Sunday, December 18, 2005

Why People think Lawyers are Liars

One thing I've always despised is lawyers who lie, in order to project what they think is the "right image" to the public. It is sick, sycophantic, and silly.

Look at these two "fact/fiction" questions and answers on the Texas Young Lawyers Association American Juror web page, which was cited on the Jur-E bulletin on December 16, 2005:

"Fiction: Attorneys only pick jurors with a college degree.

"Fact: The main thing we’re looking for from potential jurors is the ability to be open to both sides of a debate. It’s up to the lawyers to present the evidence clearly. But we count on the juries to be honest in deciding for themselves what is true and what is fair. That is not based on intelligence or education- it’s just a basic sense of right and wrong."

Let me make it clear: any associate with my law firm who looks mainly for jurors to be open to both sides of a debate will be unemployed before Voir Dire is over. We want jurors who will NEVER, EVER under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, WHATEVER THE EVIDENCE consider the other side of the debate. We want jurors who are 100% biased towards our side, 100% hostile to the other side, and if we can get 12 of them, we want them.

We will settle for a fair and impartial jury, as a bare minimum. We assume, and have never seen this assumption proven wrong, that the other side is also seeking jurors who will be committed to their case, and biased against ours. That's the way the game is played - and shame on TYLA for lying to the public and prospective jurors about it.

"Fiction: Lawyers ask questions designed to figure out who will help reach a verdict in their client’s favor.

"Fact: Voir Dire is a French term that means "Speak the Truth." Prospective jurors are sworn to tell the truth so that the attorneys or judge can ask questions to find out if they can be impartial unbiased, and trusted to make a reasonable decision based on the facts of the case."

Again, any associate with THIS firm who does not ask questions designed to figure out who will help reach a verdict in our client's favor will be unemployed before Voir Dire is over. We don't want a fair jury; that is the MINIMUM we will settle for. We want a jury that will NEVER, EVER under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, WHATEVER THE EVIDENCE, vote against us.

Any lawyer who says he wants a fair and impartial jury is either incompetent (being deluded by bar association PR) or is simply lying, lying, lying. The public knows that. I've spoken to many high school classes. I ask them what they think a lawyer wants out of a jury, and they tell me a jury that will vote for their client. We know they know. Yet we strangely persist in lying to them when we know we'll be caught. That's either insane or stupid.

What is weird is that bar associations lie, to people who they know will KNOW they are lying, in a vain attempt to improve the public image of the bar. What they are in fact doing is proving to the general public that lawyers are liars and manipulators who cannot be trusted - because they lie when, if they gave any thought to it, they'd know they'd be caught by anyone with two brain cells to rub together.

Kind of disgusting, this collective indifference to reality in the pursuit of image, isn't it?

P.S. I also tell high school classes that what the judge wants is a jury that will be compliant and will return on time after lunch. Judges HATE that I say that - one judge complained so much that the Houston Bar Association will no longer use me as a speaker. But that is the institutional bias of the judiciary. If we cannot tell the public the truth about what we do and how courts operate, it seems to me we have far more to worry about than our public image. What we have to worry about is that our public image may well be accurate.


At 1:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concur a competent trial lawyer is looking for jurors who will decide the case in favor of their client. But so is their opponent. So the lawyers representing both plaintiff and defendant recognize that if each does his or her job, they are not going to get jurors they can count on to decide the case their client's way.

The best we can usually hope for is to keep jurors who are likely to be biased for the other side off the jury rather than get jurors biased for our side on.
Because each side is eliminating the ideal juror for the other, jury consultants like to refer to the process as "de-selecting" rather than "selecting" the jury. See, e.g., R. Clfford, "'Deselecting' the Jury in a Civil Case." 30 Litigation
8 (Winter 2004)

The system assumes that if neither side gets the jurors they want, the jury panel will be fair and impartial. Usually one side comes out better than the other, but if the lawyers have done their job, the jury will be less pre-prejudiced against their client's case then would have been the case.

P.S. Sounds like the Houston Bar Association is missing out--you would at least keep the members awake after lunch!

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not that I'm an attorney, just having worked for them, the media also helps shape the image of attorneys. Movies such as "Liar, Liar" with Jim Carrey about an attorney whose child's birthday wish is that for 1 day he can't tell a lie. Check out "Law and Order" sometime. It also paints a picture.
News coverage also helps paint a similar two cents.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Clay S. Conrad said...

Of course I agree with the fact that the media gives lawyers a bad rap.

The parodies of lawyers seen in the media, however, are funny not because they are fictional, but because of the way they ridicule the truth. If they were totally fictitious, they would not have that ring of truth necessary to be amusing.

Lawyers often get a bad rap because they EARN it. Sad, but true...

At 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, an honest lawyer? WOW! Thank you so much!

Nothing personal (you don't seem to deserve it, which is fairly unusual), but, in the spirit of "public opinion of lawyers", I give you one of my favorite after-Christmas (or -Thanksgiving) jokes:

Q: What is the ideal weight for a lawyer?

A: 4 pounds, including the urn.

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Conrad, if jury duty is so important to justice, why do the courts pay such stingy wages for it? What could be more absurd than a $150-an-hour lawyer or a judge with a six-figure salary telling jurors getting paid $6 PER DAY how important their job is? Most jurors at the Harris County Courthouse go home with no compensation at all after they pay their parking fees. Jury pay in Texas is going up to $40 per day after the first day but that is still less than the federal minimum wage. Who could believe in the importance of a sub-mimimum wage job whose only fringe benefit is a free bus ticket?

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawyers long ago earned colorful descriptions such as "scumbag," "legal whore" and far worse. Many of us feel the more we flush the toilet, the more lawyers there are in the Bar.

At 5:58 PM, Blogger Joel said...

One line in particular is seared into my memory from the documentary 'A Thin Blue Line':

"Prosecutors in Dallas have said for years - any prosecutor can convict a guilty man. It takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man. " (Melvyn Carson Bruder)

In general, it is not in a lawyer's best interest to ascertain the truth in court, per se. If the truth happens to coincide with his client's objective, all the better - but outing the truth almost never is the lawyer's actual goal.

At 10:45 PM, Blogger Vaddadi Kartick said...

> the Houston Bar Association will no
> longer use me as a speaker

I wish there were more honorable lawyers like you.

At 10:02 PM, Blogger said...

The judges are arrogant towards towards judges, becuase citizens do not have EASY procedures to expel judges.

If/when citizens develop FAST/EASY procedures to expel judges for mis-informing Jurors, and clipping the powers of Jurors, the judges will start respecting Jurors.

If we want judges to respect Jurors and their powers, we MUST force law-makers to pass laws that would create EASY/FAST procedures by which citizens can expel the judges.


-Rahul Mehta
Ahmedabad, India

At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a criminal defense attorney and have witnessed the most glaring lie and concoctions come from the prosecution side of the ledger, and that of course is the government and the Deputy DAs carry badges in their pockets; there is more integrity in a Public Defender seemingly making up a defense or at least a possible scenario beyond the guilt of his client, especially if "the state is trying to kill your client or permanently eliminate his freedom. Even a very conservative appelate court, such as our present US Supreme Court expects no less of a defense attorney to "leave no stone unturned" even when, no especially when the Defensant is the scvum of the earth, like the daycare-bombing McVey; but ut seems the prosecutor never has to follow the rules in this day and age of tough-on-crime philosophy of corrections,
I see the biggest liars in the system as the "paid whores" in the personal injury relm, and they are not lawyers; lawyers are general trained to avoid passing judgment on their clients and to give them the benefit of the doubt, to an ethical point. But it is beyond belief how readily you can get an expert, a doctor to sponsor your p[osition; in fact, most attorneys rely on the experts to help assess tyhe merits of a case; some will file any piece of shit, but the economics of it all usually deters junk from being advanced, I worked herte in the Springs with a very ethical attorney who was truly a mentor of how to have and proceed with intergrity in the litigation of claims; he got "zeroed out" by the jury in one case where the only issue seemed tyo be how mich moneyb sice negligent liability wass all but conceeded by the other side (the insurance co. lawyers--but the jury is usually not fully aware that they are representing the ins. co.); However, when the jury came back with NO damages, Joe (his name is Joe Ricci and should be appreciated for being closer to the real maJORITY OF ATTYS VS THE "LIARS") went into the jury room and chatted with the juorors about their decision, and he was exhausted from working probably several hundred hours on this case
that he just lost, and asked them how they came up with theur verdict under the circumstances--and he made sure to make it comfortable talking about it. The foreman said that they felt sorry for Joe because he had demonstrated his integrity throughout the trial, but at a break, the jurors, or a couple of them, were looking out the window and witnessed Joe's client sprint across the street and get in a car, then get out and sprint back, this time confirmimg the disbelieveing jurors that he was not striken with a lifetime crippling spinal injury as convincingly portrayed by Joe! He was shocked but he laughed a long laugh at the absurdity of that visual--told the jurors that although he was not meaning to make light of it becauuse he was simply laughing at his own inabi;ity to fathom how he could have better screaned the case--he told the jurors that they did the right thing, and that the biggest problem he had was that tweo0 specialists in the field of spinal cord injuries had testified with no doubt, with a near certain level degree of medical probability, and that he wasn't sure how the system could have cleansed itself of this one id doctors are willing to lie or not do what they know how to do to affirm the validity of the claim or injury
The bottom line: some lawyers lie, some rarely do; and it is likely fairly representative of the society as a whole! The law simply reflects what people are willing to do as a general matter; I have met some of the most incredibly principled lawyers--amd some that swim along the slimey bottom of the cesspool of humanity! the jurors that end up in the box may be the one subclass of social groups with the dynamics to be the closest thing to, as a symbionic unit of integrity not seen in the usual mix of randomly chosen humans, and truly transcend "us." Until we discourage them to .... you'll get my drift? I get paid by the word, sorry!

At 3:14 AM, Anonymous Personal Injury Attorney Houston said...

As always an excellent posting.The
way you write is awesome.Thanks.

At 1:48 AM, Anonymous Alagba josephine said...

If a person says lawyers are liars that individual is 100% wrong. This is because u canot use 1 person in a profession who is incompetent 2 draw d conclusion dat every1 is incompetent,this is unethical.Dont get me wrong wat i mearnt was dat Some lawyer may b liars odas may not b liars. D public image of every profession matas a lot.There are still honest lawyers out dere,and i wont let wat people say about lawyers discourage me because i would like 2 b a barister nt jst an ordinary barister but a barister wit a diference Therefore not all LAWYERS are liars.

At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawyers are liars in the same way Politicians are liars.

They work hand-in-hand.

It is without a doubt, they are honest lawyers and politicians but that's very rare.


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