Lawyers are fallible. The art of advocacy - of lawyering - eludes perfection. That said, my experience at advocacy is a quest to be as good as it gets.
"As good as it gets" is particular to each individual. No one would mistake my legal mind with those of Justices Antonin Scalia or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Still, I've worked within my own career to be "as good as it gets." I strive to meet the requirements of the "AV" Rating that I've held for over 25 years - a rating defined as "the highest peer rating standard. This rating signifies that the lawyer's reviewed peers rank him or her at the highest level of professional knowledge, communication skills and ethical standards."
So what drives me as an advocate? I strive very hard to get the law right. While an advocate is not a law professor or a judge, a great advocate is grounded in the law as well as the art of persuasion. A good part of persuasion is credibility. It shows when a lawyer tries to follow the law as best he or she can. I have no respect for lawyers who try to mislead a judge or a jury. If your case has problems, it is better to acknowledge the problems - advocacy is making the best arguments with the facts and law available.
Compassion and respect are important to advocacy. During law school and for a short time thereafter, I clerked for several trial court judges. Several of the judges had a great influence on my approach to the law and ultimately my career. One judge in particular had the greatest influence to compassion.
I remember that in my first days of clerkship, I mentioned to the Judge that I was amazed at how bad the criminals were that appeared before him. He looked at me kindly and said, "Kid (he always called me "Kid"), there but for the grace of God go you or I." The Judge was a war hero, a former prosecutor and public defender. He knew human nature, he knew sadness and he knew suffering. He gave respect to criminals, witnesses, staff and lawyers alike. He taught me that everyone has a story - we're all humans - with faults seen and unseen. In so many words - he taught me to be merciful in judging others "for there but for the grace of God go you or I."
So when it comes to my advocacy, it is this. Get the law right. Respect others - all participants in the advocacy process. Work to deserve a rating and reputation for "the highest level of professional knowledge, communication skills and ethical standards." And finally - be grateful. To be grateful for my profession, for my clients and for our free country where advocates of mercy and justice can practice law.