Trial lawyers: choosing between being loved or hated
Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was born in Florence in 1469 and became a figure of the Italian Renaissance. His writings included political theory and he wrote a pamphlet The Prince which he hoped would help him gain influence with the ruling Medici family of Florence. The well known writing has a chapter he titled "Cruelty and Compassion. Whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse." Here is a sampling of his answer. He advised that it is better for a prince to have a reputation for compassion rather then cruelty. As to whether it is better to be loved than feared, he said it is difficult to combine them so It is better to be feared than loved if you cannot have both. He wrote:
"Men worry less about doing an injury to one who makes himself loved than to one who makes himself feared. The bond of love is one which men, wretched creatures that they are, to break when it is to their advantage to do so; but fear is strengthened by a dread of punishment which is always effective, The prince should nevertheless make himself feared in such a way that, if he is not loved, at least he escapes being hated."
This advice written more than five hundred years ago seems to me to apply to trial lawyers of today. We have to make the same choice in the representation of our clients. Are we concerned primarily about being "loved" by judges and opponents? Are we worried about making friends with them while representing our clients? If so, we are in the wrong profession. The trial lawyer’s primary obligation is to represent his or her client to the best of their professional ability in an honest and ethical manner. They must do that without regard to whether they will be loved or not in carrying out their sworn duty to their client. Great trial lawyers would chose fear over love,if a choice must be made. It seems Clear to me that if I always put my client’s interests first, without regard to whether if will or will not please someone else, I have fulfilled my professional oath. The only test, I believe a trial lawyer should apply are: Will it advance my client’s interests and is it ethical? I’d rather be respected for always representing my client’s best interests with courage and feared for my ability in doing so, than loved. It also seems obvious to me that one cannot do one’s best possible legal work as a trial lawyer and be loved by all. In fact, the truth is that no matter what you do about fifty percent of the people will object anyway. Put your client first and you will be doing your best work as a trial lawyer