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The Lawyer As a Social Engineer: Gerry Leeseberg explains in BARbriefs

Lawyers can help facilitate changes that affect our society. Those changes can be either small or seismic but attorneys must realize the impact they can make on those who are charged with rendering verdicts and enacting legislation.

This was Gerald Leesebergs message in the Columbus Bar Associations BARbriefs publication. Leeseberg authored the article, “The Lawyer as Social Engineer” for the BARbriefs October, 2000 publication.

Leeseberg writes as a lawyer representing the interest of people killed and maimed by all manner of unsafe products, policies and procedures, and conduct, “there are few things more satisfying than feeling that the work you have done for a particular client has also in some small way made a difference”. Citing examples that can make a difference, Leeseberg relates to the recent passage of legislation to establish a mandatory trauma system in Ohio. He continues, “while its difficult to calculate their precise contribution to the bills passage, a number of people (including attorneys and attorney organizations) compellingly testified at legislative hearings about the death and sufferings that have occurred as a result of substandard medical care rendered at non-trauma hospitals”.

Leeseberg also observes, “I was recently astounded to learn during litigation of a products liability case that there are no engineering schools in the United States that require, as part of a degree program, courses on systems and safety design engineering”. “Nevertheless, we have learned through litigation of high-profile cases such as that involving the Ford Pinto, the concept of incorporating safety analysis into the development of a product. The concept of protecting consumers and promoting the social good, rather than sacrificing it to the goal of maximizing profits, has been successfully advanced by lawyers and consequently mandated through verdicts”.

Gerald Leesebergs article ends with observations on criticisms of litigation. “There has been a resulting protest from some quarters (whose business and political agendas may be suspect) about “legislating through litigation,” with tobacco and gun industry litigation being cited as the prime examples. The opponents of such efforts argue with hyperbole that alcohol, fast food, and all other forms of consumer products with potentially harmful effects will be targeted next. In the final analysis, it is juries that decide whether such causes of action will survive and succeed, not lawyers”.

As Leeseberg notes, improvements in our society can be made through litigation. And, the improvements can result from the legal system operating properly to effect the change.

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