POTTER, Tony.  Sunday Star – Times; Wellington, New Zealand. 21 June 1998:

WHAT is it about lawyers that people really, really hate? They have an awful press, worse even than used car dealers, pornographers and spin doctors. And they’re even as expensive as dentists.

My lawyer — who I really, really like — was going to be one of the subjects in my book Lawyers I Know and Like, until I realised it was going to be a very, very slim volume.

Anyway, he has on his office wall a notice. It’s a bit like a lawyer’s shingle, but is, in fact, a quotation from Shakespeare. It reads: “The first thing we do, let’s hang all the lawyers.”

It is, from memory, from one of the several Henrys. Shakespeare had a thing about Henrys the way Sylvester Stallone has a thing about Rocky.

But it shows that people hated lawyers even as far back as the late 1500s. That’s a long time to be hated.

What raised the subject of lawyers was the comment from one Professor Greg Newbold last week about Arthur Taylor, part-time guest at one of our penal motels and — when he’s not in one of them — law breaker.

Taylor, he said, was a very honourable and honest bloke.

“He’s an armed robber but he won’t steal off individuals or take money by deception,” said the learned professor.

Very commendable of Mr Taylor. And then the prof added the clincher: “He’s morally superior to the average lawyer.”

Later the day that line appeared, I lunched with several friends, including a lawyer, and to his credit he laughed at the quote.

“Have you heard,” he asked, “appropos of lawyers (lawyers use words like `appropros’ don’t they?) of that restaurant in Nelson called `The Honest Lawyer’?”

We hadn’t. “The sign of the establishment shows a gravestone with the inscription `Here lies the honest lawyer’.”

Later, one of the group mentioned a scallywag well known to some of the group, who decided one night to knock over a takeaway joint.

Having committed the crime, he realised he was a bit peckish and stayed on to fry up some fish and chips. He was in the middle of his culinary efforts when the local gendamerie arrived.

As policemen the world over are wont to say, they weren’t dealing here with a rocket scientist. It was, as they also say, “a fair cop”.

The lawyer sipped on his glass of red. “Plead him not guilty,” he said. “Under the Human Rights Act everyone’s entitled to a feed.”