have always admired clients who, when they first meet with me, talk about justice. Usually, it goes something like this, "It's not just about the money. I want to make sure they can't do this (sexually harass, racially harass, fire older workers or workers with disabilities, etc.) to someone else. Most of the time, when a client says something like that to me, I believe that person and I feel good.
As a young lawyer, many moons ago, I was cautioned by more experienced attorneys to never believe anyone who said he or she was more concerned about justice than money. "It's always about money," they would tell me. I agree and disagree about that. Justice is oftentimes more important to my client's than money, but money is how one determines if there has been justice in our society.
We sue large corporations for money. Contrary to what the Supreme Court and Mitt Romney say, a corporation is not a person. Corporations are set up by people to protect individuals from liability AND TO MAKE MONEY. At a shareholders meeting, one would probably not hear,"Well, we lost our shirts, but at least we treated our customers and employees well." The bottom line is money.
Corporations are populated by people with real human emotions and real human prejudices. It is the people in the corporations who sexually harass employees, not the corporations themselves. The quandary has always been, how do you stop the human misbehavior when the corporations are not human. Suing a company probably does not change a boss' racist attitudes against African Americans. But, if the company has to pay a large sum of money and/or the bigot is fired, the payout sends a message to the humans in the company that racism will not be tolerated.
Just like the song from Bye Bye Birdie, "Put on a Happy Face," if the humans in the company put on a non-bigoted face for fear of financial reversals in the company, or fear of reprimands or worse, sometimes the bigots may act less bigoted ad perhaps, eventually, feel less bigoted. And if if the bigots remain bigoted, chances are the culture will change because it's no long in vogue to be biased and the children of the bigots will be less bigoted. Society benefits.
In the time I have practiced law, I have seen improvements in work environments for women, especially in the sexual harassment area. I like to think that lawyers like me and the brave clients we represent help to change the work environment for women. Few secretaries are groped or chased around the desk in this day and age. I am proud of my clients for that improvement in women's work lives.
Maybe in a car wreck case, unless it is a DUI, there is little reason for a client to get on his or her high horse. Sometimes drivers are careless and make mistakes. In discrimination cases, however, usually the discrimination is intentional and often come from a need to bully others because of fear and insecurity. Discrimination lawsuits can make a real difference. That is why they are satisfying and lawyers work in this area for decades with little burn out.
Thank goodness for those brave souls who come in to our office because they want to make the workplace fair for minorities, the disabled and women and, to them, that is more important than money. We need courageous people willing to fight to make things better for society. thank goodness for clients who care about justice.