Lawyers Doing Nothing


“Mark, I have a lawyer, and she’s not doing anything for me. I need a new lawyer.”

Sometimes the stuff that we lawyers are doing is not immediately apparent to our clients or, for that matter, to anyone. Lots of the work to be done on a criminal case — legal research, fact investigation, negotiation — is subtle, and doesn’t make much noise.

The job that a criminal-defense lawyer is doing generally can’t be judged based on the amount of noise she’s making doing it. A lawyer who isn’t making any noise may be thinking up a way to beat a case. Usually a successful defense is a matter of knowing where to tap. Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing not only where to tap, but also when.

Someone once said (Thich Nhat Hanh wrote it in Being Peace; I’ve seen it attributed to others as well) “Don’t just do something; sit there.” In the defense of criminal cases, where a misstep can cost someone her freedom, “just sit there” is invariably the best course of action . . . until it is time to do something.

(The art, of course, lies in knowing when it is time to sit and when it is time to do.)

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