Courting Justice: Lawyering Types

October 31, 2013

By Robert N. Hunn

Being a trial lawyer, you try to learn the art and craft of advocacy and persuasion. However, there is no one size fits all. Each lawyer has to find the style that fits him or her the best. Even after three decades in this business, I’m always amazed by some of the styles certain lawyers pick. God only knows why they think their style and methods work.

Let me share a few examples.

1. The interrupting lawyer.

As part of the practice, trial lawyers often go to court to “argue” a motion or issue before a judge. The judge listens to both sides and then makes a ruling. Some lawyers are of the belief that the more they talk the more likely they are to win. Consequently, they constantly interrupt you to immediately make a counterpoint. I have found that the opposite is true. Making a cogent argument with the least amount of words will often win the day.

I personally don’t like to be interrupted. It’s one of the few times that, admittedly, I will make a snide comment such as “I thought you had stopped drinking during the day?” Or, “How’s rudeness working for ya? Is it getting you anywhere?”

2. The obnoxious lawyer.

I bet you’re surprised to hear that some lawyers can actually be obnoxious. No, really…it’s true. The obnoxious lawyer believes that if he is obnoxious and can get in an obnoxious last word, he wins. It’s kind of like when you were a kid and got into an argument and the other person would repeatedly say “I know you are but what am I?” After he said it a few times, you finally gave up and he got the last word. I try not to talk to obnoxious lawyers. Rather, I prefer they put everything in writing (email or letter) so that if the time comes, I can use their own words against them.

One time a lawyer was harassing me about not producing a certain email that in truth didn’t exist. He knew it didn’t exist. He just wanted to paint me as a lawyer who was hiding documents. He finally stopped when I sent him and the other lawyers in the case the following email:

Dear *****,

I am currently on vacation at Harry Potter World in Orlando with my family. I have great news for you. I just bought a wand at Mr. Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley and I’m on my way to Hogwarts now to learn a spell to create the email. Should have it for you in no time.

3. The overreaching lawyer.

This is actually a large group. They are lawyers who overstate their position, when in reality they don’t have sufficient facts to support the story they are trying to sell. I can’t help but remember a case where a 9-year-old girl was trying on tops in a large department store. This store crams its clothing racks together under the theory that more merchandise on the floor will equate to more sales. The only problem is that when you cram cloths together in a tight space, it obscures clothing hooks. My 9-year-old client bent down to pick something up and a hook, hidden by overlapping clothing, pierced her eye.

After the incident occurred, the store found the little girl’s purse. It was filled with sizing rings (the ring on the rack that tells you the size of the clothes on the rack). No one knows how they got in there. When it came time for the defense lawyer to describe the incident in court papers, he wrote the following:

The 9-year-old plaintiff was running wildly throughout the store stealing sizing rings. Rather than use the dressing room, she stripped in the store to try on a top in front of the other customers. While running, stripping and stealing, she ran face first into a clothing hook.

That’s what I call overreaching.

4. The majority of lawyers.

The good news is that the vast majority of lawyers are rational and reasonable. They can aggressively advocate for their client in a professional manner without any gamesmanship or fodder. They can concede a point when necessary and intelligently identify the best way to represent their client.

Believe me when I say choose lawyer number 4. Their advocacy style will go farther than any other type of attorney.