I was on www.lawstudents.ca recently, and followed a thread on the question, "Should Lawyers be called 'Doctor'." I thought it was an amusing thread, with lots of witty posts. It got me thinking about the place of lawyers in Canadian society. I'll share a few of my thoughts.
First, lawyers are not doctors, in the classical sense of the word. Although they often help others, they are a different professional subset than doctors. By doctors, I mean both medical doctors and academic doctors.
To be a lawyer is to be a professional. It is to be an officer of the court, an attorney (A person to acts on behalf of another). In fact, in the US, most lawyers are called Attorney, which is a lot better than Lawyer, in my opinion. It is more descriptive of what a lawyer does. Lawyer says that you know something about the law. Attorney says that you know what to do with that law - you know how to serve.
Countering that thought is the fact that so many lawyers are very self-serving. Corporate lawyers come to mind immediately, along with Personal Injury lawyers. However, many doctors are quite self-serving as well. I read recently about the increasing number of doctors who are turning to plastic surgery rather than a general practice, because of the easy money. I see many doctors driving very fancy cars to very fancy houses. But, not all doctors, or lawyers, are like this.
I am amazed that someone who has graduated medical school is called "doctor" immediately, even though they have not practiced medicine for one moment. Law graduates in Canada have to take on the name "Student-at-law" for one year after graduation. Only when they pass bar admission requirements can they call themselves "Lawyer."
Some of the posts at www.lawstudents.ca argued that the academic requirements are similar for lawyers, compared to medical doctors or academic PhD's. On this point, I would have to concur. Law school, which usually follows a four-year undergraduate degree, is a long haul. The timeline is similar to the medical student. In some rare cases, you can achieve a PhD in 7 to 8 years of academia, but I think it is usually closer to 10 to 12 years before you can call yourself "doctor".
Lawyers hold a special status in Canadian society. They are often well respected, although often criticized and berated. There are many jokes about the shark-like quality of lawyers. But, at the same time, our citizens choose to elect lawyers as their leaders time and time again.
Myself, I don't really need a special title to do my work. It is enough to say that I am a lawyer. I didn't go to school to become a doctor. Perhaps one day, but that would be another career altogether.
I do want to exchange my LL.B. for a J.D., because others in Canada have that designation now for the same amount of education that I have received. Fair is fair. However, it should be clear to everyone, lawyer and non-lawyer alike, that a Juris Doctorate does not mean that you can call yourself "doctor" or that you can equate your degree to that of a medical doctor or a PhD. They are different paths, mean different things. It is OK to be different. It's not OK to say you are better than another who has dedicated their life to a career, or to a cause.
That's all I have to say on that for now.