With the Presidential election casting two people who “can’t be trusted” as many rightfully profess, I thought it would be appropriate to spend a few sentences on the advertising practiced by brokers, accountants, doctors and, of course, lawyers who claim that they can be “trusted”.
Although this practice understandably follows from studies that have shown that consumers seeking these professional services highly value trustworthiness, the cynical part of me suggests that if someone has to advertise that they are trustworthy, they are probably not. In most professions, trustworthiness is an integral part of professional obligations owed to the public; trust is something that is earned incrementally with your clients, each day over time, and it is not something you can buy upfront. Indeed, my experience over 47 years of law practice suggests that those who profess to be trusted are the last persons in the world you want to trust.
I find this to be empirically correct based upon the fact, by way of example, that a former associate of my firm, who left our firm without any advance notice, began a solicitation of our clients with the professed statement that he could be trusted. Perhaps that advertising was done to dispel any rumor or perception that he could not be trusted under any circumstances or that he had an inferiority complex which required that he be perceived as being trusted.
Our political leaders are presumed to tell white lies, but the level of deception and deceit in recent years has eroded our trust to the point that few take claims of “trustworthiness” seriously in political campaigns anymore. Woe lies in wait for this country if truthfulness and trustworthiness are merely euphemisms for campaign rhetoric and legal advertising. Fortunately, one way prospective clients of an attorney can evaluate trustworthiness and integrity is to inquire regarding the number of long-term clients that the attorney has represented over the course of several years. If the attorney is underhanded and deceitful, that will reveal itself at some point, presumably to the detriment of his clients and the legal profession.
Hopefully, when the election concludes, there will be a reaction to the lies and distortions that were perpetrated, and a new crop of candidates with more integrity will bless the political atmosphere, which in turn will create a “trickledown effect” on every public figure and, of course, every lawyer who ethically must be trustworthy.
By Robert M. Meisner