Ego


A Harris County prosecutor today (perennially gruff but a marshmallow on the inside) took umbrage at my public statements that until very recently I hadn’t seen a Harris County prosecutor conduct a voir dire that was worth a damn. I invited him to tell me when he was picking a jury, and I’d come watch (then, of course, I’d blog it; I thought that went without saying).

He told me that he prayed to God that he would get a chance to try a case against me.

I’m flattered to be the object of his prayers, especially since I presume him to have much more important things (like a woman who likes perennially gruff marshmallows; or a job come January) that require his devout attention. And I welcome the attention.

In an even match (with facts that could go easily go either way) on a fair field (with an unbiased judge), the advocate is going to win who makes the fewest mistakes and best exploits his adversary’s mistakes.

But the facts what they are, and usually they’re not on the defense’s side. And the Harris County bench is the Harris County bench . . . well, anyway, there aren’t many even matches. The effect of this imbalance is that the State has the initiative, so that it’s more important for the State to make fewer mistakes, and it’s more important for the defense to recognize and exploit the State’s mistakes.

Any time a lawyer goes into court angry, he’s handicapping himself. People make mistakes when they are angry. Or, as Paladin said, “Never draw in anger. It slows the hand.”

Trial lawyers have notoriously big egos. This is true of both sides of the bar; I’m not picking on The Gruff Marshmallow (I don’t know him that well) or even on prosecutors. But ego gets in the way of effective advocacy.

A lawyer cannot serve two masters (client and ego) at the same time. Any time a lawyer goes into court trying to prove to the world that he’s better than the other lawyer, he’s handicapping himself. Any time a lawyer goes into court trying to prove that he’s worthy of his daddy’s love, he’s handicapping himself. Any time a lawyer goes into court trying to prove anything but his case, he’s making it more difficult to prove his case.

Some I know (again, on both sides) define themselves by their track records in court. This is pathetic. There is more to life than trying lawsuits. Nobody (with the possible exception of other lawyers who similarly define themselves) thinks that the defense lawyer’s last not guilty or the prosecutor’s last life sentence makes the lawyer a better human being.

The defense lawyer’s ego might help him get more clients (some people seem to prefer a defense lawyer with a one-track mind), but it won’t help him win more of their cases.

The prosecutor’s ego might drive him to try a case against me; if it’s a whale, he might even win. But the ego will not help him win. And it sure won’t help him find that gruff-marshmallow-lovin’ woman.

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0 responses to “Ego”

  1. The problem is that people get so wrapped up in being egoic that they don’t realize they’re being egoic.

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