorneys are many times forced into conflicts that are often heated and emotional. Their goal is to use the skills they have learned to help their clients and adversaries understand that the legal system can resolve their problem. That concept is a critical part of what makes the United States not just a great nation, but a place of great stability. But this can come at a cost. Hummel’s murder was not the first. Last year Yuma attorney Jerrold Shelley was shot and killed by the divorced husband of a client. A study done by the American Bar Association in 1998 says that 60% of family law attorneys have been threatened by adverse parties, and 17% by their own clients. The ABA even has a list of safety precautions for lawyers. Still, attorneys come to work each day. They face hostility and anger knowing that their job is to find common ground where they can, and resolution where they can’t. Mark Hummels died after leaving a mediation. He died fulfilling Cicero’s belief that “We are all servants of the laws in order that we may be free. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mark’s family, friends and co-workers, as well as the other victims of this terrible incident.”

In worst case scenarios, attorneys are not only targeted at work but at home as well, putting their families in danger. In the National Law Journal story, A Life Cut Short, written by Jenna Greene, attorneys share stories of work related dangers that followed them home.

“In one instance,” Greene writes,  “Alabama attorney Richard Jensen’s wife discovered a former client in a child custody case parked in their driveway with a rifle, waiting for Jensen. Another woman drove her truck through the pasture fence on his farm and attempted to run over his 6-year-old son. ‘The police and I took her down at gunpoint,’ said Jensen, a former police officer who carries a concealed weapon.”

The ABA Journal discusses what precautions can be taken by attorneys to help limit their risk of being attacked. Among those are locking your doors, having security systems installed at your home and office, installing a remote starter on your car and most importantly – always being aware of your surroundings and on alert at all times. 

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