Untitled 4

Blakely at Judgment Day says that the legal profession can be a dangerous one:

While many attorneys—especially those practicing criminal defense—have received threats from clients, more often than not it’s just empty talk. I think many attorneys become numb to threatening phone messages and letters, primarily because everything has worked out fine in the past. Two stories over the last week, however, remind us to take these situations seriously.

I disagree with the “especially those practicing criminal defense” part. As criminal-defense lawyer, we deal with (often) bad people on their best behavior; family lawyers, by contrast, deal with good people on their worst behavior. I’d bet that family lawyers and personal injury lawyers get more threats from their clients (and from opposing parties) than criminal-defense lawyers. What do you say?

0 responses to “Untitled 4”

  1. I agree. Really, the only clients who have threatened me have been the crazy ones. One was blowing off steam so he could behave in court. The other was just a master manipulator who liked to talk about body bags, but had no power or real intent. He was in ADMAX.
    Now I have been threatened with reporting me to the bar, but that was because they were blaming me for decisions the judge made or changes in the law from the supremes. I was not scared.

  2. Family law clients are good people on their worst behavior. Criminal clients are bad people on their best behavior. CPS clients (half my practice) are therefore bad people on their worst behavior.

  3. I’m with Mark on this one. All the courthouse/lawyer shootings I’ve heard about in the last 20 years — even the Tarrant Co. shooting (by George Lott, a lawyer himself and UT alum, now executed) that wounded a judge and killed a popular ADA — had their roots in some family law dispute. I’ve always heard it’s a dangerous area to practice.

    Usually by the time they get to criminal court, defendants have so many other people to be mad at, their lawyer (and even the prosecutors) are fairly safe. Grievance? Sure. Contract? Probably not.

  4. I definitely think I’ve heard of more court related violence out of the family/civil context. I think the important thing is to stick to what has been my philosophy over the years: “Don’t mess with crazy people.” I will often advise a client to avoid overly antagonizing the other side if I think they’re on the crazy side.

  5. No doubt in my mind that Family law is a more dangerous area of law. The emotions run so high that rational thought rarely enters the equation. I was in Tyler when a man opened up on the courthouse with an AK-47 type weapon and killed 2 and shot several others. His ex-wife was killed and his son was shot. The three were at court for a child support matter.

    Criminal law clients are not just limited to the scope of bad people on their best behavior. Some clients are great people who made a mistake. Some clients are future great people who made a youthful indiscretion. Some clients are good people who allowed substance abuse to cloud their judgment and/or actions.

    Then, there all always the falsely accused. Can “bad people” be falsely accused?

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