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  • Mark Bennett

We've got your back.

I won't pick on anyone in particular, but about two thirds of criminal-defense lawyers' websites are utter nonsense, if you know anything about criminal defense.

But these folks are marketing themselves to people who don't know anything about criminal defense. It benefits them to keep the clients ignorant.

I'd rather have clients who understand the system and what we, together, are up against.

So let's pick on one particular catchphrase:

"Aggressive" Lawyers

If you read lots of lawyers' websites (and I hate to say it, but if you are looking for a lawyer, you are going to have to do that) you would be justified in thinking that you need an aggressive lawyer to get you through your criminal case, because virtually everyone advertises their aggressiveness.

It's utter nonsense. The reason lawyers advertise their aggressiveness is that lawyers advertise their aggressiveness. (This is the yellow-legal-pad theory of why lawyers do things. Why do lawyers use yellow legal pads? Because when they started practicing law, all of the lawyers used yellow legal pads. Why do lawyers advertise their aggressiveness? Because when they started practicing law …)

There is a time for an aggressive approach to criminal defense, and there is a time for a subtle approach. Most of the time, a subtle approach is probably better: not a battering ram, but a scalpel. Aggressiveness is itself not a positive trait in a lawyer. Do you want your lawyer to be aggressive toward you? Toward the judge who will be deciding how to set your bail? To the jurors who will be deciding your case?

If you are certain that you do want such aggression; go ahead and close this window now!

Still here? Good! There is a laundry list of better traits for your criminal-defense lawyer to have than "aggressiveness":

  • Competence. Would you rather have an aggressive-but-incompetent lawyer, or a competent-but-calm lawyer?

  • Calm. You are choosing someone to go with you into battle. Do you want someone aggressively panicky, or someone calm and caring?

  • Compassion. Your life will be in this person's hands. Do you want someone aggressive who doesn't care about you, or someone who cares about you and the job?

  • Conscientiousness. Missing a detail can make the difference between your living a life of freedom, and your ending your days in a cage. Do you want someone aggressive and sloppy, or someone conscientious who makes sure you understand what's going on?

  • Communication. Your criminal-defense lawyer's greatest responsibility is to help you understand the situation—the facts and the law—well enough to make the decisions that are right for you. Do you want someone aggressive who doesn't return your phone calls, or someone who communicates with you every step of the way?

It's no coincidence that these are traits you'd look for in a friend or partner: what makes a good friend also makes a good lawyer. And while any good friend, like a good lawyer, should have your back in a fight, a friend whose aggressiveness gets you into unnecessary fights is, like such a lawyer, less than ideal.

Lawyers who care about you, want the best for you, and will do everything they can to get the best for you; lawyers who are calmly competent, and will keep you informed about what they are doing and what it means.

That's who we are.

—MB

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