Thou Shalt Not Let Thy Client Fly the Plane

In my last three “How I Practice Law” posts I used commandment titles. These titles reflect my personal maxims or commandments to myself. I am not trying to come off as being judgmental-as in if you do not follow the maxims you are doing something wrong. My maxims are personal to how I practice law. They may or may not be helpful to you. With that said the maxim below addresses what I believe is an important attorney client consideration.

The great Wall Street lawyer Simon Rifkind says there are two types of lawyers. The first type listens to the client, and takes case direction from the client. This lawyer is an order taker who lets the client fly the plane. The second type listens to the client, and then directs the case. This lawyer is a professional who believes in himself and flies the plane. I practice law the second way.

My client and I establish this understanding at the first meeting.  We communicate on a regular basis. My client knows where we are going, but my client also knows I am leading the way.

This is especially important at the time of trial. Although my client is at counsel table, he is not allowed to get over involved in trial tactics.  Giving input during  jury selection is fine, but this is done in a way it is clear the client is not calling the shots. During trial, passing an occasional note is ok, but not more then that.

When the the jury sees a client trying to direct the case, he comes off as too involved in the mechanics of the case.  Recall, the plaintiff/hero is dedicated to recovery for his injuries. This is his focus.  To be too involved in case tactics is off plot. A client who appears too involved at trial will focus the jury on this off plot dimension of the client. The over involved client will lose his case.

    3 Responses to “Thou Shalt Not Let Thy Client Fly the Plane”

    1. I’m impressed 😀 I found this place on google searching for something completely different, and now I’m gonna have to go back and go through all the old posts 🙂 So long spare time this morning, but this was a really awesome find 🙂

    2. Andrea Haviland says:

      This is why I keep coming back to this blog. I can not believe I missed so much since last time!

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