Thursday, July 26, 2012

Law: The imperfect tool

The law is an imperfect instrument. It will not bring back a loved one, it will not restore a limb, it will not undo the harm. While having your day in court might give you a certain satisfaction and a feeling of vindication it does not have the power to make people like you. Chances are they will like you less. While all of this is obvious, with my limited but expanding experience practicing law, I’ve been noticing how some people who stop and ask me for advice often  have some other agenda that it was not designed to address. They have goals beyond what law can give them. I often have to stop them and ask: will getting money (or an injunction) fix this, will it make you whole, will you feel better after all of this is done, because at the end of the day, the attorney will be gone and it’s the client who still will be living in that particular community dealing with the aftermath, and yes going against  family will make Holiday dinners awkward. Having money helps of course, but  the big question for me is, what’s the best possible outcome for that person and can the law help them accomplish it.  People always think that just because something happened to them, however minor, they have a million dollar case on their hands. They don’t realize that law  in general is designed to compensate, if you will, not pay out a premium, just because they caught somebody doing something wrong. It’s not a lottery or a bingo game. Sometimes if they pursue it, they will not get much, simply because they haven’t suffered much or at all. Other times the injury is more severe, but there was no one legally responsible for it. No one had the duty to prevent it. In certain types of cases for example the law requires the defendant to have a particular “bad”  mental state, like “actual malice”. Those times are particularly hard on me, because I see a client who suffered or may be suffering still, the damage is visible and real, yet they will not recover against that defendant, because the law places the bar much higher. Not all cases are worth going after based of what a person may get  in the end. A good attorney will try to shelter client from the negative aspects of the trail but I think it’s na├»ve to say that they will not be affected at all, that it’s not tiring or doesn’t require any participation. But then there are clients who have a good case,  yet they are afraid to come forward. And I see it in a lot of the ADA cases. They have the feeling of being alone against the world that I realize and relate to. I’ve been there.And there is only so much I can do to reassure them. Not only because we are ethically limited as to how far we can go when reaching out to a client and what we can do. At the end of the day they will be the ones affected and stuck with consequences. It’s their life. And law, as powerful of a tool it is, will not make all your problems go away.

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