On the Bright Side, Lawyers Are Suddenly Popular

Left to right, immigration lawyer Junaid Sulahry stands in the international arrivals hall of San Francisco International Airport with fellow attorney volunteers Julie Hiatt and Marianna, who declined to give her last name. (Photo: Ben Hancock/ALM) Left to right, immigration lawyer Junaid Sulahry stands in the international arrivals hall of San Francisco International Airport with fellow attorney volunteers Julie Hiatt and Marianna, who declined to give her last name. (Photo: Ben Hancock/ALM)

 

If there’s any silver lining to the first 11 days of the Trump administration, it’s this: lawyers are suddenly beloved—at least by the masses who oppose the president’s policies.

It’s impossible to be a member of the bar and not know Shakespeare’s quote from Henry VI: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Or the endless jokes: How can you tell when a lawyer is lying? His lips move. Why did God invent lawyers? So that real estate agents would have someone to look down on. What’s the difference between a jellyfish and a lawyer? One’s a spineless, poisonous blob. The other is a form of sea life.

But in recent days, my Twitter and Facebook feeds have been full of a new-found appreciation for attorneys. They’re emerging as the heroes of the Trump resistance.

Take this video of a crowd at Dulles Airport chanting what has got to be a first in the history of protests: “Thank you lawyers! Thank you lawyers!” Mother Jones editorial fellow Meagan Day, who posted the video, tweeted, “If you want to be a rock star in Trump’s America, go to law school.”

Then there’s this meme making the rounds on Facebook: “Hug a lawyer today. They are now first responders.” Another friend posted, “Not a bad day when the lawyers are actually the good guys.” Even my colleague Vivia Chen wrote, “I can’t believe I’m saying this: I almost wish I was still a practicing lawyer.”

The mainstream media has taken note too.

On Jan. 29, The New York Times ran this breathless account of lawyers up all night volunteering their services—“Lawyers Mobilize at Nation’s Airports After Trump’s Order.” (“By Saturday morning, the lawyers who heeded the call were at about a dozen airports around the country. Others who heard about the effort through colleagues or the news media went to airports on their own to pitch in.”)

It was followed on Jan. 30 by “Liberal Lawyers Plan Wave of Resistance to Trump Policies.” (“Determined to make legal resistance one of the defining attributes of the Trump era, lawyers at liberal advocacy groups have been putting aside institutional rivalries and organizing to work together on litigation.”)

Over the weekend, the ACLU received more than 350,000 online donations totaling $24 million, according to USA Today –-more than all its online donations in 2016 combined. Its membership has more than doubled since the election, topping 1 million.

Companies are pledging legal help too. In response to Trump’s immigration orders, Uber set up a $3 million legal defense fund for its drivers. Microsoft president Brad Smith offered legal assistance to affected employees, as did Apple. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote to employees that “Our legal team has prepared a declaration of support for the Washington State Attorney General who will be filing suit against the order.”

Tweet after tweet during various protests included the advice to “write the number for the National Lawyer’s Guild on your body in sharpie” in the event of being arrested.

It’s funny how much more people like lawyers when they need them. Especially if they work for free.

What’s so impressive though is the way lawyers are responding, making good on the promise of the Attorney’s Oath: “I do solemnly swear…to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of this state and of the United States.”

It gives you chills. Well done, lawyers. You’re making us proud.

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Contact Jenna Greene at jgreene@alm.com. On Twitter @jgreenejenna.