The idealism that fuels the drive to become a professional working to promote such high-minded principles as justice, truth and fairness transforms into sheer determination that drives a seasoned attorney like me. If only my clients had a window into the work that comprises their representation and the many ways in which we fight for them everyday. The legal profession is fairly unique in that we go to bat for our clients regularly, yet they rarely see us take a swing, let alone hit a home run. I often think that while clients are happy to be shielded from the confrontations that are required to advance their claim, they would feel so gratified by the fervor and the frequency of our efforts as their advocate. It might bridge the gulf between clients’ perceptions of attorneys as overpaid and irascible to the reality that we devote our professional lives to fighting for their cause so if we seem edgy at times it’s because we can’t always turn it off (ask our spouses who yearn for a toggle switch).
I wonder if my clients have any idea how many times I step up to the bench and declare, “Mark McNabola, on behalf of the plaintiff…” Even before filing the complaint, it’s my job to make sure the defendant cannot seek to delay the proceedings, or avoid culpability. Usually the defendants come out swinging so the early battle is fending off dismissal. This is not the first time I raise my voice so the plaintiffs may be heard. And we plaintiff’s attorneys don’t just appear in court, we advocate by grinding out the legal research and argument that support the plaintiff’s case. Once we stave off the initial attacks, most clients don’t realize that there is painstaking study and a variety of maneuvers that are required to get through discovery, the plaintiff’s deposition and that of the witnesses in the case, as well as more motions intended to end the case before it even gets near a jury. All the while we’re working to ensure that the plaintiff’s case is proceeding so that when it comes time to put a value on our client’s damages and suffering, whether at a pre-trial settlement conference or trial, the plaintiff is in the most advantageous position for recovery. Most cases do not go to trial, so the small windows our clients have into our advocacy on their behalf gives them a skewed, and maybe dark, view.
Speaking of bleak views, justice in America today is frequently defined by its catastrophic failures. Yet its true mark is in the unnoticed victories occurring everyday. I can’t help but think that if we wore the equivalent of a bodycam or compiled a YouTube video chronicling our work on our clients’ cases that it would go a long way to restore faith and trust in lawyers, the judicial system serving victims of personal injury and the critical role we play to make sure victims from all walks of life have equal access to justice and full and fair compensation. It is this end result that stokes my passion to fight for those who cannot.