By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Your lawyer is fighting for you. At least I hope they are.
What Your Lawyers Job Is – and Isn’t
A lawyer has a duty to zealously advocate for their client. A lawyer cannot, though, just go bananas for the sake of going bananas. Lawyers have other duties which often compete with their duty to zealously advocate for their client.
Here is a relevant passage in the Preamble Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct:
2. As a representative of clients, a lawyer performs various functions. As advisor, a lawyer provides a client with an informed understanding of the client’s legal rights and obligations and explains their practical implications. As advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system. As negotiator, a lawyer seeks a result advantageous to the client but consistent with requirements of honest dealing with others. As intermediary between clients, a lawyer seeks to reconcile their divergent interests as an advisor and, to a limited extent, as a spokesperson for each client. A lawyer acts as evaluator by examining a client’s affairs and reporting about them to the client or to others.
Note zealous advocacy is sandwiched between other roles of the attorney. The lawyer also has to give the client an informed understanding of their rights and obligations. The lawyer must seek advantageous results consistent with the honest dealing with others.
Fighting for and advocating for a client is only a fraction of the lawyer’s job. Much of the lawyers role is informing, educating, and advising clients. Also, much of a lawyers job hinges on ethical obligations to judges and other lawyers… our system wouldn’t work if everyone got to go berserk.
A lawyer’s job isn’t to tell you everything you want to hear, either. Many times folks will understandably want to shoot the messenger.
Giving Your Lawyer the Benefit of the Doubt
I’ve had many clients over the years who like seeing or thinking I’m being aggressive. But not every situation calls for aggressiveness…. and just because the client thinks I’m not being assertive, zealous, or aggressive doesn’t mean I’m not either.
Often folks looking to switch lawyers will visit with me – and I always make an effort to try and see the situation their lawyer’s way. That lawyer usually knows much more about the case than I do to that point and it’s arrogant of me to think otherwise.
When You Should Worry About Your Lawyer’s Efforts
First – you should be comfortable with direction of your representation. If you can’t sleep at night worried sick about your lawyer and nothing they do or say helps then by all means find another lawyer whose representation you’re more at ease with. Again, though, it’s not your lawyers job to tell you only news you like or that you want to hear. It’s probably a worse mistake to shop, and shop, and shop for a lawyer until you find someone who magically agrees with everything you say.
Some lawyers can be intimidated by certain cases. Is your lawyer constantly looking for reasons to back down? When your lawyer does shy away from a difficult hearing, trial or other proceeding – do they have a detailed reason which makes sense? In criminal cases – how often does your lawyer go to trial? If it’s not on a regular basis then maybe that is a red flag.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is recognized as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.