A lawyer friend of nearly thirty years stopped to chat on the courthouse steps yesterday. He was headed to another county. I was due in court.
But, we had not seen each other for a while and traded stories for about twenty minutes.
This friend is in his seventies, looks better than anyone who knew him as a young man would have expected, and tells a great story.
My friend was raised in an Irish Catholic family in an Irish Catholic neighborhood in New England. Over the years, he’s given a couple rationales for his decision to enlist during the Vietnam War.
One version is that his mother found the only college in America that would accept him. She gave him the choice to enroll in the Catholic college or enlist. My friend chose Vietnam.
Another version is that enlisting was the only option for young men in his neighborhood. Their fathers and grandfathers fought in the World Wars. Their mothers expected them to serve in the next war.
Either way, my friend left his wife and young son for Vietnam in the middle 1960s. He did not think he would survive a year as an infantry soldier. So, he followed orders and fought bravely.
For the first ten months. At which point, he started to realize he might outlive his tour. His sense of duty was suddenly tempered by more practical goals.
My friend claims that his most aggressive act during the last couple months was to put a foot out in hopes of catching shrapnel. “I was too skinny to get hit.”
“With two weeks left, you couldn’t have found my ass anywhere near a fire fight. I was not going to leave as a tragic, patriotic story.”
Time is a strange invention. I am sure some days felt like a lifetime for my friend during his tour.
Some days roll by in the law office at the speed of sound. A day in trial feels like an eternity and the consequences last forever.
Funny how a relatively short span of time can have so much impact and alter our viewpoint so dramatically.
But, little changes our clients’ universal goal: solve my problem, and do it quickly.
Stress associated with fear of the unknown has as much influence on decision-making in criminal cases as any single factor.
The desire for relief, even if short-lived, creates conflict between us and our clients at times. We rarely have all the answers, but we usually know when our clients are choosing the wrong ones.
Like my friend beginning his tour, our clients sometimes have trouble envisioning their long term prospects. The immediate suffering caused by the direct and indirect consequences of an allegation of criminal or professional misconduct is overwhelming and consuming.
Every situation is different.
Sometimes, cutting our losses quickly is a valid strategy. When it is an option, we are wise to move quickly.
Other times, quick decisions are uneducated, emotional moves that bring short-term relief at the price of long-term success.
What’s certain is that the only choice is to fight bravely when we must and take advantage of a quick, favorable exit when we can.
We are criminal trial lawyers. We represent people accused of criminal offenses who risk losing everything. We work to get them their best results and back to leading productive lives.
Call if you need us, or if you just want to say hello.
P.S. Happy Juneteenth!