Lawyer Dopers: How do you deal with losing a case?

Well, the first couple months in the practice of law has been successful; mostly in family and in magistrate (misdemeanor criminal offenses) court. Four disposed of cases and four wins (win=client is happy and got a result that met or exceeded their informed and reasonable expectation going in).

But the bell of a loss will be coming soon. How do you deal with your emotions after telling that client, “Sorry, pal. I did my best. These next 6 months in jail will go quick.” Or “Sorry you lost custody of your kid. That supervised visitation every two weeks for four hours will at least let you see him.”

Have you had disappointed clients go all over town and slander you about what a crappy lawyer you are? Call you crying? Yell and scream at you?

Personally, I think I’ll have to get drunk to handle it. Suggestions?

Try a good whiskey and stay hydrated.

I deal with the issue, by trying to keep my clients expectations reasonable and letting them know and reminding them that there is a possibility that the judge and jury may not see things their way.

Personally, as long as I did my best, and didn’t screw something up, I’m fine. I try not to get personally invested in my cases and I try to stay objective because otherwise, you’ll go crazy.

I remind myself that my worth as a human being directly correlates into the results my clients achieve. If I win, this is fantastic, it was all about me, and not the strength of the facts as they meshed with the law! If the case is lost, well , then it is still all about me! No fallacy of naive attribution indulged in here. Months of depression.

Just don’t push for too much sympathy from your client. Saying “Sure, you’re going to prison. But I’m the one who has to deal with the disappointment of losing a case.” will probably get negative results.

Never promise a particular result. Explain to the client the applicable legal standards, and how the available evidence might be seen in light of those standards. The finder of fact, whether judge or jury, may see things differently than the client does. If there’s a way to reach a settlement, take it. Especially if you have reason to believe the result of a trial may be worse than a settlement offer.

I do my best to manage my clients’ expectations along the way. Also, alcohol and commiserating with my fellow attorneys. The more experienced ones usually have some good war stories.

“Hey, buster, it’s a long walk back from the gallows. It’ll be so cold in February, too!”

The outcome said to be common in classical Tlachtli might be one option.

Win or lose, it is all about billable hours!:smiley:

Hear hear - it’s never a losing case if the check clears.



You get to make your argument, but you do not get to make your facts.

As a lawyer, your job is to play the cards that are dealt to you by your client and the overall fact situation as best you can. Often you cannot “win” in court but you can negotiate, persuade, or otherwise improve the outcome for your client over what they would have got without your help.

Sometimes, you or your client may decide to take a risk for your client, such as litigating an iffy case rather than settling; as long as your client knows the risks you are taking, and is willing to take them, and you prepared your case to the best of your ability, there is no shame in losing.