Azimuth Check: Lawyer or Lawyer*

July 28, 2014 § 5 Comments

It’s been a while. I know. Such is life when you are maintaining a practice whilst packing house and home and moving to a new place. At one point, I decided to abandon Unwashed Advocate. I do this once a year, mostly during summer months. This decision is celebrated by me. It sure feels good to tell your blawg to go to hell.Compass

Then, I return.

After writing brief after brief, appeal after appeal, it is nice to write something that contains your voice. Here, I don’t worry about using passive voice or botching citations. That’s nice.

So, what’ve I been thinking of this summer? Let’s check my direction and see…

Lawyer or Lawyer*

I love talking to other lawyers. I hate talking to other lawyers.

During one of those conversations where, while listening to the other lawyer drone on and on about what she thinks about the legal profession and other lawyers and how other women dress in court and contemplating my suicide plans if she doesn’t soon execute a Kopfian STFU…

Anyway…

She mentioned a particular legal case and remarked “I could never handle cases like that.”

“Huh?” I intelligently replied.

“I SAID I could never do cases like that.”

“Oh, so you’re an asterisk lawyer.”

“What did you just call me?” she retorted.

“I SAID you are an asterisk lawyer. You’re a lawyer, but only when the case or conflict supports and strokes your delicate sensibilities.”

“Are you saying…?”

“Yep,” I cut in, “deal with it. It’s just the type of lawyer you are.”

Knowing me, she got over it quickly, but it reminded me of something I’ve noticed for the last 10ish years.

There are a lot of asterisk lawyers out there.

First, a definition. An asterisk lawyer is a lawyer who is willing to zealously represent some. However, they are completely incapable of representing others.

Here are examples of lawyers*.

“I could never represent a man accused of sexual assault.”

“I could never represent big business.”

“I could never represent a terrorist.”

“I could never take a case representing the tobacco industry.”

“I could never prosecute…”

“I could never defend THOSE people…”

Do not confuse this with the following, which is not a lawyer*.

“I limit my practice to only scrotum husbandry cases.”

That last example is merely someone who limits their practice in order to be very good at one niche. That isn’t saying that they are flatly incapable of representing a particular side, client, or subject.

Lawyers* should be forthcoming about their limitations. Hence, the “*.” At the bottom of their bio, there should be the caveat that quantifies the *, like:

*Except men accused of sexual assault. They should all be emasculated once charges are filed.

*Except terrorists, who should be summarily executed.

*Except big businesses, who are just looking to screw the little guy. Having said that, I can’t wait to upgrade my iPhone and trade-up for the newest, loaded GM vehicle.

*Except the tobacco industry, because cigarettes kill, and that makes me sad and tearful.

Just as I don’t appreciate passionate lawyers, I similarly do not appreciate lawyers*.

A while ago, I started a case with a new co-counsel. They were relatively new to the legal profession but were generally enthusiastic about learning and perfecting the craft. The conversation started something like this:

“Eric, what part of the defense do you want me to work on?”

“None,” I replied.

“None?”

“I want you to focus on prosecuting the case,” I stated.

Confused, they confirmed “You want me to prosecute the case?”

“Yep, and I want you to be flawless.”

Through the ensuing conversation, I explained myself. I wanted them to determine the most dangerous, horrible, loathsome, and damning things that could be done to us by the opposition and play the role throughout our preparations. Without that, our case was just flapping around aimlessly. I concluded the conversation as follows:

“And, when you do it, I want you to love it.”

I love what I do. Really. However, I could prosecute. I could represent a big, nasty, unfeeling, odious corporation. I could represent a nonprofit, and I could represent a party seeking to destroy a nonprofit. I would take on a client who committed (allegedly, of course) horrible, loathsome acts that would shock the conscience of the average person.

Our job as lawyers is to advocate for a particular perspective as part of an adversarial system. We don’t have to accept the perspective of our client into our own hearts. In fact, it is probably best that we not accept it. We fight for the case we are given, not the case that matches our delicate sensibilities. A lawyer can represent any client in any matter under any conditions. That’s what we are trained to do.

That’s what I want to see in a lawyer. That’s what I want to hire. That’s what I want as a co-counsel.

Everyone else is just a lawyer*.

Dunkin Donuts in the Afternoon

A few habits really say something about a person. Here are two examples.

Example 1: A person who drinks bourbon in the morning.

Example 2: A person who eats donuts after 2PM.

Today, I received an email saying that I could get a sweet discount on donuts after 2PM. Therefore, I plan to be one of those mentioned in the second example.

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§ 5 Responses to Azimuth Check: Lawyer or Lawyer*

  • shg says:

    I am a lawyer*. I don’t represent child molesters or kiddie porn defendants. I tried, but found it too repulsive and that my visceral reaction got in the way of my detached perspective. I was more inclined to leap over my desk and strangle the piece of shit than defend him. That’s really not a good thing for a lawyer to do.

    So I choose not to represent such defendants, unless no one else will.

    • Eric says:

      Now see, you can represent them. You just prefer to hang near the back and not make eye contact when it is time for them to pick a lawyer. But, you may have earned half an asterisk.

      As for the particular subject matter you mentioned not liking, it is just a case. I’ve found my clients who were alleged to have committed those acts to be mentally ill in some form or fashion. Many aspects of the representation were unsavory, but I just had to keep everything in perspective and within proper bounds in my own head.

      On a separate note, those same types of clients don’t really have to worry about getting a lawyer who is passionate about defending them. Though, I’m waiting for someone to jump up and proudly proclaim on their website, “I’m passionate about defending ________ _________!”

      • shg says:

        As I sit across the desk, and they explain what happened, I feel the need to vomit. I can’t explain why murders don’t do that to me, or selling narcotics to children, but they don’t. When a man explains how he couldn’t resist his urge to have sex with his 3 year old niece, how she enticed him, how she wanted it, my detachment and objectivity fails me.

        I am not proud of my inability to rise above my repulsion, but the fact remains that I would rather strangle the bastard than defend him. And so, I have earned my asterisk.

      • Eric says:

        They do reflect a unique sector of criminal-defense practice. I’ve known of lawyers who tried to do it, but found it to be excruciatingly difficult. They ultimately tried a good case, but it gave them more than a few grey hairs.

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