Expectations for Your Law Suit
If you have a good case, you might
lose. If you have a bad case, you might win. Over the last decade Mark Beatty
has come up with the following three principles that he thinks summarize the
practice of law over the last 6,000 years in the entire world:
1) We have legal systems, not justice
Justice is an ideal that many of us
strive for. What exactly justice is, however, is either debated or outright
mocked by those with differing worldviews.
We have an administrative system
where justice might happen, but it is more likely that a person receives more
or less than the average. An attorney can research what the average is, and
guess whether a client will receive more or less than the average, but it is
just a guess. Attorneys who promise more then this are the subject of many
2) You can do anything if you fill
out the paperwork
Consider the Terry Schiavo murder/mercy
killing: The husband Michael Schiavo went to court and was granted guardianship
status--he filled out the paperwork. With this paperwork in hand, he gave the
order to kill Terry by starvation. It did not matter that he had a conflict of
interest--an adulterous relationship that included illegitimate
children. What mattered is that he filled out the paperwork and thus he was
legally allowed to dispose of his "wife," thus freeing himself to marry
his girl friend.
Rule 11 requires an attorney to sign paperwork
filed in court. If the attorney has a frivolous argument or lied about the
facts supporting the paperwork, the paperwork can still win in court unless
that opposing party objects, submits opposing paperwork, and successfully
argues for their own paperwork. Generally you need a legal education
and experience to figure out when another attorney is lying and exaggerating.
The judge or jury ultimately decides which version is "true."
To "fill out the paperwork" takes time. That requires
someone, usually the client to pay. Sometimes the client pays beforehand, other
times the client pays if and when the case is won. Some attorneys, including
Mark Beatty, do "pro bono" work, which means the attorney rather than
the client pays.
3) Judges and Juries are reluctant to
rule in your favor unless you have filled out the paperwork
At the end of the legal process, a judge and/or jury decides whether the law
and facts go in your favor. If you filled in more and better "paperwork" than
your opponent, then you usually win. In criminal law, the prosecutor has a
higher burden of proof, in other words has to fill out more and better
"paperwork." This is why O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake were not convicted in
criminal court but both lost big time in civil court. The burden of proof in
civil court is lower.
What many do not fully realize is that a judgment is final--unless one party
wants to fill out more "paperwork" in the appeal process. This means Plaintiffs
who were injured has only one chance for their day in court. What the judge
and/or jury gives them is, for most points, final.