Monday, April 18, 2011

Feel Like a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Thank You Tennessee Williams)

It is hard sometimes to have a job where you have little idea of what the future will hold. I don't know how my client's cases are going to turn out. My goal is to provide comfort and closure, hopefully with a sense of satisfaction and purpose. I want my clients to look back at their case and feel that going through the process was worthwhile. I hope they get justice.

When I started as a lawyer, I was idealistic and thought that most people get justice in the end. I am not so sure of at now. I hope that most people get justice, but I feel increasing pressure to fight injustice. Sometimes, when I hear about or encounter greed, bigotry or pride, it seems as though the battles become interminable and insurmountable. I fight, figuratively, all the time. I wonder if I am up to the task against lawyers and corporations with unlimited resources and I grow weary.

Plus, I usually cannot predict the outcome of a case. I do not know how a trial will pan out, under he best of circumstances. I take contingent fee cases, since my clients are not big corporations and cannot afford to pay hourly billing. In some ways, I am a professional gambler, providing little income assurance to my family and dependents.

Sometimes, I question why I have chosen such a hard job. But, deep down I know why. Our cases can, and oftentimes do, make a difference. At the very least, we may be able to bring back the happy smiles our clients freely gave before the mistreatment. We can bring back our client's faith in the justice system and restore their hopes. Sometimes we make an even greater difference, like helping to bring down an arrogant and ineffective mayor. Sometimes the job is glorious, with adrenalin highs and sound sleep. More often, I am fearful of what might happen if I miss some fact, misread some juror, or simply do not successfully related to my client and the jurors. And then there is e frustration of the length of fighting these fights, sometimes taking 7 to 10 years. Oftentimes, after these extended wars, the resolution is sweet, but not before some of our clients have been forced to file for bankruptcy.

Obviously, the outcome of cases is constantly changing, as is the rule of law. Being a trial lawyers burns out many a fine lawyer. The stress of fighting with unknown consequences, putting your client's well-being and your own livelihood on the line creates fear. For most lawyers, the risk-taking behavior necessary to be a trial lawyer takes too much of a toll on an advocate.

I went with the son to see the movie, "The Conspirator," about Mary Sarrat and her trial as a confederate conspirator for the plot to shoot Lincoln and the vice-president and secretary of state. The case was tried by a military tribunal to deprive those accused of the full spectrum of their rights under the law. I felt that old burn that comes when in a trial where I feel the judge's rulings are wrong or I cannot relate to the jury. Sometimes I tire so of the fight.

I am getting ready for trial now and frustrated on several other cases. I know I should just take one day at a time and be spontaneous. Just one time when my client, who is courageously depending on me asks what I think will happen, I wish I could tell him or her what to expect and just let it go. I can't because i don't know. This job is a weird way to spend my life. Sometimes, I feel like a cat on a hot tin roof, and when that happens the best thing to do is just breath.

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