How to be a Good Lawyer

Professor Morton is a prof of mine, a down-to-earth, approachable professor and I think it’s impossible not to agree with his article: The duty to represent even the unpleasant client”

I’d just like to add that perhaps he’s directing his article towards those “reputable,” established, and well-known lawyers as equally as towards new lawyers.

Yes, everyone is entitled to fair justice, should receive representation, as Professor Morton cited,
“It not infrequently happens that the unpleasant, the unreasonable, the disreputable and those who have apparently hopeless cases turn out after a full hearing to be in the right.”

However, even when you have two potential litigation clients, one with a valid claim, the other trivial, and both able to satisfy a lawyer’s financial retainer requirements, a new lawyer trying to make it out on his own – who has experience – but wants to make a name for himself compared to a “reputable lawyer” will have a different mindset when approached by the potential client, no?

Obviously, both would like to win their client’s case and ensure justice is served, but would a new lawyer trying to make it out on his own want to spend as much time on a “Sure winner” than a “marginal” case? Would a reputable lawyer be able to “afford” more time on a marginal case?

Yes, I agree everyone has to start somewhere, and at the same time not bring the profession of law into disrepute. But when a new lawyer on his or her own has school loans/debts to repay and is attempting to establish a reputation I think ultimately the altruistic representation of a client by a lawyer will suffer, maybe a little, or maybe not.

The US has a population of 300 million, with a number of lawyers that represent that population. This dwarfs the representation of the 33 million Canadians by the number of lawyers that the 25 or so law schools in Canada spit out. As a Canadian in a US law school, the competition in US law schools is furious, in addition to competition amongst established lawyers for the “almighty dollar” is just as if not more fierce. Maybe that’s what helps form this view.

Maybe the “ambulance chasers” or for those who just want to establish themselves (choosing or devoting more time towards sure-winners than marginal cases), may not be as prevalent in Canada as I think I see in the US.

In the end, as lawyer’s we’re supposed to stick up for society, represent society, not cheat society. I agree with Professor Morton, but everything is susceptible to nuances.  Perhaps I am stating the obvious and being a realist, but yes, ideally lawyers shouldn’t put the “almighty dollar” to the forefront, because it’s much more difficult to curb such practices than you think – Justice Archibald.

9 Comments on "How to be a Good Lawyer"

  1. In the adversarial system, it’s absolutely essential that every party has adequate representation.

    Morton’s position is not substantially different from another famous defence attorney, Eddie Greenspan. You can see a talk that Greenspan gave at UWO here.

    Omar Ha-Redeye (L) and Edward Greenspan (R)

    We don’t have the same perception of personal injury lawyers in Canada largely due to the Andrews Cap. But even that public perception is slightly flawed, because the public doesn’t fully understand the role the courts play in deterrence for future issues of public negligence.

    Those suffering injuries due to negligence require counsel, and those lawyers representing them should not be seen as anything sub-standard or distasteful.

    The reality is that access to justice is one of the most pressing and compelling issues we face in our system today. Law students play a role through clinics, but law firms with substantial resources really do need to do more.

  2. That’s a sweet photo, Omar. Best regards to the photographer.

  3. Perhaps the only thing more self-aggrandizing that posting a picture of oneself with an internationally famous attorney would be sending oneself “best regards” for taking said picture.

    Think we’re in “ambulance chaser” territory yet?

  4. Prof Morton argues that lawyers have a duty to represent every client, even those who are unpleasant, as every person is entitled to justice. It is hard to find anything to say against that.

    However, I can’t say I completely agree with what is being argued in the article. My first reaction is that lawyers are the providers of a service, and as such, should have the freedom to chose who they want to do business with.

    On the other hand, the right to justice is one of the most fundamental rights, and everyone should have access to a lawyer to defend these rights. It is very easy to make a parallel between lawyer and doctors, and the natural question to ask is “Should a doctor be allowed to pick and choose his patients, then?” Let’s leave this topic for a potential later post, as it is not an easy comparison to make, and besides, it’s not particularly relevant for our present purpose.

    I think the main problem I have with this is not only with this idea of having a duty to represent someone, but also with the way the problem has been presented.

    First off, this idea of duty seems rather strange to me. I understand that a lawyer might have a duty to defend the best interests of his clients, and do so to the best of his abilities. However, I can’t really agree with having a duty to take a case just because someone wants you to. I don’t think that just because you agree to meet with someone to discuss their case makes makes you obligated to defend them. In short, I don’t want to be stuck with such a duty just because someone comes for a consultation.

    Then, there’s a problem with the way the situation is being presented. See, there are 2 clients: the good one, and the bad one. The Good Client, Good Case, vs the Bad Client, Bad Case. What about the 2 middle ones? What about the Good Client, Bad Case, and the Bad Client, Good Case? Certainly, the goodness of a case is independent from the pleasantness of the client.

    However, from the way the question is asked, there is no distinction between a bad client, and a bad case. Such a confusion does little to help solve the ethical problem at hand.

    If a client has a bad case, the normal reaction of any lawyer would be to advise him/her against going to court. This has nothing to do with how likeable the client is. But what if the client insists? The above article seems to say that lawyers (at least in Ontario), due to their oath to “neglect no one’s interest and […] faithfully serve and diligently represent the best interests of [their] client,” have a duty to launch a lawsuit and go to court should the client so demand.

    I beg to differ. I think that “faithfully serve and diligently represent the best interest of the client” does not equal going to court whenever the client wants to. Indeed, if, as a lawyer, I consider going to court to be against the best interests of the client, either due to the high costs involved, or to any number of valid reasons, then it seems to me that it would be against professional ethics to launch the lawsuit. If I know that a case seems desperate, and that the client is likely to invest a huge amount of time, effort, and money into a lawsuit that s/he will very likely not win, then I would certainly think that it is not in my client’s best interest to pursue the matter. If I pledge to serve my client’s “best interests”, then I don’t see how I would have a duty to sue whenever the client asks me to.

    This is certainly what happens when a client arrives with a bad case, be it a pleasant client, or an unpleasant one. Correlating bad client and bad case is just oversimplifying the issue. At worst, it is intellectually dishonest, because you then don’t separate the consequences of having a bad case, with those of being an unpleasant client, and act as though lawyers who refuse bad cases do so because the clients are unpleasant.

  5. This post will explain the differences between a lawyer and a doctor (in addition to JC’s post.

    When JC said, “Should a doctor be allowed to pick and choose his patients, then?”. A lawyer could not be similar to a doctor, since a lawyer may choose who he/she wishes to fight its cases on. When a victim of crime meets with a lawyer and explains he/shes case, the lawyer right than has a choice, in saying he/she is right and his justice when against law. A lawyer even has a choice, by saying i believe he/shes client is injustice to law, and still may fight a case going with the client, saying he/she is serving justice to law. This makes the case gradually harder, so basically lawyers have an opportunity to choose clients.
    When it comes to a doctor and his patients having to be able to make a choice is almost impossible. For example if a patient is rushed to a doctor with an hearth attack the doctor practicality has no choice but to operate and treat the patient. To when comparing a lawyer with a doctor is mentally and psychically impossible. Since lawyers deal with cases that include the law, when doctors on the other hand save life’s, and have no choice on whose to save or kill.
    I hope this post did not offend anyone in any ways, thank you for your time.
    By Hassan.

  6. Chen Narin | July 30, 2010 at 5:42 am |

    the recommandation how to be a good lawyer

  7. hehe,That’s a sweet photo, Omar. Best regards to the photographer.i like it very much.

  8. Baston woodland haggai | May 9, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    “should doctors choose their patients..then?”on the contrary lawyers should not choose their clients since every client like any other person out there has a right to justice and to be judicially served.If lawyers were to choose clients then the “bad clients” would never be served and like i said earlier that every person has a constitutional right to access justice meaning that they would have been denied that right.In a nutshell lawyers should not choose their clients regardless of race,nationality, and maybe gender.

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