Honor Among Lawyers…

From Simple Justice this morning, Scott Greenfield has a great post about the old days of practicing criminal law, when there was some semblance of integrity among lawyers – and among prosecutors. This reminds me of a lawyer I am dealing with right now in an unnamed city in southern West Virginia, who would cut your throat in a second if he thought it would help his case one iota. There is something inherently sleazy about an opposing counsel who’s word you can’t trust. I was always taught that as a lawyer, your integrity and credibility is all you have and is never worth violating – no matter how much you want your client to win – and I believe that. I also believe that what comes around goes around, and that you reap what you sow – or rather your client will reap what you sow. If you sow lies and sleaziness, your client will end up suffering for it (though many times birds of a feather stick together – and the client probably deserves it).

However, this is not the first sleazeball lawyer that I have encountered. A little over a year ago my newborn son was admitted to the hospital with an uncommonly high fever, so my wife and I were resolved to stay with him the entire time he was there. Only one attorney gave me a problem about continuing all of my scheduled court dates. He was out of Raleigh County, West Virginia, and it was a particularly nasty civil litigation matter. He refused to agree to a continuance, just out of meanness. His client was mean too (as I said, birds of a feather…). Fortunately, the judge didn’t have any problem continuing the hearing on my unilateral request.

Just remember, there are good and honest lawyers out there, and it is my belief that they will better serve clients and will be more successful in the long run. And then there are mean, sleazy, and downright evil lawyers out there, who will engage in “rambo” tactics and lies to try and intimidate and steal victory. But mark my words that it’s a universal truth that good will always win in the long run – even if it does not appear that way.

Truth has an inherent advantage in the courtroom. If a lawyer cannot be honest, he (or she) cannot be sincere and honest to the jury. You have to believe what you are saying to ultimately persuade a jury – you can’t just try and trick them. You have to show genuine emotion. In order to do that, you have to give a damn about what you are saying. Jurors, despite what people say about them, pick up on these things, and will 9 times out of 10 will pick up on honesty, sincerity, and goodness. They also pick up on sleaziness and lying.

What happened in the case of the sleazeball lawyer from Raleigh County? His client lost, my client won – i.e., his client had to take out his check book and write my client a fairly large check.

Of course, this is all one man’s opinion and you can be sure there are those out there who will disagree with everything I have said.

– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

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