30.04.2022 at 10:36 am

Masters of A Fraction of A Dot

When be you so consumed with winning, above all else.

... The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

I know lawyers who take such extreme pride in their wins so as to count them.

I do not share their views. Nor do I think it apt for lawyers to be so consumed with winning. I note:

  1. 'Wins' may not always be so. History is strewn with legally-wrong and unjust decisions, whose outcomes litigants were never able to repair. A lawyer who 'wins' by unjust outcomes have helped set precedents that harm society - if so, what have those lawyers achieved, and what have they truly won?

  2. Lawyers must not cast black as white. As lawyers, we must conduct cases as professionally as we can, to the best of our ability and only upon available evidence. That is the extent of it; a lawyer who goes beyond, and who tries so hard to 'win', may find dishonest and wrongful conduct all the more tempting. The worst amongst lawyers may even fashion a guilty client as virtuous, which goes beyond fair representation. This not only deceives the court, but disrupts claimants/plaintiffs who have put forward an honest case.

  3. In the grand scheme of things, most legal victories are hollow. Your name and wins will likely not matter after a hundred years. If so, are your chronicled victories in the footnotes of legal journals (which laypeople do not read, and which most eyes glaze over) of such importance, that you make 'wins' your cause for lawyerly existence? I hope not.

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