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"99% of Attorneys Give The Rest of Them a Bad Name"

Abraham Lincoln in Court

I just got off of the telephone with a friend and client who repeated to me an old adage that "99% of attorneys give the rest of them a bad name." I laughed and shared my client's statement with a number of the lawyers in our office. Most attorneys have encountered similar observations. And who can blame the speaker? The unannounced - and often unwelcome - entrance of a lawyer into our lives often complicates an already stressful situation.

I can say with certainty that at times I've been included in the not-so-elite "99%." That said, a few observations are in order. For those of us who litigate, our job is to battle for our clients. Whether our task is to prevent harm or to seek compensation for harms needlessly caused by the acts of others, litigators are engaged to be strong and to rout our clients' foes on the legal field of combat.

Attorneys are still well-advised to follow the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln: "Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can." When persuasion simply will not work, then our clients expect, like Lincoln advised his generals, to "with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories." While I would skip "sleepless" (we're all better off well-rested), I firmly believe that it is our task with energy and vigilance to go forward and gain victories. The simple truth is that attorneys are often enmeshed in painful civil battles. Our system works that way - sometimes well, sometimes not. Those so enmeshed might find courage from the words of Teddy Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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