[FOUNTAIN]Heaven, hell and lawyers

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[FOUNTAIN]Heaven, hell and lawyers

Heaven and Hell agreed to end their hostile relations over the past millions of years. As a token of reconciliation, the two sides planned to build a bridge between Heaven and Hell. According to the plan, each side would start a bridge at its end until the two ends met and could be joined to allow traffic to flow.

After reaching the halfway point one year later, the bridge builders from Hell got angry, since they found out that Heaven had not even started construction. When Hell dispatched an envoy to demand an explanation, Heaven replied, "We are sorry. We could not find any builders." Hell accused Heaven of fraud. But there was no way to take the matter to court because Heaven had no lawyers.

The king of Hell, in a fit of anger, said to the king of Heaven, "You are a liar and you are going to be voted out of office!" The king of Heaven said, "I'm not worried. Voters don't know. Heaven has no newspapers."

There are other jokes involving lawyers, such as "Painters and lawyers turn white into black," and "A good lawyer is a bad neighbor." But those sayings at least partially stem from envy of lawyers.

Though the United States is called a "lawyers' paradise," not all accused persons there had the right to legal counsel until the 1960s. The right to an attorney was settled after Clarence Gideon, a prison inmate who did not have money for a lawyer, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 that his conviction for breaking into a pool hall should be overturned because he was not represented by a lawyer at his trial. The court agreed and granted him a new trial with a state-appointed attorney.

Lawyers are protectors of human rights, but they are also ordinary men who have to earn their own living. If the number of lawyers expands, competition grows. About 10 years ago, Canadians began seeing "ambulance lawyers" on the streets. They worked out of vans instead of offices; they installed bookshelves, television sets and video cameras in their vans to record evidence and traveled around in their mobile offices at their clients' request.

The number of lawyers in Korea now exceeds 5,000. Law firms specializing in real estate, entertainment business, defense and medical disputes are emerging. Even so, Korea has only one lawyer per 10,000 people; that is far lower than the ratio of one lawyer for every 250 people in the United States. Will ambulance lawyers begin to make an appearance here in Korea as well?

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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