COURT TECHNOLOGY AND TRIAL PRESENTATION

The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg features articles, reviews and news of interest to lawyers and other legal professionals. This blog is published by Ted Brooks, a Trial Presentation and Legal Technology Consultant, Author and Speaker. Ted's trial experience includes the Los Angeles Dodgers McCourt divorce trial (with David Boies), People v. Robert Blake murder trial (with M. Gerald Schwartzbach), and a large number of high profile, high value and complex civil matters.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

He Who Is His Own Lawyer Has a Fool for a Client


"He Who Is His Own Lawyer Has a Fool for a Client"

This proverb is based on the opinion that self-representation in court is likely to end badly. As with many proverbs, it is difficult to determine a precise origin, but this expression first began appearing in print in the early 1900’s. An early example appears in 1814, in The flowers of wit, or a choice collection of bon mots, by Henry Kett, wherein the eminent lawyer states, "I hesitate not to pronounce, that every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.”

This phrase remains relevant today, as it was nearly 200 years ago, successfully standing against the test of time. It makes a clear and simple statement to one who might think they are smart enough and know the facts of their case well enough that they might save several thousand dollars by handling their own legal affairs. While handling your case Pro Se might actually work in some instances, the odds are against it.

In a recent article on Lawyers.com (Going Pro Se: Handling Legal Problems on Your Own), David Baarlaer explains that you can indeed win a Pro Se case, but also shares that statistics seem to indicate that those who “lawyer up” stand a better chance at achieving a favorable outcome. Even though you might be able to represent yourself, you would, in effect, be knowingly and intentionally taking unnecessary risks in the litigation of your case.

Sharpen Your Focus
Does this old saying apply to lawyers too? Today’s economic climate encourages attorneys to do everything they can possibly do themselves, or keep the work in-house, in order to keep working (billing) on a matter. While this approach will increase your billable hours, it can also upset your clients. A quick search on alternative fee arrangements or the billable hour will show that legal fees are a hot topic. Larry Bodine shared an interesting article about AFA’s (alternative fee arrangements), in which he points out that those who don’t get it right will see clients start walking and talking to other firms to take on their work. Corporate counsel and other clients are all under pressure to reduce costs, and legal fees are at the top of their list. Just because you have the ability to purchase some software or other new toy, spend time to learn it, and then do something with it does not mean that you should. If you insist on doing everything yourself, in the short term, you might make more money per client. In the long term, you’re likely to end up with fewer clients.

Experts are Experts
Most clients won’t appreciate that special talent you bring to the table which allows you to personally do things that others can do cheaper, faster, or even better. If you’re trying a case, you shouldn’t be concerned with how the technology works (or doesn’t work). If your case and client are valuable to you (not to mention your reputation), there are not many good reasons left to do everything by yourself. You might be retained to “get it done,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean you were retained to do it yourself.

I have seen a growing trend of cases coming in that are economically driven, in that lawyers are hired to try the case, while my firm is hired by counsel to assist with trial preparation and presentation. No, the law firms are not marking our services up for a profit, but the clients are happy with the lower costs, and the fact that these services are being handled by experts. While there are certainly exceptions, the lawyer who insists on doing everything, in addition to practicing law, may not be too far removed from the client who represents himself.

Please feel free to add your thoughts and comments on this topic.




1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness! an amazing article dude. Thank you However I am experiencing issue with ur rss . Don’t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting identical rss problem? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

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