Why Not?

Skelly writes:

When, after saving your client many months of freedom, your [juvenile] client’s parent tells you, “I don’t think you did a very good job representing my son,” you do not get to reply, “I don’t think you did a very good job raising him.”

In the comments, “Vinnie” asked, “Why not?”; I have to echo the sentiment.

I once was told by a client’s sister, “you ruined my brother’s life” — I had mitigated his punishment in a federal drug case in which he was moving cocaine up the eastern seaboard, but in her mind it was my fault that he was going to prison at all.

We don’t make the facts. The truth is that the vast majority of our clients are our clients because they mismanaged their lives in some identifiable way. They may not have done anything wrong or illegal, but they got into circumstances in which the government had an opportunity to torment them. Criminal charges rarely come as a bolt out of the blue, and the criminal-defense lawyer is almost never responsible for the circumstances that brought on the charges. Our job is to try to undo the damage that the clients, their genes, and their parents have wrought in their own lives.

The retort that Skelly was tempted to make to his client’s father wouldn’t have been a nice thing to say (I try to live by Thumper’s mother’s admonition, and I suspect that Skelly does a better job of doing so than I), but it would have been fair enough.

0 responses to “Why Not?”

  1. Nuts. I just read Skelly’s post a few minutes ago and was about to write, and then I see that you beat me to it. Not only was it very funny, but I’m with you. Why not?

    If there’s anything we can offer a client beyond representation, it’s a dose of reality. When no one else will tell them the truth, we can. It’s not to be gratuitously cruel, but rather to be the voice of honesty that’s never been heard. Good manners prevent most people from telling someone else that they’ve screwed up. Since our clients usually become our clients for this very reason, it opens the door for us to try to leave them with something of lasting value.

  2. Had a city of Highland Park (think River Oaks) juvenile charged with a city of Dallas curfew violation. Outraged, because “Highland Park doesn’t need teen curfews” Sorry, Thumper’s Momma, I had to reply: “Stay in the bubble then.”

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