Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

what makes a bad lawyer?

most of an lawyer's work is not exactly brain surgery, so wh severian208/04/12
Indolence; sloth. mississippilawyer08/05/12
all of the above but mostly lazy lawyeratl08/04/12
No flexibility or adaptability. ballsnottt08/04/12
too crooked. "understanding the darkside" is one thing, but thecharmingmresq08/04/12
I was going to say being "unethical" as probably the worst t lawyeratl08/04/12
It's the clients. Over the years, it seemed that crazy peop aintnoreason08/04/12
What made me a bad lawyer? The inability to the best for my unfrozenlawyer08/04/12
Unfroze I thought the jitters were perfectly normal? I've he hungjuror08/04/12
I don't have jitters. I have cried multiple times in front unfrozenlawyer08/04/12
I"m afraid that I am going to have that problem. babylawyer08/08/12
If it makes you feel any better, I am diagnosed with severe unfrozenlawyer08/09/12
While appearing in state trial court as a 3L I got so nervou mocha08/09/12
When I cried, the judge told me client to get a real lawyer. unfrozenlawyer08/09/12
Oh, how sad for you. I do know a lawyer who was so nervo babylawyer08/10/12
Eh, I don't practice. The whole bullshit was not worth it f unfrozenlawyer08/10/12
Haha!! You should of reported him to the judicial counsel. O cocolawyer12/06/17
Yikes!! You should only do transactional law. I would probab cocolawyer12/06/17
No longer giving a s**t about their clients, like I found my goherd108/04/12
True. But the reverse is caring too much. Some of the best shuiz12/05/17
Overpromising results. They get the client because everyone phillydoucherocket08/04/12
Yes, this is very common! guyingorillasuit08/04/12
A good lawyer takes that which is complex and makes it simpl onehell08/05/12
nepotism. True for any profession. boseisaltplace12/05/17
“ The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every s defensivelawyer12/05/17
Speaking about transactional practice only: 1) not unders dingbat12/05/17
low LSAT score themapmaster12/05/17
This is a really interesting thread. I’d say the follo ambulancechaser201312/05/17
Assuming you are not lazy, unethical, mentally ill or have a onehell12/06/17
I agree. I often find that people think attorneys are poor b cocolawyer12/06/17
you know nothing about transactional if you think almost all dingbat12/06/17
I, for one, don't think most lawyers could excel in transact onehell12/06/17
even with training, and the right personality, I've come acr dingbat12/06/17
I completely and utterly disagree that only 30-40% of attorn cocolawyer12/06/17
"But because of the supply/demand problem, our hypothetical williamdrayton12/06/17
eh, there are a lot of bad lawyers. Outside of biglaw, prob dingbat12/06/17
Right. And probably a similar proportion of the lawyers you onehell12/06/17
even factoring that in, some people just don't get it. Not dingbat12/06/17

severian2 (Aug 4, 2012 - 12:01 am)

most of an lawyer's work is not exactly brain surgery, so what exactly makes a bad lawyer? is it being lazy? stupid? disorganized?

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mississippilawyer (Aug 5, 2012 - 2:26 pm)

Indolence; sloth.

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lawyeratl (Aug 4, 2012 - 12:29 am)

all of the above but mostly lazy

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ballsnottt (Aug 4, 2012 - 12:44 am)

No flexibility or adaptability.

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thecharmingmresq (Aug 4, 2012 - 1:01 am)

too crooked. "understanding the darkside" is one thing, but "joining the darkside" is another.

I knew a PI guy who had a special ruler made. It was 10", but written out like a 12". he'd go to slip'n'falls, especially with municipalities, and take a pic with his crooked ruler showing the muni was out of the variance for sidewalks. (IIRC, 4" was the maximum permissable difference between sidewalk "pannels" ro whatever the hell you call them).
So he'd go with his crooked ruler and take pics as evidence. Works great. For a few pretty big cases, even. but then one day a muni worker goes out with his OWN ruler, a legit ruler, and measures. Instantly, over night, the guy's world comes crasing down

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lawyeratl (Aug 4, 2012 - 1:12 am)

I was going to say being "unethical" as probably the worst trait for a bad lawyer, but too often, everyone thinks "well if you don't break the rules in this game, then you're a sucker"

as you pointed out...wrong...you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

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aintnoreason (Aug 4, 2012 - 9:03 am)

It's the clients. Over the years, it seemed that crazy people would find a crazy lawyer to pursue their windmill. Since we were all somewhat sane when we passed the bar, my guess is that crazy is like radiation, 600 rads and you're crazy too, no matter that the professors who don't practice and the practice rules tell us that we aren't affected by our clients belief--I think you get a small dose of each client leaking through.

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unfrozenlawyer (Aug 4, 2012 - 1:41 pm)

What made me a bad lawyer? The inability to the best for my client because I just couldn't go to court without being extremely nervous (shaking and crying). Also I was starting to get that way at mediations and while talking to opposing counsel.

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hungjuror (Aug 4, 2012 - 5:15 pm)

Unfroze I thought the jitters were perfectly normal? I've heard some attys tell me if you don't feel like puking before each big event then you're not meant for this.

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unfrozenlawyer (Aug 4, 2012 - 5:49 pm)

I don't have jitters. I have cried multiple times in front of judges and mediators. That ain't jitters. I have full blown panic attacks.

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babylawyer (Aug 8, 2012 - 10:48 pm)

I"m afraid that I am going to have that problem.

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unfrozenlawyer (Aug 9, 2012 - 11:33 pm)

If it makes you feel any better, I am diagnosed with severe social anxiety disorder. I've had it all my life. If you don't have a history of symptoms, you'll probably just have normal jitters.

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mocha (Aug 9, 2012 - 8:01 pm)

While appearing in state trial court as a 3L I got so nervous that I started rambling, and the judge said "Counsel, I'd like to hear you, but what exactly is it that your arguing" I hope she doesn't remember me should I appear before her again.

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unfrozenlawyer (Aug 9, 2012 - 11:33 pm)

When I cried, the judge told me client to get a real lawyer. :-)

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babylawyer (Aug 10, 2012 - 12:03 am)

Oh, how sad for you.

I do know a lawyer who was so nervous on her first trial she felt sick to her stomach. More so then just butterflies. Halfway to the lectern to make her opening statement, she knew she was going to throw up, so she turned and ran out, and, in her rush, went into the men's room on accident. She came back a few minutes later, apologized, and made her statement like nothing had happened, even though she said "everyone knew." And, she won.

It's been a few years since then, and she's a wonderful trial lawyer, but says she still gets nervous, she's just got better timing now.

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unfrozenlawyer (Aug 10, 2012 - 12:06 am)

Eh, I don't practice. The whole bullshit was not worth it for me.

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cocolawyer (Dec 6, 2017 - 1:08 am)

Haha!! You should of reported him to the judicial counsel. Only your peers are allowed to laugh.

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cocolawyer (Dec 6, 2017 - 1:06 am)

Yikes!! You should only do transactional law. I would probably laugh if I saw an attorney crying in front of a judge...no offense.

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goherd1 (Aug 4, 2012 - 4:16 pm)

No longer giving a s**t about their clients, like I found myself feeling right before I quit the practice of law.

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shuiz (Dec 5, 2017 - 6:57 pm)

True. But the reverse is caring too much. Some of the best PD’s I worked with were the ones who could fight hard and then walk away without caring when their clients got slammed.

Those who took every loss hard just didn’t last.

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phillydoucherocket (Aug 4, 2012 - 4:48 pm)

Overpromising results. They get the client because everyone else was realistic. They then fuck up the representation, client thinks all lawyers are liars.

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guyingorillasuit (Aug 4, 2012 - 6:24 pm)

Yes, this is very common!

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onehell (Aug 5, 2012 - 2:54 am)

A good lawyer takes that which is complex and makes it simple. A bad lawyer takes that which is simple and makes it complex.

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boseisaltplace (Dec 5, 2017 - 5:09 pm)

nepotism. True for any profession.

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defensivelawyer (Dec 5, 2017 - 8:22 pm)

“ The good lawyer is not the man who has an eye to every side and angle of contingency,

and qualifies all his qualifications, but who throws himself on your part so heartily,

that he can get you out of a scrape. ”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1860)


i believe this to be true

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dingbat (Dec 5, 2017 - 8:36 pm)

Speaking about transactional practice only:

1) not understanding complex issues; not understanding that seemingly small changes can have a major impact on your client

2) looking for no. People come to attorneys for solutions, they don't want to hear they can't do something, they want to hear they can. It's the attorney's job to figure out how to make a deal work anyway - i.e. coming up with creative solutions

3) being a pushover. An attorney needs to push back against the other side to get the best deal for their client, but the attorney also needs to push back against their client to protect them from themselves

4) being too eager to please. And being too much of a hardass. The goal is to get deals done on the best terms for the client. Too eager to please and you won't get the best terms, too much of a hardass and the other side will just walk away. it's a fine line

5) bad communicator. you need to be able to (a) get sufficient details from the parties involved to get to the bottom of things, and (b) be able to explain issues to the parties involved in ways that are easy to udnerstand

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themapmaster (Dec 5, 2017 - 9:25 pm)

low LSAT score

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ambulancechaser2013 (Dec 5, 2017 - 9:53 pm)

This is a really interesting thread.

I’d say the following: not meeting your basic fiduciary duty to your client. I mean the duty of care, loyalty, and competence.

I’ve basically only done injury law in my career: personal injury and workers’ comp, all personal injury now. If you are a law firm owner and place your interests above your client you are not meeting your duty of loyalty. If you run a mill and get only 30-50% of case value you are not meeting your duty of care. You are not meeting your duty of candor if your ads and promises are totally misleading or even partially. Sure, it’s all debatable but it’s sad how making a business of personal injury and especially workers’ comp hurts the most injured and most in need.

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onehell (Dec 6, 2017 - 11:51 am)

Assuming you are not lazy, unethical, mentally ill or have a drug/alcohol problem, IMHO all lawyers have the potential to be good lawyers, and the "bad" ones are probably just not a good fit for their practice area. Unfortunately, they are often frozen out of the kinds of practice areas they might have been good at.

Most people can't even manage to finish a BA within six years. In anything, from anywhere. The percentage who finish with a 3.0+ GPA is lower still. The percentage that go on to any sort of grad program, lower yet again.

So let's take a VERY average 0L. Probably has something like a 150 LSAT and a 3.0 GPA in liberal arts from Directional State U. This will put you at a pretty bad law school, but let's be honest. Your LSAT score was just average. Average among a group of already very above-average people.

Now let's assume you graduate law school and pass the bar. A place like Suffolk (which has medians in line with our hypothetical student) has a bar passage rate of about 75%. So yet another 25% of people have now been weeded out.

As the OP pointed out, law is not rocket science. This hypothetical very average law grad is not actually average; this person is actually quite a bit smarter and harder-working than the vast majority of the population, and is even smarter than about 25% of his bar-failing classmates who themselves were already well above-average for the most part. Simply put a 3.0/150 from a third tier school who passes the bar has indeed accomplished something that the vast majority of the general population could not.

But because of the supply/demand problem, our hypothetical new grad is going to be restricted to low-end areas of law that tend to depend on personality traits he might not have, like salesmanship and trial-attorney bluster. He won't be good at it, and will be perceived as a bad lawyer. He could've been very good at transactional/corporate work, but we'll never know because he will never have the opportunity to work in that area of law.

I think most people who are perceived as bad lawyers are really just a bad fit for whatever they ended up stuck in. They aren't inherently bad lawyers, and they certainly aren't stupid, and are in fact probably several standard deviations above the mean relative to the general population. They were just badly placed.

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cocolawyer (Dec 6, 2017 - 12:34 pm)

I agree. I often find that people think attorneys are poor based upon their courtroom appearance, which only is part of the case. Now if you are like unfrozen and start crying in the middle of your appearance, then well you know you are not meant for any level of litigation. That does not necessarily mean that unfrozen could not do transactional law and excel. Some, attorneys also are not quick on their feet, or adverse to conflict, which is an extreme determent to any level of litigation.

The truth is almost all attorneys could excel in transactional areas of law, but very few could make it in litigation. The problem is that most area's of law include some level of litigation (Family, Employment, Real Property, Probate, Criminal, Personal Injury, etc). That is why even in a poor economy great litigators are always pulling in six figures...there is a demand for them. Where as it is extremely difficult to find a transactional only position.

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dingbat (Dec 6, 2017 - 12:46 pm)

you know nothing about transactional if you think almost all attorneys could excel in it.
I've met too many attorneys who I could totally screw over without them ever realizing it.

I'd also dispute your statement that "most areas of law include some level of litigation", considering that litigators make up approximately 30-40% of most large firms' practice. (quick google search. I was surprised it was that high)

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onehell (Dec 6, 2017 - 5:29 pm)

I, for one, don't think most lawyers could excel in transactional work. But I do think it has more to do with fit than fitness. You need the right personality and the right training, both are indispensable to be good at anything. Someone with the gift of gab who just loves a good fight is going to hate transactional work regardless of whether he went to Harvard or Cooley. And if he hates it, he won't be as good at it.

Conversely, take a median third tier grad who is that more introverted type, loves to research and write, put him through biglaw training, and I don't think you'd find a discernible difference. But the only door to this vital training is closed to the third tier grad. Without that training, you're absolutely right that he would suck at corporate work. So he gets thrown into practice areas that want him to be something he is not, e.g. an ambulance chaser, and he hates it and predictably enough, sucks at it.

The problem is that the industry expects all the third tier grads to have the personality of a used car salesman, and all the HYS grads to be uber-nerds. This overstates the real difference between them, because again, they are all well above the mean relative to the average person in both intelligence and drive. The HYS grads are a lot smarter, perhaps, but both are well above the general population mean. Some areas of law are more complex than others, absolutely, but no area of law is rocket science so it's just diminishing returns once the better training the HYS grad gets from biglaw is taken out of the equation.

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dingbat (Dec 6, 2017 - 5:59 pm)

even with training, and the right personality, I've come across plenty of bad transactional attorneys.

Maybe I should say mediocre. The worst are the ones who want to edit verbiage that's trivial while missing the clauses that are detrimental to their client. There are those who will fail to pick up on hints of potential issues, or a matter may be superficially fine and they don't dig deep enough.
The more complex the matter, the more chance for screw-up. Say, when there are multiple layers of entities, what does one of those layers limit exposure in a way that's detrimental to their client? Is there a potential chain-of-title issue that's easily overlooked? Is there a hidden fee thrown in there that they don't see? There are often a lot of little things that can make a big difference, and some people are better at spotting them than others.
Especially the truly complex matters, but even simpler things.

Just because they're smarter than the average bear, doesn't mean they're all special. And I learned really quickly who I could screw over, and who I couldn't.

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cocolawyer (Dec 6, 2017 - 7:11 pm)

I completely and utterly disagree that only 30-40% of attorneys are involved in some level of litigation. That is non-sense. Family Law has some level of litigation. Employment and Labor Law has some level of litigation. Probate has elements of litigation. Personal injury law is litigation. Criminal law has some level of litigation. Real property litigation, is well litigation. Intellectual property has some level of litigation. Almost every area of law has some level of litigation.

I know plenty of transactional attorneys. My first firm I worked for also did Estate Planning which was so simplistic a high school graduate could do it. It was literally paint by numbers. Now high level business transactional work...okay sure. I believe only the most astute attorneys could be successful in that environment. But run of the mill...meh. Conversely run of the mill litigation still scares the **** out of most attorneys.

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williamdrayton (Dec 6, 2017 - 12:44 pm)

"But because of the supply/demand problem, our hypothetical new grad is going to be restricted to low-end areas of law that tend to depend on personality traits he might not have, like salesmanship and trial-attorney bluster. He won't be good at it, and will be perceived as a bad lawyer. He could've been very good at transactional/corporate work, but we'll never know because he will never have the opportunity to work in that area of law.

I think most people who are perceived as bad lawyers are really just a bad fit for whatever they ended up stuck in. They aren't inherently bad lawyers, and they certainly aren't stupid, and are in fact probably several standard deviations above the mean relative to the general population. They were just badly placed."

Idi Admin - please lock the thread - nothing more needs to be said

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dingbat (Dec 6, 2017 - 12:50 pm)

eh, there are a lot of bad lawyers. Outside of biglaw, probably half the attorneys I meet and talk with are not good. I've also known biglaw attorneys who are not that good, but generally speaking most of them are at least mediocre

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onehell (Dec 6, 2017 - 5:42 pm)

Right. And probably a similar proportion of the lawyers you encounter are deeply unhappy, because they didn't go to law school to chase ambulances and no-asset divorce litigants. And since they didn't get biglaw, they mostly got their training in an environment of "sink or swim, eat what you kill."

Can you imagine why someone who is unhappy and poorly trained might perform poorly, for reasons entirely separate from innate intelligence or lack thereof?

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dingbat (Dec 6, 2017 - 6:00 pm)

even factoring that in, some people just don't get it. Not everyone who didn't get biglaw is leading an ignominious life. Some are quite successful and happy at what they do and dumb as a doorknob.

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