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In recent years, it has been all downhill for lawyers' reputations. Opinion polls indicate that public confidence in lawyers is at an all-time low. And the defenders of the status quo are increasingly forced to fend off criticism from within the legal profession's own ranks.

In this context, the lawyers have been forced to abandon their long-standing "the public be damned" attitude and have developed new, more sophisticated strategies. Their goal: to defuse public outcry while maintaining essentially unchanged the legal system that works so well for them and so poorly for the rest of us.Last year the American Bar Association decided to come to grips with the endless criticisms about the bar. Did they propose fixing things? No. Instead they hired a public relations expert to change their image. Their new tactic is to launch a giant public relations blitz, which will begin next month.

If we let the legal establishment write the script for the upcoming ABA hearings and report, they'll achieve their goal, acting responsive without really changing anything. And a real opportunity for reform will be lost.

Many reforms require state legislation, such as increasing the ceiling on small-claims court cases or lawyer self-regulation. Legislators require data. The bar leaders should be witnesses in legislative hearings, forced to account for the problems and answer hard questions about why these problems cannot be fixed.

It is the bar monopoly that creates many of our problems. It is a denial of due process that millions of people cannot get into the legal system and people like myself have been the victims of legal malpractice. We want hard answers.

Let them sit in the witness stand for a change and explain why Americans should continue to be victimized by a legal system needlessly complex, frustratingly inaccessible and hopelessly expensive. We want answers as to their endless persecution of non-lawyers who help people in court. We want answers as to the client-security fund that is supposed to protect people who have been ripped off by the system.

Mark Faux

Salt Lake City