Medina County Courthouse

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Lawyers in Trial: Giving Voice to the Voiceless

This is one reason why I admire trial lawyers: they speak for those who can't speak for themselves. When a client has a case in front of a court, that client, no matter how bright or articulate, can't effectively speak for themselves. They are too caught up in the process, too close emotionally to the case, too concerned with the outcome. They need an advocate, a champion, someone to be their voice in the arena. That's where trial lawyers come in. That's their job. That's what they do. They are speaking for those who can't speak for themselves.

It is not an easy job. It is an awesome responsibility. On the one hand the trial attorney can't be too close to the client because that diminishes the trial attorney's effectiveness to the client. Often the trial lawyer's job is to point out to a client why a particular strategy in a courtroom will not work, and indeed, might be harmful to the client's case.

On the other hand, the trial attorney can't be so distant from the client that he or she no longer conveys passion about the cause. The jury has to know that the trial attorney believes in the client's cause, because if the trial attorney doesn't, then why should the jury?

This role of speaking for the voiceless applies no matter who the client is, or why they are in court. Our system is built around the premise that everyone is entitled to an advocate when they appear in a courtroom.

This means that "trial attorneys" are not attorneys who represent a particular group of people or a particular side in legal disputes. The term applies equally to attorneys who represent plaintiffs as it does to those who represent defendants, equally to prosecutors as to criminal defense attorneys.

What is sometimes distressing is to see trial lawyers take the position that what they do is noble, but what their opponents do is morally wrong. Such attitudes don't benefit the American system of justice. They make trial work, already full of stress, needlessly difficult. They don't encourage respect for our profession.

If you are litigating a case, take a moment and recognize that your opponent is also a trial lawyer, that he or she has the same job to do as you, and that both of you are carrying out one of the missions of our profession: making sure that the voiceless have a voice.

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