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Adversarial Legal System

Updated: May 5, 2021

Our legal system is adversarial - with winners and losers. Lawyers are competitive and, naturally, we love to win. You would not be much of a trial lawyer if you didn’t love to win.

Victories are sweet. A jury returning a verdict in favor of your client after a hard-fought trial is a rush. A judge sustaining an important legal argument is often a moment of pleasurable vindication. One’s ego swells, understandably. It’s affirmation of what we do and who we are.

At the same time, you should check your emotions. Be respectful to the losing side. Public displays – hooting, high-fiving and back slapping - are not okay, even if subdued. Gloating – or anything close to it – is not okay. Even if the other side has been nasty and less than honest, resist the temptation to poke them. Nothing is gained by kicking anyone when they are down. You end up looking like an ass. Don’t be a jerk, even if it's justifiable.

A funny constant about our business is that the shoe always ends up on the other foot. Today you win. Tomorrow is another matter. In your victories, treat the other side like you would want to be treated if you had lost. The Golden Rule applies to lawyers too. Follow it.

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