The Work of an Attorney

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

I’ll never forget how hard it was to wait. Those last two days and two nights seemed like an eternity.

What could be taking the jury so long? Hadn’t we put on a solid defense? Was it really that close? And what kind of system puts an important dispute in the hands of eight complete strangers?

I was starting to second-guess myself.

As a trial lawyer, I find myself defending the American system of justice. No, it’s not perfect, but I can’t come up with a better alternative. In most cases, both sides put on the best case they can, and a neutral, disinterested third party decides the result. I know, I sound like a lawyer.

Even I admit that our society is much too litigious. At the end of the day, isn’t it the lawyers who benefit most? And given the rising cost of litigation, can we really say that the disadvantaged among us have equal access to the legal system?

When I’m unsure about the honor of my chosen profession, I find myself searching for answers. So I open up the New Testament to see what Jesus says about lawyers. I stumble upon some pretty harsh words.

Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:46)


Could this really apply to me? I think the lawyers in Jesus’ day were challenging him over religious disputes -- much different than what’s at stake in most modern-day jury trials. But let’s face it, legal burdens are hard to bear, and lawyers like me usually try to keep clean hands. We don’t like to touch burdens.

In this particular case, I was representing business. Big business. And my opponent -- a more skilled and experienced trial lawyer than I -- was representing the little guy. I would get paid regardless of the result, but I knew my opponent had taken the case on a contingency. In other words, he would only get paid if he won. I can only imagine his anxiety as he waited.

I was sitting in my hotel lobby when the court phoned, commanding us to appear before the judge in 45 minutes. After three years of hearings, motions, depositions, and a two-week trial before a jury, the result would finally be known. It seemed so anti-climatic. Even perfunctory.

The courtroom was stone cold and solemn when the judge read the verdict. No smiles. No cheers. Just an approving nod when my client learned we had prevailed.

It’s always difficult to know how to approach an adversary after a fight. Should I even make eye contact? Should I shake hands? I never know what’s best in these situations, so I usually follow my gut.

I walked over to the opposing counsel and firmly shook his hand. No words seemed appropriate. He had tried an outstanding case, and even I knew the jury could have gone either way.

Then I turned to his client. I studied his disappointed eyes -- eyes that showed both anger and relief. Eyes that had lost all twinkle of hope. I reached out to shake his hand, but something didn’t feel right. So I gave him a big hug instead. To my surprise, he hugged me back.

Sometimes, I just need to follow my heart and get my hands dirty. I find myself touching a burden. And it feels pretty good.

Post by Susan DiMickele, author of Chasing Superwoman: A Working Mom's Adventures in Life and Faith

Image by Waikay Lau, used with permission via Flickr. Widgets