Really? Really?! I often think that sometimes I’m just not clinical enough on some of my cases. This is the reason that I find myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about Monday’s court appearance. I’m told that the stress I endure worrying about the outcome of my criminal cases is more than I should. My cardiologist warns me that it’s about as good for me as eating a pound of bacon and my family could do without my surly demeanor.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being a courtroom attorney and I’m darn good at it. I thrive on public speaking and particularly on trying to make an unsympathetic party “see the justice of my position” in the words of Jerry Spence. But, it’s important to be able to leave work at the office at least some of the time. My wonderful family helps me to do that.
So, what is a good compromise? After taking a break in the middle of writing this post, I’m not sure there is one. Perhaps you have to be “all in” or “all out.” My clients give me fits when they get caught violating a bail condition. If I let myself get jaded, it’s that much harder for me to argue effectively when the subject comes up before the judge. If you don’t feel for your client, you can’t tell his story to the jury. Every time I make an opening statement, I rise from my seat, walk behind my client placing my hand on his shoulder and start to tell my his story. You just can’t do that convincingly if you don’t take your client’s case personally.
We are often referred to as “hired guns” or “mouthpieces.” If you don’t allow yourself to become affected by your client’s situation, that’s all you are. Upon further reflection, while stress is probably an occupational hazard for a trial lawyer. If you don’t embrace that element, you’re not an effective advocate.