Being a Legal Dom: The Importance of Client Control

Welcome to the new and improved, but still the same, Lawyers & Liquor.  I’m the Boozy Barrister, here to provide some practice tips to the young and stupid among you, in particular any dipshit that went to law school with stars in their eyes and a song in their heart.

It’s all well and good to go into law school believing that people are all essentially good at heart and just need some help through a literal and metaphorical trial in their life. But that’s the sort of idealism that gets you shot in the goddamn ass, because it leads to you viewing clients as something more than billable sacks of flesh that you can hit with a stick to make money fly directly into the firm’s operating account, and that shit is a problem.

Why, you may say, is it so bad for an attorney to grow close to their clients, or at least so close that they recognize during the course of representation that every client may not be a worthless fuckhead who needs competent legal representation merely to wipe their own ass? Because part of the job of an attorney is to act as a leather-bound dominatrix, exerting control and twisting clients into accepting the situation as it exists and not as they fucking want it to exist.

That’s right, to a certain degree every lawyer is a kinky-ass, whip-wielding mistress just waiting to tell the client they’ve been a bad boy. And I’m not just talking about our hobbies in the off-hours. So if you want to be a successful attorney, you better squeeze your ass into some high heels and get ready to step on the nutsack of your client’s ambitions and goals to bring them to reality, because the effective representation of people all fucking comes down to client control.

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Who Drives The Bus, Part 2 – A Guide to Decision Making for Young Lawyers

On Monday we talked about the Supreme Court case of McCoy v. Louisiana, wherein an attorney decided that a perfectly reasonable trial strategy was to tell the jury that his client had definitely committed murder in an attempt to avoid the death penalty.  The lawyer did this without the permission of his client, and in fact did it explicitly against his client’s wishes.  The client wanted the attorney to present a defense that he didn’t kill anyone, despite the state’s overwhelming evidence, and it brought to the highest court in the land the question of “Who really controls the representation.”

So we’re back today with Part 2, talking about who really gets to careen the bus of bad decisions off the freeway in glorious slow motion: the lawyer or the layperson who hires them. So, because I’m not gonna waste a lot of time or space today on building shit up, let’s just jump straight into this discussion.

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Who Drives the Bus, Part 1: McCoy v. Louisiana

Let’s start with the commonly accepted preposition that our clients are, by and large, incapable of finding their backsides with both hands, a map, and a native guide. Whether the client be the sweet little old lady from down the street or the meth dealer who’s been the scourge of the Shady Acres Mobile Home Community for the last three weeks before he fell behind on his rent, clients are collectively idiots without a single clue as to what’s in their best interests. It isn’t even their fault, really. As a society they’re trained to second guess people by television shows that teach them nice, and ultimately meaningless, phrases like “post hoc ergo propter hoc” that they can parrot back at the nice man or woman in the suit in front of them and make demands.

We live, ladies and gentlemen, in the Golden Age of Dipshittery, where any asshole with access to Google and a cable subscription can fancy themselves a lawyer. All hail King Dipshit, as he wanders into the office and proceeds to immediately second-guess the attorney. And, of course, because we learn the law from folks whose names are preceded by words like “Professor,” we of course have the vitriolic reaction of any learned professional when T-Bone tells us he  totally thinks we should argue he was driving that ATV through the nunnery because aliens told him to: Sit down, shut up, I’m the goddamn lawyer.

And so, today and Wednesday, we’ll talk about the division of decision-making between an attorney and their client, i.e., who has control over what and when in an attorney-client relationship.

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“The Sky Is Falling” – The Difference Between Clients and Lawyers

Let’s go back to talking about something I absolutely love discussing today: Clients. Clients, in case you’ve managed to somehow forget, are the literal bane of my existence. They’re also the reason that I can afford to do things like eat food and sleep indoors. As such, clients and I have a love-hate relationship, in that I love taking their money but hate having to deal with the minutia of human existence.

However, today I’m not going to rip clients a new asshole. I want to, oh lord do I want to, but at some point I’ll have to acknowledge that clients are people too. Frustrating, infuriating people who you wish would just send in their goddamn invoice payments and leave you the hell alone to work through some shit in lawyer land, but people nonetheless. Until my proposed legislation reclassifying clients as big game, and therefore open for hunting once or twice a year, passes, we’re just going to have to accept that your clients, and likely most of my clients (the jury’s still out on this) are human beings.

As clients are, debatably, humans, they are also deserving of a bare minimum of understanding. Maybe, some schools of thought that I believe are absolutely incorrect would say, clients aren’t bad people. Maybe they’re good people having a bad time, and I should mention that. In the interests of fairness, though not agreement, today I’ll take about a few things every attorney, be they a bright-eyed asshole or a salty old veteran, likely needs to understand when dealing with their clients in any litigation matter:

How clients and lawyers view a legal matter vis a vis the importance of it is drastically fucking different.

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Representing the Reprehensible: Part 2 – Tips for Representing Nazis

So on Monday I spoke a little bit about why it’s important for lawyers to provide representation to people we may find completely devoid of morals.  The take away from that is even if the person is someone you’d be happy to see locked away in a basement subsisting on bread, water, and the occasional print-out from the Stormfront website, everyone deserves to have good legal representation and we don’t get to draw the line at only the people we like or those whose views we always agree with.  When we became lawyers, we became servants of justice, and sometimes justice, like your brother who lives in a basement subsisting on bread, water, and occasional printouts from the Stormfront website, has some really weird and detestable buddies you’d rather not associate with. Them’s the breaks, though, and we have to really accept it. While we have our personal morals and ethics, the idealized lawyer is professionally a true neutral.

I say “the idealized lawyer,” because at the end of the day we’re actually humans, not machines that just appear in court and “Beep Boop” our way through arguments, and we all have our limits. However, as I’ve talked about a couple times in the past, the limit is the lawyer’s issue, not the client’s issue, because it’s the point where our client is so amazingly, beyond the pale fucked up that we cannot represent them because we may subconsciously sabotage their otherwise meritorious claim.  But if we can swallow our bile just long enough to make the argument, there are some steps a decent lawyer needs to take in handling the Reprehensible client.

So…you know, let’s talk about that and lose me some readers.

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