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Lessons from Political Trash Talk

Posted By Colleen Glatfelter, Thursday, September 8, 2016
Updated: Monday, September 12, 2016

By Tara Muller, NC Appellate Attorney 

Are you proud to be a lawyer?  Sure, but admit it…at some point, at some party, to some stranger, you hesitated before offering up your job title. Lawyers serve the community as leaders, activists, and civil servants, doing tremendous good for the world, so why the pond-scum reputation?     

Maybe we can learn from the ubiquitous political trash talk we’ve been enduring this election cycle:  Unfit for office...Crooked liar...Paid off by special interests." No wonder some folks unfairly write off all "politicians" as slimy, even though so many elected officials are wonderful and selfless. Could it be that, similarly, the public forms opinions about lawyers by the insults and insinuations we suggest about other lawyers?

My unscientific theory is that lawyer-about-lawyer trash talk is just as damaging as lawmaker-about-lawmaker trash talk. Sure, the lawyer version is classier, usually whispered over cocktails or a tennis match instead of on a 30-second TV ad. "How does she sleep at night…The whole firm is sloppy…Courthouse rat…Over-billing clients… Ambulance chaser…Selling out…Billboard lawyer…"  Of course members of the public will form negative opinions when they hear such things.  Monkey see, monkey do.

This phenomenon of in-fighting is curious, because as a whole, North Carolina lawyers are wonderful. During my 16 years of practice, I have benefitted from and witnessed courtesy, grace, and unexpected advice and assistance from my colleagues on both sides of the “v.” Sure, there’s an occasional bad apple, but that’s the case in any profession, so why dwell on that one guy or lady?  Maybe this week, each of us should take the opportunity to brag to a non-lawyer about the outstanding work of another North Carolina attorney. Let’s start our own grassroots campaign for North Carolina lawyers, from the inside out. What great things have you witnessed lawyers doing for our community?  It’s time to spread the word.


Tara Muller is a NC appellate attorney and mediator based in Raleigh. She can be reached at




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