Jun 27, 2016 The lawyer is there for the client to lean on, not vice versa
If a person wants to see people stripped of their happy-face/can-do armor and stiff upper lip, practice criminal defense. If my criminal defense client was not already in a personal mess of sorts that led to his or her arrest (remembering that innocent people get arrested, too), plenty of them go into emotional tailspins after being arrested, often feeling they cannot reveal their inner turmoil to friends or family, while revealing it to their lawyer.
For me to serve my client well, I want my client being his or her true self, not candy-coating (and certainly not prevaricating about) the case, the evidence, nor his or her feelings about the case. That does not mean that I will place myself in the role of a psychological professional, which requires its own skill set and emotional peaks and valleys. I am here to fully engage with my client and his or her case on the road to obtaining as much victory as possible.
I am there for my client to lean on, but I cannot look to my client to lean on when the judge in the case urinates on the Bill of Rights, the prosecutor acts like a tyrant who has no business being paid from my tax dollars, or the opposing witness tries to listen in on my confidential courthouse conversation with my client (and I consistently take the needed steps to avoid eavesdropping). We look to our doctors to be competent and not to lean on us, and clients look to their criminal defense lawyers for the same.
Where is a criminal defense lawyer to lean when multiple buckets of sh*t seem to hit multiple fans? That is the wrong question. Criminal defense is not a profession for those needing to lean on others. Certainly, nobody should bottle their frustrations inside to the point of explosion, nor should they turn to pill bottles nor alcohol bottles for comfort nor escape. By the same token, a criminal defense lawyer will be all the more successful by approaching his or her work like Kurosawa’s masterless Yojimbo, answering only to his personal sense of justice.
That is not to say that criminal defense lawyers should beat up on themselves for not always feeling coolheaded about their work, so long as they do not lose their cool. In that regard, an optometrist had a good time a few years ago asking me where the tough-guy criminal defense lawyer was as I audibly smarted from the anesthetic eyedrops given before a glaucoma test; those drops are more irritating than a prune sundae with a sour pickle on top.
Everyone is dealing with their own sh*t, including my closest confident colleagues. On the spot, I am it for my clients. I can always talk later on after hours with my colleagues about any misdeeds by the judge, prosecutor or opposing witnesses, and give them mutual support. In court, though, it is showtime.