Trial Lawyers: “Speak Softly and Carry A Big Stick”

I litigated a motions hearing yesterday against a former colleague from the DA’s Office in Eagle. The judge granted our motion to suppress because the officer lacked reasonable suspicion for the DUI stop. The DA had to dismiss the case. It was a great result. My client was ecstatic. Developing a strong relationship with a client and coming through for them in a time of need is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the legal profession.

Everyone hates to lose. Trial lawyers are especially competitive. I knew it burned the prosecuting attorney and arresting officer that the case was dismissed. Nevertheless, we all chatted about things after we walked out of the courtroom. The officer came up, shook my hand, and said, “Good job. That’s the first time I’ve lost in 12 years.” The prosecutor was similarly magnanimous. We hung around after the officer left and talked about the evidence introduced and arguments made. We are professionals. We advocate on behalf of our respective client(s) and then grab a beer or coffee afterwards to rehash what worked and what didn’t.

Unfortunately, not all trial lawyers agree. The problem is worse in civil litigation than criminal law. Some lawyers employ slash-and-burn tactics. They kick, scream and foam at the mouth. There may be some narrow circumstances when those antics work. In my experience, however, the lawyer that pounds his chest and speaks in hyperbole is often the loser. For example, I remember negotiating a plea bargain with a supposed Super Lawyer “rising star” criminal defense attorney. He yelled and swore at me because I was unwilling to budge on my plea offer. He told me how he’d run circles around me in the courtroom. Finally, it came time for the rubber to hit the road: either take the deal or set the case for trial. The swagger disappeared. Sweat broke out on his forehead. His voice became constricted. He appeared to be on the verge of a panic attack. His client accepted my offer a couple minutes later. Case closed. We worked well together afterwards.

As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” The same holds true for trial lawyers.


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