More shady lawyers

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More shady lawyers

As our lawyers increasingly suffer from financial hardships due to the economic slowdown, corruption is becoming more rampant among that socially respected class. In sharp contrast with the past, lawyers are actively committing fraudulent practices rather than being passively engaged in them as enablers. It is time for the government to come up with measures to help preserve the integrity of that exclusive club and avert potential damage for their clients.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday arrested a lawyer on charges of embezzling 500 million won ($473,484) from the executives of construction, design and inspection companies under investigation for their suspicious deals in the four-rivers restoration project. The prosecution said the lawyer cheated the executives by promising them a successful settlement of the case in return for the money. But he turned out to have no personal connection with the prosecutor - contrary to his explanation that the prosecutor was his schoolmate at the Judicial Research and Training Institute - and didn’t do anything for his clients.

In September, another lawyer was sentenced to two years in jail by the Seoul Central District Court for taking 600 million won from the families of a detained defendant in exchange for lobbying prosecutors and judges. The charges on which the court has recently handed down a guilty verdict for lawyers are quite diverse, ranging from a refusal to return compensatory payment to clients to an empty promise to let clients get an investment from Indonesia’s ruling families to even a delivery of cigarettes to inmates in return for money.

Crimes by lawyers continue to increase. According to a Law Times’ analysis of crime statistics, a total of 544 lawyers were indicted for various criminal offenses last year, and 44 percent were involved in crimes such as fraud or embezzlement - a 45 percent and 65 percent increase compared to 2010 and 2011, respectively. This has a lot to do with a drastic decrease in clients due to an oversupply of lawyers since the launch of the law school system, which pours out as many as 2,000 lawyers into the market. Our lawyers’ associations must conduct a survey of what’s happening to their members together with the Legal Ethics and Professional Conduct Council. They also need to devise realistic ways to provide jobs for junior members.

Lawyers have a mission of “advocating human rights of the people and embodying social justice,” as stipulated in Article One of the Law on Lawyers. If this situation continues, it could breed public distrust in the profession itself. They must wake up.





변호사업계의 불황이 심해지는 가운데 변호사 비리가 잇따르고 있다. 그 내용에 있어서도 과거 수동적으로 이용되는 경우가 많았다면 지금은 능동적이고 주도적인 쪽으로 바뀌고 있다. 변호사 전체의 명예를 지키고 의뢰인 피해를 막기 위해 강력한 대책이 요구되고 있다.
서울중앙지검 특수3부는 검찰 수사를 받던 4대강 사업 설계·감리업체 경영진에게서 5억원을 가로챈 혐의(사기)로 박모 변호사를 구속기소했다. 박 변호사는 “사법연수원 동기인 수사 검사에게 부탁해 사건을 잘 마무리하도록 해주겠다”고 속였다는 게 검찰의 설명이다. 그는 해당 검사와 친분이 없었고, 사건 무마 활동도 하지 않았다고 한다. 앞서 지난 9월 서울중앙지법은 판·검사 로비를 이유로 구속 피고인 가족에게서 6억 원을 받은 혐의로 기소된 변호사에게 징역 2년을 선고했다. 최근 법원에서 유죄가 선고된 변호사들의 혐의를 보면 ^승소금을 의뢰인에게 돌려주지 않고 ^인도네시아 왕실자금을 투자받게 해주겠다고 속여 거액을 받거나 ^수감자에게 돈을 받고 담배를 전달했다.
문제는 이러한 변호사 범죄가 계속 증가하는데 있다. 법률신문이 대검 범죄통계를 분석한 결과에 따르면 지난해 각종 범죄 혐의로 입건된 변호사는 544명이고, 이중 사기·횡령 등 재산범죄에 연루된 변호사는 238명에 달했다. 전년도에 비해 각각 45%, 65%씩 증가한 수치다. 로스쿨 등을 통해 매년 2000명씩 신규 변호사가 배출되면서 변호사업계 불황을 가중시킨 탓이 크다. ‘배고픈 변호사는 사자보다 무섭다’는 미국 변호사업계의 속설이 남의 일만은 아닌 것이다. 변호사단체와 법조윤리협의회가 힘을 모아 정확한 실태 조사와 함께 적극적인 징계 조치에 나서야 한다. 젊은 변호사들의 일자리 마련을 위한 지원 대책도 강구할 필요가 있다.
변호사의 사명은 “기본적 인권을 옹호하고 사회정의를 실현”(변호사법 제1조)하는 것이다. 변호사 비리가 만성화하면 자칫 변호사 직종 자체에 대한 불신을 키울 수도 있다. 변호사들 자신이 경각심을 갖고 대응에 나서야 할 시점이다.

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