By John G. Browning
We usually don’t consider the practice of law to be a dangerous profession, nestled as we normally are behind desks. But as the articles in the upcoming September issue of the Texas Bar Journal illustrate, violence has a very real impact on the legal profession—from the legal implications of and reactions to mass shootings to the risks faced by attorneys working in areas like family law and criminal law. And the danger is national in scope, as explored by Mark Hansen in his 1998 ABA Journal article, “Lawyers in Harm’s Way.” Hansen’s survey of family lawyers found that 60 percent of the respondents had been threatened by an opposing party, 17 percent had been threatened by their own client, and 12 percent reported being the victims of violence at the hands of an opposing party or client.
Since 2001, Utah attorney Stephen D. Kelson has closely studied the issue of violence against lawyers in multiple states. His 2006 survey of Utah lawyers revealed that 46 percent of the respondents reported being threatened or physically assaulted at least once, with 42 percent of the incidents occurring at the lawyer’s office. Reports from other states point to similar levels of threats or violent acts committed against lawyers, including Idaho (41 percent), Nevada (40 percent), Wyoming (46 percent), Oregon (37 percent), New Mexico (40 percent), Kansas (41 percent), and Arizona (42 percent).