Ego is a lawyer’s worst enemy. 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 the misperception that we are the most important person in our client’s life. Only we, the noble gladiators, can protect the rights and interests of the badly injured and the wrongfully accused. And for this our clients are extremely grateful and appreciative. We 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 contention that trials really are a search for truth, this belief is a fiction, necessary perhaps to keep us afloat, but simply not true.
That bubble was burst for me (again) 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. I don’t know his name.”
Ah, yes. Ego. Somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; the band is playing somewhere; and somewhere hearts are light. And somewhere in this jurisdiction there is a lawyer laboring under the mistaken belief that his ever-grateful former client begins each day genuflecting to his memory, waiting only for the day he can refer to his savior a monster case that will remove his tuition nightmares forever. Dream on.