That was my father’s reaction when I relayed to him what I considered to be a fine piece of attorney-ing. I was a new lawyer assigned a high-profile home invasion robbery case. The newspaper detailed that my client faced decades behind bars if convicted.
After plea negotiations with the prosecuting attorney I was able to secure a plea to one felony count and an agreed sentence of “only” five years in prison. I was proud of the work I’d done and felt that my client was lucky to have me. I also arrogantly assumed that I had done better than any other attorney could have done with the case. But was that a proper measure?
My father had hit upon a logical flaw which I have hereafter called the “Cleanest Pig In the Pen Fallacy.” We, as attorneys, often justify our actions, our plea deals and our advice based on what we have seen other attorneys do and experience. We base our decisions on the context, providing our clients with a risk assessment based on our (limited?) experience. Being a competitive lot, we feel good when we perceive our result better than the “average” attorney. Thus we are happy being the “cleanest pig in the pen.”
Our clients do not care who the cleanest pig in the pen is. They view our actions from a very different perspective. To them, all that matters is the result of their case. They are looking at the “pen” from the outside. My father’s wisdom led me to the understanding that to someone going to prison, be it for one day or ten years, all of us attorneys are pigs covered in shit! Whether we did better than the average attorney is irrelevant!
Since that time I have told this story countless times. Whenever I relate a pre-trial offer to a client I tell them that the offer should be evaluated from all possible perspectives. I impose upon myself a strict self-regulation not to view the offer only from the limited perspective of how I feel about the offer. By looking at an offer from all sides I am able to provide a full context and look at the case through my client’s eyes, the prosecutor’s eyes, the judge’s eyes, etc. Being aware of the “cleanest pig in the pen fallacy” has made me a better attorney. I offer this story here as a reminder that we, as attorneys, have an obligation to not judge ourselves by any standard other than our client’s.
OVI Attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio. He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself Dayton’s choice for drunk driving defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at (937) 318-1384 or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). If you need assistance after hours, call the 24/7 DUI Hotline at (937) 776-2671. You can have DaytonDUI at your fingertips by downloading the DaytonDUI Android App or have DaytonDUI sent directly to your mobile device by texting DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500. Follow DaytonDUI on Facebook, @DaytonDUI on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pheed and Pintrest or get RSS of the Ohio DUI blog. You can emailCharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.com or visit his office at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324. “All I do is DUI defense.”
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