There must be a thousand lawyer jokes and none of them are complimentary. My favorite is the one about three people, an Olympic swimmer, a priest, and a lawyer stranded on a deserted island. Despite the fact that the island was surrounded by shark infested waters one of them had to swim for help. The Olympic swimmer being the strongest swimmer went first but was soon overtaken and eaten by the sharks. Next went the priest in the hopes that Divine intervention would protect him but he too was eaten. Finally, the lawyer was able to swim to safety. When asked why he alone was able to swim through all of the sharks unharmed, he replied “professional courtesy”.

We love to hate lawyers. In most surveys of the public goodwill bestowed on various professions, lawyers always rank near the bottom of the list. It seems that almost everyone has a distaste for and a distrust of lawyers until, of course, they need one. The very things we seem to dislike about lawyers, that they are too aggressive, too devious, and too difficult to deal with are the very attributes we demand when we find that we must hire a lawyer. No one wants a weak, witless, easy going lawyer.

Many times in my career, particularly, when it came to litigation it was clear that my clients wanted me to be all of the things that they also hate in lawyers. Most clients look at you the way a rancher might have looked at a hired gun in the old west. Every client wants their lawyer to be meaner, nastier, and have more tricks up his sleeve than the other guy’s lawyer. It was hard to have the tough persona that your client wanted and still be an effective lawyer. Hired gun or not, any good lawyer will tell you that you best serve your client if you don’t always proceed with your guns blazing.

Early in my career an older, wiser lawyer told me that a good settlement is better than a bad verdict. In other words, going to trial, due to the time, cost and uncertainty should be a last resort when all other options, including settlement, have failed. You never know what a jury will do and every trial is a little like rolling the dice. Of course, in some cases, a trial is the only viable way to achieve a just result.

Sometimes, your client is better served and you get a better result by not being all of the things people love to hate about lawyers.