Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Who's Better?

Shawn Matlock wondered here whether the citizen accused looking for effective representation wanted an advocate or a zealot for a defense lawyer. While compelled to answer questions from in-laws and acquaintances during the holiday season about why he defended people, Shawn made this observation:
You see there seems to be this stereotype of criminal defense attorneys. I mean real criminal defense attorneys, not the Pretender who really practices personal injury/ trust and estate/ family/ contract/ civil law. Those that devote their practice to helping those poor unfortunates that find themselves caught up in the machinery of the government.

That stereotype is of a liberal, long-haired (usually in a pony tail), ACLU card-carrying, 60's flower child radical. Maybe that's just me though. Maybe that's just Texas. But it's what I have been confronted with. So it is a surprise when I tell people that I am really none of those things. Certainly not long-haired.

When people realize that I am not like the stereotype the question inevitably comes again. How can I defend those accused if I don't think like that. The answer is pretty simple, really.

My handy online thesaurus shed some light on this matter. Another word for "advocate" was champion, supporter, backer, proponent, spokesman, fighter, or crusader. "Zealot," on the other hand, was a fanatic, extremest, radical, die-hard, activist, dogmatist, or militant. The fanatic was intense and eager, but possibly irrational in their enthusiasm. The zealot exhibited not only extreme devotion, but vehement activity in support of a cause or goal.

So Shawn posed the question:
. . . do you want to hire an attorney who thinks the crime with which you are charged is crap and should be repealed or do you want to hire the attorney that can focus his energies on your case and not on his own political agenda?
I love Shawn's simple way of putting life in context. I'm also proud to say I know some fine defense lawyers with pony tails, or who'd like to grow a pony tail, or maybe wear an earring. Fine lawyers who think much of the criminal law in this State is crap. But also lawyers who focus great energy on their clients without furthering a political agenda.

Although he did not say, I expect Shawn would find the zealot boring with their hell, fire, and brimstone. They are single dimensional. They just plain give me a head ache. Another thing he didn't say was the zealot, or should I say the zealot's client, usually gets crucified in court because of their irrational enthusiasm for a cause. Especially, in these parts where the ACLU is a four letter word.

Anyway, thanks for the insight once again, Shawn. You're a champion and no fanatic.

No comments: