No Easy Cases. Please.

A guy contacted me recently looking for representation on a state-court felony matter. “It’s a really easy case,” he said, “which any moron could win.”*

Here are the four possible conditions when a potential new client says “it’s a really easy case”:

Case is difficult. Case is easy.
PNC believes case is easy. A B
PNC believes case is difficult. C D

The worst-case scenario, if the lawyer takes the case, is (A), in which the client thinks the job is easy, but it isn’t. If there is a favorable result, it’s not because the lawyer did a good job, but because the case was easy. If the result is bad, though, it’s entirely the lawyer’s fault (how could you screw up such an easy case?).

Scenario (B) is better, but only because the chances of an unfavorable result are smaller. Like (A), scenario (B) will result in the lawyer wasting her time for an ungrateful client doing a job that someone of lesser ability could do just as well.

Scenarios (A) and (B) are equally likely: a potential client’s evaluation of his own case is wrong as often as it is right.

Scenario (D) is the best-case scenario—the client thinks the case is difficult, but it turns out to be easy. In scenarios (C) and (D),  though, the PNC is lying to the lawyer, claiming that the case is easy when he doesn’t believe it. This is a troubling beginning to any lawyer-client relationship.

That’s why, when I’m presented with a case that any moron could win, I prefer to let some other moron do so.

*I may be paraphrasing. A little.

2 responses to “No Easy Cases. Please.”

  1. The typical corollary is:

    Difficult defence case – easy prosecution case.

    Difficult prosecution case – then perhaps a defence case, which is easier to defend – not easy as such – just one in which fun might be had and embarrassment caused.

    But ultimately many judges – who are, after all, civil servants – see their purpose as being about putting bad guys away – not to bring a lawyer’s scrutiny to the proceedings.

    So, even an objectively ‘easy’ case, may still meet with some judicial hostility – since your client will be assumed to be factually guilty.

    Indeed, if the case were so easy, why are the prosecution wasting their time? Why so bloody-minded as to press on – in defiance of all logic?

    Certainly, they may not always know their case yet – but, then again, I suspect that they’re more likely to have factored judicial bias into the equation.

    Because they assume (rightly) that cynical modern juries – fed on media-induced crime paranoia – will be disinclined to acquit.

    If the trial judge is not yet known, assumptions can never be made.

    So, again, B can never really exist because there can be no predetermined outcomes.

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