New Study Finds 40% of Attorneys Have Experienced Threats of Violence
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Summary: The threat of violence against attorneys is on the rise, a new study shows.

Any movie buff is probably familiar with the plot of Cape Fear. In both the 1962 and 1991 versions, a convicted rapist is released from prison after serving his sentence, and then he stalks the family of the lawyer who put him away. While the explosive thriller is a work of fiction, The Wassau Daily Herald said that a high percentage of lawyers actually are in danger from criminals, their clients, and numerous other threats.


“(Attorneys) don’t go to law school thinking they’re going to have threats, thinking someone is going to slash their tires,” said attorney Stephen Kelson of Christensen & Jensen. “But the reality is it occurs and a lot of people don’t talk about it.”

The discussion started to happen more openly in Wisconsin, however, after family attorney Sara Quirt Sann was gunned down at her law office on March 22. She was allegedly murdered by Nengmy Vang who was in a heated divorce battle with Quirt Sann’s client. Vang also killed two of his wife’s coworkers before sustaining injuries a shootout with police.

“We sometimes put our guard down because our clients are in need and we’re here to help,” Quirt Sann’s friend Kimberly Haas said.

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Haas is the executive director of a nonprofit law firm that provides legal services to underserved communities, and she told The Wausau Daily Herald that she too experienced violence from the angry significant other of a client.

Salt Lake City-based attorney Kelson has devoted a significant amount of time studying aggression against lawyers, and his findings are disturbing. Across 25 states, an average of 40% of attorneys said that they have been threatened or assaulted.  Lawyers have experienced threats that ranged from mean letters to actually having their offices and cars bombed.

Kelson said that family attorneys such as Quirt Sann are especially vulnerable to threats and violence because they handle divorce cases in which often times one partner is mentally unstable. The instability often stems from the high emotions brought upon by separation, and members of the parties are sometimes financially troubled or upset that they cannot see their children. These unstable partners often look for someone to blame and attorneys can become a target, according to Kelson.

Worrying about safety, some attorneys have taken drastic measures like keeping a loaded pistol in their desk.

“I’ve had my life threatened by partners of my clients,” attorney Allen Bailey told The Wausau Daily Herald. “I’ve had my life threatened by clients of mine who were criminal defendants.”

Kelson’s research found that the threats to federal judges are also on the rise. Based off of data from the U.S. Marshals Service, there were about 238 threats to federal judges a year from 1980 to 1993. The number exploded to 808 a year between the years 2001 to 2007.

Source: The Wausau Daily Herald 

Have you experienced threats of violence because of your job? Let us know in the comments below.


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