There’s an old myth about the practice of law. The gist of it is that nice lawyers aren’t good lawyers and good lawyers aren’t nice lawyers. Somewhere along the way, people started to believe that antagonism and deception were key ingredients to successful lawyering.
We’ve all seen the TV shows – the sly lawyer wiggles his client free of responsibility through shady legal maneuvering; that a little intimidation (or worse) is just part of the process – a “necessary evil” for the lawyer who wants to be the best.
Real life works a little differently.
Sure, there are lawyers who use intimidation as a tool of the trade (typically the veteran attempting to take advantage of the rookie), and there are even lawyers who rely on tricks, traps, jabs, and (non-physical) personal attacks in their practice.
Fortunately, however, judges and juries are people… overwhelmingly good, decent people. And if there’s anything good, decent people dislike, it’s the type of behavior that’s incorrectly stereotyped as “good lawyering”.
The reality is that good people make the very best lawyers. Assuming equal preparation, a lawyer who cares for his client and fights with passion, competence, dignity and respect will almost always prevail over the slickster that society stereotypes as the “effective” lawyer. Although this claim may at first seem strange, think of your own life experiences: who do you trust, who do you choose to give your business to, who do you want to help? Kindness, respect and sincerity, in law as in life, are winning attributes. Though they don’t make for as much entertainment on the TV screen, they are the real foundations of a successful legal career. In my experience, persuasive strategy is best partnered with sincerity. Coupled with painstaking preparation and a thoughtful strategy to best serve his client, the nice lawyer isn’t just the good lawyer – he’s the best lawyer.