For those who are regular readers of this column, you may remember my column (http://www.msba.org/departments/loma/articles/personal/whatilearnedsummer.htm) following my vacation in 2008 that occurred in the midst of the economic meltdown of the US economy.
Most people go on vacation, have a good time, relax and come home refreshed and rejuvenated. I go on vacation and learn important life lessons. This year my husband and I spent a week each in Budapest, Hungary and Prague, Czech Republic and I learned about the importance lawyers play in the future of freedom in the world (and I had a good time.)
In the September Bar Bulletin, I reviewed the book The End of Lawyers, in which English Barrister Richard Susskind, gave his “predictions and observations” about where he believed the legal profession was headed and who, in his opinion, would survive and who would not.
His observations and predictions about success or failure in the future were based upon how well lawyers and law firms adapted to new technologies. He also spent a great deal of time discussing whether or not there would even be a real need for lawyers in the future because of the changing technologies and the changing needs of potential clients because of these new technologies.
He predicted there would be five types of lawyers from “trusted legal advisors” and “enhanced legal practitioner “ who are similar to the lawyers and law firms today to what he calls ‘the legal knowledge engineer” and “legal risk managers” who he says are greatly needed in the future. (For a detailed description of these five types go to http://www.practicepro.ca/LAWPROMag/Susskind_New_Reality.pdf)
What does the repeat of this information have to do with my vacation? Why does this book have particular significance now that I have returned from Central Europe? A lot more than I could have imagined when I read and reviewed the book just a month ago.. In fact it wasn’t until I was taking the train from Budapest to Prague thinking about what I was going to write for this column that it occurred to me and it became even more evident when we visited Prague.
The people of Budapest and Prague suffered a great deal under both the Nazis and then their liberators, the Russians/Soviets. While most know some stories of Nazi occupation in Europe, my knowledge of the specifics of what happened in Hungary and what was then Czechoslovakia was grossly inadequate.
While in Budapest we had the opportunity to visit three very moving sites: the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Center (http://www.hdke.hu), The House of Terror (http://www.terrorhaza.hu/index2.html) and Memento Park (http://www.szoborpark.hu/index.php?Lang=en). While in Prague, one of the most moving and difficult sites we visited was the transport site/ghetto in Terezin,(www.pamatnik-terezine.cz) just outside of Prague.
The three sites in Budapest, dealt with the oppression of the Hungarians under the Nazis and/or the Communists and the site in Terezin showed the ghetto and camp where people were sent to other concentration camps in Europe.
Beyond the obvious thoughts about the horrors of what happened, I kept wondering how these acts could have happened and could they happen again and could they happen in a country such as the United States. It all appeared to happen so slowly that you wonder at what point could it have been prevented and who could have prevented it. You always want to think that it could never happen here but can we be so sure.
On the train ride to Prague I was reading a biography of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who rescued and save thousands of Hungarians during World War II and again I wondered why others did not do as much and, more importantly, would I have been so brave?
How does all this lead to the lesson about the importance of lawyers? Without lawyers these types of horrors would happen even more often. It is critical that lawyers never forget the crucial role that they play in the freedom from oppression for humanity. That may seem a little dramatic but I cannot help but believe that had lawyers and the courts had the opportunity to practice freely many of these horrors would not have happened.
Lawyers must always be willing to challenge what they feel are injustices. But we must do it in a way that is civil and dignified. We cannot let differences get in the way of civil discourse. It is a great responsibility but you agreed to it when you took your oath.
No matter how caught up we get in the day to day issues of running our practices and serving our clients, we should never forget how important the legal profession and an independent judiciary is to the freedom we all take for granted. As lawyers, you hold a very special place in society despite all of the negative opinions. You can never forget that.
To bring the point home even further, I am currently serving on jury duty in Baltimore City Circuit Court. I know that most people find this to be a burden but if they had just returned from Central Europe and saw what can happen when there are no courts and lawyers, they would not be so distressed by having to serve.
So that is what I learned this year on my summer vacation. Whew, this is getting exhausting. Next year I think we will just go hiking in the Tetons. What could possible happen there?
Thank you to all the MSBA members who continue to work hard to promote justice. You are an inspiration.