Prentiss speaks to PRC Bar Association
15th Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell was the guest speaker for the Pearl River County Bar Association at their February meeting.
Harrell discussed the current state of the legal profession as well as future changes. He described society as “ever changing and fluid, with the legal profession leading the way.”
Harrell highlighted the camaraderie shared between attorneys and others involved in the judicial system by sharing a Harrison Tweed quote:
“I have a high opinion of lawyers. With all their faults, they stack up well against those in every other occupation or profession. They are better to work with or play with or fight with or drink with than most other varieties of mankind.”
This quote is inscribed on a plaque in the reading room of the Harvard Law Library.
Harrell, a proponent of automated filing of legal forms, said that one of the casualties resulting from the convenience will likely be the impact on professional relationships.
“We won’t need to meet face-to-face, as much, to conduct business with the e-filing system,” Harrell said. “While the ability to file pleadings from our offices will be a great convenience, it will dilute lawyer interaction. The bond between our professional members could be a casualty of convenience.”
Harrell also said the unauthorized practice of law will be looser in definition because of Internet use.
More people think they can now represent themselves because they read legal information online, he said.
“Some may think with the Internet access and statistical data showing that of law school graduates 75 percent do not have jobs in the legal profession 18 months later, the profession is not on solid ground. But as John Curtain said in his remarks to the American Bar Association in 1991, ‘Anyone who believes that a better day dawns when lawyers are eliminated bears the burden of explaining who will take their place. Who will protect the poor, the injured, the victims of negligence, the victims of racial discrimination and the victims of racial violence?’”
Harrell advised the group to be vigilant to “do right” as 10th District Chancery Judge Ronald Doleac has been known to say.
“We cannot, as a member of our profession— one of four with the original purpose of ‘service to mankind’ — be careless in our responsibilities to our profession. We can not push the envelope, as the kids say,” Harrell said.
He concluded by saying, members of the legal profession must have courage and must remember that while they leave no lasting monuments to showcase their contributions to society, they take up other men’s burdens and by their efforts they make possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful state.