Even Moments of Bad Lawyering Can Provide Value to A Young Lawyer

When I began my legal career I anticipated that all lawyers, or at least the ones with a license to practice, would be competent and professional.  Reality check – some lawyers toe the line of competency and professionalism quite well.  Yet, even those who push the line of bad lawyering have provided me with valuable insight.  For example:

(1)  If the court’s Bailiff tells you to have a seat and he or she will get the judge for you, then have a seat.  Ignoring the Bailiff and walking directly into the judge’s chambers will definitely make you unforgettable, and not in a good way.

(2)  Telling opposing counsel that you “must have forgot to put it on your calendar” is not a viable excuse for failing to appear at a final hearing, especially when you scheduled it with the court.

(3)  Don’t ask opposing counsel for information that is obviously contained in a pleading or answer – it just makes you appear incompetent.

(4)  A hearing is not a social gathering – exercise the appropriate courtroom behavior.  Interrupting opposing counsel during his or her direct by shouting their first name across the courtroom (as if you were at a bar), waving a document around in the air, taking said document to the judge (without asking to approach the bench), and saying in a sing-song voice that you would like to into enter it into evidence “too” is not appropriate courtroom behavior (not to mention fails to follow any rules of evidence).

(5)  Providing a proposed order a month or more after a hearing does not fulfill your promise to the court to provide it “immediately” and “right away.”

(6)  Never deny receiving a letter or any other important document when the return receipt shows your signature for the said items mailed to you.

(7)  Your reputation in the legal community will stay with you – forever.  The Dean of my law school said something similar on the first day of orientation.  It couldn’t be more true in practice.  If you have a reputation for being an unprepared lawyer, everyone will know, especially judges and their staff.

If anything, these moments of observing bad lawyering have reminded me of the oath I swore to uphold and the vital importance of upholding that oath.  For each instance of bad lawyering there are at least twice as many instances of good lawyering.  However, it’s the bad lawyering that people seem to remember most.  Thus it is incumbent upon young lawyers to uphold the integrity of our profession.  Find the humor and the lesson in each unfavorable moment but always conduct yourself in a manner honorable to yourself, your clients, and your profession.



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One Response to “Even Moments of Bad Lawyering Can Provide Value to A Young Lawyer”

  1. James 24. Jul, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    I read your article, and it does provide some truth; but what you fail to acknowledge is that bad lawyering is tampering with a human life. I made a stupid mistake when I was 17 years old, was tried as an adult at 18, and because of some bad lawyering, I can never get my charge expunged because I was never informed that there was that option. I’ve turned my life around completely. I was an alcoholic, stupid kid who was very selfish. Now, I am a Christ-follower who strives to be the best person he can; I haven’t drank in over a year and a half, and want to move on with my life, 7 years later. Too bad some bad lawyering says I couldn’t if I wanted to.

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