No joke: Italy lawyers strike for better pay, job security

Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:23pm EDT
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By Philip Pullella and Cristiano Corvino

ROME (Reuters) - This is not a lawyers joke. Italian lawyers have gone on strike - again - and they say that in their struggle for better working conditions and pay they are looking for inspiration to none other than Mahatma Gandhi, the little lawyer who liberated India.

"Lawyers are going through difficult times," said Maurizio De Tilla, president of the United Lawyers Organization, as he led a protest of about 2,000 lawyers outside one of Rome's main court buildings.

"Out of 230,000 of us, more than 100,000 are in difficulty; we have insecure jobs and we are underpaid," he said, wearing a gold-tasseled, black-and-purple robe and a fluffy white cravat.

Around him, hundreds of other lawyers held up pastel-colored balloons bearing the words "The Constitution" on them.

While the idea of lawyers striking for job security and better pay might raise chuckles elsewhere, Italy's lawyers say they are deadly serious.

At the protest that at times resembled a children's garden party on a warm late winter day, lawyers stood their ground against what they call "savage" plans by Mario Monti's government to increase competition in their profession.

Lawyers' guilds say the reforms will only increase legal costs, undermine the protection of the weak, reduce expertise and unleash an uncontrolled market in fees.

"The reforms worsen the situation rather than improving it and that is absurd," said De Tilla, as a pink balloon floated behind his head.   Continued...

A lawyer holds a sign titled:" The justice is killed" during a protest in front of the Justice Palace in Rome March 15, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo