Lawyers, attorneys, barristers, legal advocates, counselors, and public defenders - also known as ‘muhamis’ in Arabic - are considered as those who protect others and their interests. And seen as champions of what is right.
The term muhami stems from the belief that lawyers have a sacred duty to advocate for justice and serve as advocates on behalf of their clients. However, despite this honorable origin, negative perceptions and stereotypes have plagued the legal profession in the Arab world, making it challenging for lawyers to receive the trust and respect that they rightfully deserve from their clients.
Peculiar sources of negative perception
Arab culture is largely complimentary, where people always speak well of one another and are generous with their time. However, the nature of legal practice, where lawyers sell their time and accuracy of information, does not always align with the values of Arabic culture.
The skills and expertise that lawyers possess, such as their years of experience and their ability to craft complex legal arguments, are not always fully appreciated or understood by the public.
In addition, the lack of discipline and specialization in the legal profession has also contributed to perceptions. Lawyers without specific knowledge or expertise often take on cases they are ill-equipped to handle, leading to subpar representation and disappointing outcomes for clients.
This has led to a general mistrust of lawyers and a perception that their services may not always be reliable or effective.
Focus on the Arab World
The negative perception of lawyers in the Arab world is not limited to cultural factors alone. The average individual in the Arab world remains distant from the legal field in everyday life until a problem emerges, requiring a legal intervention. Therefore, most people are limited in their personal experience with the world of law and end up forming their perceptions based on biased cases involving people within their circles, or from popular news stories or movies that often portray the profession in a negative light.
However, the legal profession in the Arab world is complex and multi-faceted. Law governs many of the key components of a properly functioning personal and corporate ecosystem, from employment contracts and warning labels to insurance claims and civil disputes.
The realities of the legal profession - high fees, lengthy legal processes, and bureaucratic hurdles - have also contributed to the challenges that lawyers face in earning the trust and respect of clients. These factors have created a perception that the legal profession is detached from the realities of everyday life, and that it is not always accessible or affordable for ordinary people.
Call to action for earned respect
To promote a more ethical practice of law in the Arab world, it is essential lawyers adopt a more humane approach to client interactions. This includes demystifying legal processes, mastering modern drafting and communication techniques that steer away from complex legal jargon, and investing time in understanding, explaining, and summarising cases with their clients.
Transparency in billing processes is also crucial in building trust with clients and ensuring that they have a clear understanding of the services they are receiving and the associated costs.
Furthermore, it is important for law firms and legal institutions in the Arab world to work towards implementing uniform regulations and ethical guidelines that promote consistency and reliability in legal practice. This includes developing and enforcing standards for professional conduct, continuing education, and accountability for lawyers.
Efforts should be made to educate the public about the vital role of lawyers in upholding justice, protecting rights, and promoting the rule of law. Dispelling misconceptions about lawyers being confrontational or divisive and promoting a culture of appreciation for lawyers, their time, and their expertise is crucial.
It is imperative for legal professionals take action to change the negative perception of lawyers. By promoting ethical practice, adopting a more humane approach to client interactions, implementing uniform regulations, and educating the public, we can work towards earning the respect and recognition that lawyers deserve.