By ilise feitshans • November 01, 2016•Writers in Residence, Careers, Firms and the Private Sector, Legal Academia, Nonprofits and the Public Interest, Politics and Government, Other Career Issues
First Lady Abigail Adams was the wife of the second United States (U.S.) President and the mother of another U.S. President; she successfully ran a farm while her husband was away writing the Declaration of Independence. Yet ironically if not unjustly, she never had the right to vote for either her husband or her son (or vote against them!). And the law did not allow her to own the property that she so successfully managed. Indeed it was another hundred and fifty or so years before The Ladies had new laws that brought the Right to vote to Ladies, a precious right that many people have not only fought but died to bring to us as our inheritance.
As a Lady who made history, her empowerment was in her writing. In her famous letters to her husband, Mrs. Adams urged him to "Remember the ladies" when declaring independent suffrage for humans who lacked the divine right of kings, and also described the hard work of managing a family business while raising and educating several children while combating illness. Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband, John Adams, 95 days before Mr. Adams signed the Declaration of Independence. “[…] in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors” (Adams, 1776).
Gender equity in our nation is therefore both a revolutionary concept and an old unresolved problem, but one that is best solved by lawyers and legislators with legislative pen in hand. Even today, as electronic signatures send out new laws with lightning speed, technology can spread information--- fast-- but is it a thoughtful reasoned analysis of the law that our society needs, not some propaganda that turns "law" into a bad word.
The law is beautiful; one of the most precious gifts in our society.
Therefore, any ability of contemporary culture to pervert the rule of law by depriving citizens of correct information about cases or statutes is sad. Now information about law has fallen aside; rarefied knowledge, possessed by few.
Instead, citizens who are unaware of the law bump into it in the oddest moments when they are trying to do something. It may feel strange to be required to give people with disabilities or LGBT orientation equal rights, any race or ethicitiy equal employment opportunity, or to give funny looking politicians equal media coverage for seemingly inane political views.
Not surprising therefore, that when non-lawyers, (especially clients) bump into the law for the first time, without legal education, typically the law is saying "No!".
No you can't walk across the street at the red light when you want to, no you can't tell those people not to work for your competitor, No you can't drink as much alcohol as you want before driving; no you can't drive along open roads as fast as you want. Inevitably, someone else is standing there yelling about their rights under law; wanting money or to curb personal liberty to make up for some invisible harm. To a citizen who has lived years in a nation without studying the law, it must be a shocking introduction; easy to dislike the law.
And that brings us to the job of the modern lawyer: Not merely to placate expensive clients or shout aloud charismatically demanding unjustly withheld rights with great press and theatre. Our job is to truly advocate for the rule of law in civil society.
Ours is not an easy task, and it seems never finished. But voting, using the rights that so many people fought to have and so many suffered when it was denied--- VOTING is taking the first step to ensure the future of civil society.
We as lawyers must take the lead to vote and teach others the value of their own personal suffrage.