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Difficult Clients

When I first considered becoming a lawyer, I asked a lot of lawyers for their thoughts about practicing law. Two of those lawyers told me the same thing: “the practice of law would be perfect if it weren’t for clients.” What was particularly surprising about that comment was that it came from lawyers thousands of miles apart practicing in completely different areas of law. They were clearly kidding (kind of), as they’re both dedicated advocates for their clients, but the advice let me know that representing people may be the reason for going into law, but those same people may also be the primary source of difficulty in the job.

I do my best to build strong working relationships with all my clients. They trust me with their money and their lives, and I don’t take that lightly. I don’t use this blog as a platform to complain about my clients. As much as I would love to vent a little about all the irritating things various clients do from time to time, that would betray their trust. Sometimes, it really is hard to keep it to myself though; the average person just wouldn’t believe some of the crazy stuff criminal defense attorneys have to endure at the hands of the people we’re trying to help.

It’s always hard to predict which clients are going to be dreams and which are going to be nightmares, but I’ve noticed a trend. Basically, I’ve found that the dumber a client comes off in the police reports, the more demanding the client is going to be when it comes to defending his case.

When a client neatly wraps up the whole case for the authorities, complete with physical evidence left at the scene, a crime done in an obvious manner with plenty of witnesses, and topped off with a thorough confession, you can usually bet the client is going to think of every single reason in the world why his case should get thrown out. Expect to file motions on chain-of-custody, eyewitness identification, and voluntariness issues at the very least. The weaker the issue, the bigger the deal it’ll be to the client. If a good plea comes down, the client’s probably going to reject it, missing the only opportunity where an admission might actually be in his best interest.

I’ve pondered why this trend seems to exist. My best theory is that the worse the case, the more the client kicks himself for being so dumb. He decides he isn’t going to continue rolling over and making it easy for authorities, so he fights. The worse the case, the harder he kicks himself, the harder he fights.

I thought about my theory the other day reading about this guy. Officers get a warrant for his arrest. He’s hidden drugs in his butt. When they arrest him, he keeps yelling how they can’t search him and even specifically mentions how they can’t “stick a finger up [his] ass.” His nickname is Pooh, by the way (different spelling, sadly, and yes, I am that immature). Read the opinion if you don’t believe me.

I wonder if Pooh really thought the cops wouldn’t do an anal search if he tangled his legs and instructed them not to check his ass for drugs. Regardless, based on those facts, my theory would suggest that poor Pooh was probably quite the handful for his defense lawyer. Anyone disagree?

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3 Responses to "Difficult Clients"

  1. Jeff says:

    Your post is excellent, and hits very close to home. I’m sitting on a case right now where the client gave the prosecutor such a perfect case, I’m pretty sure my dog could get a conviction at trial. And naturally, my client wants me to file a million useless motions and rejects the very good deal I spent a long time working out.

    My theory (at least when it comes to younger ones like my client) is that a lot of them have never really had to answer for their actions. Sure, they may have done some jail time or probation, maybe ever a short bit in the pen. But now when they’re facing a long stretch of pen time, they just don’t want to accept it. They’ve weaseled out of a lot before, and they’re clinging to the hope it will happen again. No matter how bad the facts. My client I mentioned above is going to get a reality check when a long sentence is handed down. But by then, it’s too late.

  2. Matt Brown says:

    Always the pessimist. And perhaps the realist. I have no clue.

  3. Andrew (the other one) says:

    I suppose that’s the charitable interpretation. The less-charitable interpretation is that anyone stupid enough to hand a perfect case to the prosecution is not suddenly going to get smarter after they are arrested.

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