A young defense lawyer writes: "Dear Mr. Schaeffer, You say you were once a civil defense lawyer. Can you prove it?" Signed, Skeptical in Omaha
Well, Skeptical, yes -- I can prove it. As a defense lawyer, I once wrote a satirical piece titled "One Lawyer's Prayer," which was published in the Bench & Bar of Minnesota. Something so sneakily knavish could only have come from the mind of a defense lawyer.
I'll reprint it for you here on the continuation, though now I'm calling it "The Trial Lawyer's Prayer."
Trial Lawyer's Prayer, by Evan Schaeffer
Dear Lord: Here I am, back in Church. It's been awhile, I freely admit, and I apologize for the long string of Sunday absences, but as you know, the demands of my busy practice often require me to work all weekend, Sundays included. That's true even today, Lord, but today is a special Sunday. So special, in fact, that to skip Mass today would be malpractice, more or less, if you know what I mean, which, of course, you do.
Tomorrow is the big trial. Not only is it big, Lord, but as you know already, it's huge, the most important trial of my career to date, the trial at which my client stands to collect millions of dollars, in addition to a sizable punitive damage award. With this in mind, Lord, I come to you today at Mass. And even though I may be preoccupied from time to time, which is understandable given the magnitude of my burden, I ask that you have mercy on your humble servant, and hear his prayer.
And so, I pray as follows:
First and foremost, Lord, let your light shine on my opponent, that he may come to me tomorrow morning before the trial begins with the news that he will accept my settlement demand, which as I recall is in the neighborhood of $7 million. Of course, you shouldn't let your light shine too brightly on my opponent, if you know what I mean, which of course you do, but at least grant him the wisdom to look upon my settlement demand as worthy of his consideration, even if it isn't, so that the trial won't even be necessary, and I can begin working on my next big case.
On the other hand, Lord, if it be your plan that before I win, and cement my reputation as a trial lawyer of the first rank, my opponent and I will actually have to engage in courtroom battle, then as your humble servant I will accept your judgment. However, please keep in mind that an early settlement is certainly the better option, as it would immediately alleviate the stress on my heart, and allow me to get some much-needed sleep. You should also know, Lord, that an early settlement will free up my Sundays for at least the next month, making it no problem at all to drop by for the guitar Mass, which is my personal favorite, and which, as you know, always makes me tap my foot and occasionally, sing out loud.
But I digress. I fully understand, Lord, that speaking frankly, there is almost no chance of an early settlement, since in truth, my $7 million demand is outrageous, and my opponent would to be out of his mind to accept it. So I will assume, Lord, for purposes of this prayer only, that I am going to trial in the morning, despite the fact that it is likely to turn my hair prematurely gray, and is even now making my stomach queasy with worry and uncertainty.
And so, Lord, if we aren't able to settle the case in the morning, and if the Judge doesn't cancel the trial so that he can go fishing, which, as you know, he loves to do, and perhaps should be omnisciently compelled to do tomorrow, then I will stand before the jury and in my loudest voice, demand that they return a verdict of $7 million.
Be with me when I do that, Lord. It will take guts, and bravado, and a certain amount of recklessness on my part, especially considering the facts, which tend to favor my opponent on many points, including, as you know, all the important ones.
Be with me, Lord, not only when I attempt to use my powers of persuasion to sway the jury to an unreasonable verdict, but also during cross-examination, when I plan to make up the distance between what actually happened to my client, and what I will tell the jury actually happened. What I mean, Lord, is grant me the fortitude to be a good cross-examiner, such that I ferret out the truth when it helps my case, and skillfully conceal it when it doesn't. Aid me in making it perfectly clear to the jury why I'm right, and why my opponent is wrong, even though, as I said, you should bless him too, but not excessively, and only at the conclusion of the entire case, including any appeal, which often takes months or years.
And finally, Lord, bless my witnesses, that they will remember to stick to the story that I have so carefully prepared for them, and avoid being caught in any damaging inconsistencies, and be spared the embarrassment of sweating profusely out of nervousness, or of losing their tempers when cross-examined by my opponent, or of exposing the bad sides of their characters, thereby alienating the jury, the members of which, by the way, you should also bless, but only once they're firmly on my side.
It's a long list, Lord, but it's a big case. I hope you understand that, which, of course, you do. And now, Lord, I'm afraid it's back to work.
[Like this post? It's one of many included in my book How to Feed a Lawyer (And Other Irreverent Oberservations from the Legal Underground). Details here.]