Be Mine. Be Aggressive.

I’m not a fan of Twitter, but I look occasionally out of morbid curiosity. Occasionally, true gems are posted (in 140 characters or less). Here’s one that deserves its own sign:

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Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I think highly of the Fishtown Lawyers. They seem to have a lot of fun as a sort of Philly Laurel and Hardy. Jordan tends to be the more mischievous of the two, and Leo acts as comic foil while interspersing pearls of hard-earned wisdom. They also practice law the right way, knowing that clients come first. Personal comforts come a distant, distant second.

Anywho. I love what Leo said in 140 characters or less. I wish more potential clients understood it. Clients who are focused on obtaining the services of an “aggressive” lawyer present us with a no-win scenario. How is it no-win? Consider a few possible legal courses of action and how a demand for aggressiveness causes them all to fail, even if the legal outcome is positive.

Note: I’m putting this in terms of criminal representation, but you could easily change a few words to make it apply to any flavor of adversarial practice of law.

Course of Action 1: The Amicable Negotiation

Lawyer: Hey, Biff, I talked to the prosecutor, and he’s willing to settle your case for X. This is great because most cases like yours result in X+Y. I think he was feeling pretty good when I talked to him at the local bar golf tournament, and I caught him in his happy place. Otherwise, I think you’d be looking at 2 or 3 times this result, since they had you on video, you gave a written confession, and it was witnessed by 40 sober people during daylight. I know from my 20 years of experience that you’d probably get a lot more from a judge or jury.

Biff: What the hell, dude? You played golf with the guy? I want you to kick his ass and make the prosecutor suffer. You’re supposed to fight for me. I thought you were AG-RES-SIVE?! I want to fight this thing the whole way. You suck.

Course of Action 2: Your Standard, Ho-Hum Ethical Practice

Biff: Hey, Lawyer, thanks for sending me a copy of this motion you filed with the court. I looked through it and saw that you didn’t make any mention of the fact that the police officer who questioned me served detention in high school back in 1999 for not bringing a calculator to his Algebra 2 class. Remember, I told you that my mom, who is a secretary at the school, looked up his disciplinary records and found it. I gave copies to you. Remember?

Lawyer: I understand, but that really doesn’t help, and I think we’ll win based on—

Biff: He’s an asshole! I thought you were going to show this and destroy him. I thought you were AG-RES-SIVE!?

Lawyer: I know, but I think we’ll lose credibility with the judge. I think we can use his conduct on the day of your arrest to show that you did not voluntarily gi—

Biff: Also, I see at the end of the motion that you provided the prosecutors with a copy of the motion on the day you gave it to the judge.

Lawyer: Yes, I did.

Biff: Why are you sharing it with them? I thought we were supposed to have confidentiality. I thought you were going to be aggressive and protect me from them!

Lawyer: Well, I’m required to—

Biff: I’m your client!

Lawyer: Yes, but the judge will—

Biff: I don’t care what the judge will do. I want you to be AG-RES-SIVE! Fight for me!

Lawyer: …

Course of Action 3: Aggressive

Lawyer: OK, here’s what I did. First, I filed this motion by throwing it in the court clerk’s face. After all, that old bag works about 50 feet from the prosecutor’s office, so you know they’re part of the conspiracy against you. Then, I went into the prosecutor’s office and told them that, if they wanted a copy of the motion, they’d have to go get one from the court clerk. When they left to retrieve the motion, I grabbed your case file from their desk, found their work-product notes, and took pictures of them with my cell phone. Then, I took a copy of the motion, put it in a paper bag. I pooped in the bag, went to the judge’s house, lit the bag on fire, and placed it on his front step. Then, I hid in the bushes. The judge walked out and stomped on the bag, causing poop to splatter. Then, I ran out of the bushes, pointed at him, and said “You just stepped in my poop! Ha! Ha!” They all hate us, and I’ll probably end-up in jail. Plus, they’ll never negotiate or cut us any slack, and I’m sure they’ll ask for a higher sentence in the end. However, I really showed them that we aren’t going to take any of their crap. I totally own them.

Biff: That sounds nice, but I wanted you to be a bit more aggressive.