Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law
by DOUGLAS O. LINDER and NANCY LEVIT (Oxford University Press, 2013)

The Good Lawyer

About The Good Lawyer


Introductory Note

The Good Lawyer is Empathetic

The Good Lawyer Has a Passion for Justice

The Good Lawyer Values Others in the Legal Community

The Good Lawyer Uses Both Intuition and Deliberative Thinking

The Good Lawyer Thinks realistically About the Future

The Good Lawyer Serves the True Interests of Clients

The Good Lawyer Has Ample Willpower

The Good Lawyer is Persuasive

Seeking Quality


Random Facts

The Happy Lawyer
Excerpt from Chapter 1:
The Good Lawyer Is Courageous

            It is possible to be honest in one aspect of one’s life, but not another. Even the most honest lawyer  might cheat like a bandit at poker. Or, if scrupulously honest in her card games, perhaps take more than her share of “mulligans” on golf courses. Cognitive psychologist, and bestselling author, Dan Ariely contends that we’re all prone to a little dishonesty from time to time. In his book, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, Ariely argues that most people are dishonest—but only to the point at which they can still reconcile their dishonesty with their self-image of themselves as a basically honest person. Precisely where that point is will vary from person to person.

    Being a consistent truth-teller is not only difficult for good lawyers, but quite likely impossible. No lawyer tells the whole truth. It can’t be done, and no lawyer wants to try anyway. Lawyers select from a universe of facts those facts that advance their causes and omit those that don’t. The adversary system is built on the assumption, not always correct, that each side will find and present the facts that best make their respective cases, and from the resulting clash of facts, and from the conflicting interpretations of the law that each side supplies, some semblance of the truth will emerge and some form of justice be done. It’s a nice theory, one that calls to mind Winston Churchill’s quip about democracy being the worst system of government except for all the others.

    While Justice Department lawyers, for example, generally can present the truth as they see it, other lawyers don’t have that same luxury. If traversing morally ambiguous terrain is not your thing, don’t become a criminal defense attorney. For the criminal defense attorney, shading the truth is part of the job description. When cross-examining a prosecution witness, a defense attorney will often know that the witness in direct examination has told the truth, or something very close to it. The witness really did see the defendant enter the convenience store, or the witness really did discover the defendant’s blood at the crime scene. Does anyone of a certain age believe that O. J. Simpson’s “Dream Team” doubted for a minute whether the bloody glove offered into evidence by the prosecution—the glove “that did not fit”—was worn by their client on the night of the double murder? On cross-examination, defense attorneys will do whatever they can—within the limits of professional ethics and sometimes outside them—to convey the mistaken impression that a witness didn’t see what she saw, or didn’t really find the damning evidence he thought he did. Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter, in his book Integrity notes that a defense lawyer “can do nothing else” than attempt to “fool the jury into disbelieving a truthful witness,” which is “nothing but an expedient lie.” The threat of misleading jurors is sometimes the only leverage a lawyer has....