Ego, it seems, is a lawyer’s worst enemy. It haunts people who try cases. Inevitably it is the reason why there are trials in cases that should settle, why lawyers ask one question too many and why tempers flare and agreements are broken. It is, on the whole, a key ingredient to most errors of judgment.
We all tend to labor under a common misperception that we are the most important person in our client’s life. We are the noble gladiators, protecting the rights and interests of the badly injured and the wrongfully accused. We somehow convince ourselves that without us they could not go on.
Well, much like the premise of appellate courts that juries always understand and follow a judge’s charge or the contentions of some that trials really are a search for truth, these are fictions necessary perhaps to keep us afloat, but simply not true.
Well that bubble was burst for me recently on a walk back to the office from GA 6 with a partner’s DWI client for whom, with the skill acquired through years of experience, I had managed to obtain a continuance. It was a pleasant day; there was no rush; and as we ambled back toward my office I casually asked if he’d ever been to court before.
“Well, yes. About two years ago.”
“Really, what was that for?”
“Oh, First Degree Assault.”
“Wow. That’s a heavy charge. It has a mandatory five year minimum. How did you make out?”
“Oh, I won. The jury found me not guilty.”
“Not Guilty! Gee. That’s a great result. Who was your lawyer on that case?”
“You know. . . . . I really can’t remember who it was.”
Ah, yes. Ego. The only consolation, I guess, is that the lawyer whose handiwork had saved this guy’s tail did not know he’d been forgotten. He can continue to labor under the fiction that he remained the most important person in that client’s life.