Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Should Lawyers Love To Be Hated?

I pondered this question after reading this post at Lawbiz this morning. The issue was the self-esteem of lawyers. Ed Poll wrote:
But, when we continue to learn, we also know that there is a lot still to learn. This tends to impact one's self-esteem. In talking with several psychologists and organizational development experts, poor self-esteem is one of the greatest challenges to lawyers.
I certainly learned something new this morning after my client had received deferred adjudication (here in Texas that's non-conviction probation) for the charge of cruelty to animals. Without going into the case details, suffice it to say my client was the much-less culpable of two young men charged with killing a horse back in October 2006.

After sentencing the victim was given the opportunity to address my client with a "victim impact statement." Basically, the statement is a vehicle by which the aggrieved victim can vent their feelings toward the person being held accountable for the crime. In theory this serves as a catharsis. Practically, I don't believe it really works since human beings tend to embrace their hate, nurture it deep inside, and fail to let it go.

Anyway, the amazing feature of this victim impact statement was her personal and vicious attack upon me. Don't get me wrong on this. If the law affords the victim a chance to say their piece after the judge already decided sentencing, I can live with that. However, according to the victim I was capitalizing upon her loss because I was receiving a fee. Her hate for my client and me was so palpable the entire courtroom received a taste of it. As she launched her invective the prosecutor was gracious enough to approach her and explain (outside of our hearing) that her comments needed to address the defendant and not his lawyer. The prosecutor was even more gracious when he apologized to me quietly after the hearing was over.

This woman did not hurt my feelings or damage my self-esteem. Regretfully, she has deep, unresolved issues of her own. But I couldn't help wondering whether defense lawyers must love to be hated in order to survive the onslaught of adverse public opinion we so often endure while perform our duty representing the interests of the criminally accused.

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