The Importance of Humility in Legal Advocacy

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Lindsay Richardson


At this point in my life and career, there are any number of things that I trust more than a person who suggests that his or her life has been easy, perfect, or without unexpected complications. Allow me to name a few: requests for money from a Nigerian prince; George R.R. Martin’s promise that he will finish Winds of Winter; gas station sushi; someone who says (s)he understands the series finale of LOST; and any attorney’s promise that he “will be brief.” The list goes on, but if I am certain of anything it is that life is unpredictable, and everyone makes mistakes and encounters hardship along the way. Good intentions and bad outcomes are not mutually exclusive, despite my panglossian view that perhaps they should be.

There are many lessons to be gleaned through the process of making mistakes, and it is through these experiences that we grow as individuals and develop important traits like fortitude and vulnerability. That said, they may also come at a price. As a criminal defense attorney, I often enter my clients’ otherwise accomplished and well-executed lives at a time when they feel the very heavy burden that accompanies having made a mistake or being wrongfully accused of the same. My first meeting with a new client is typically spent listening, learning, and easing the client into what will be, for at least some period of time, an uncomfortable yet inevitable “new normal” – one saturated with scrutiny, shame, heartache and fear. As I listen to my clients’ stories, I am always reminded of the delicate nature of my standing in the world at any given moment in time. As John Bradford said, “there but for the grace of God (go I).” While swiftly and thoroughly addressing my client’s legal problem is of paramount importance, it is no less important that they walk away from my office with the unquestionable understanding that I am on their team, there is no judgment, and it is my privilege to stand next to them as they navigate their bumpy road.

It is this precept – that we as attorneys have the high honor of making a living by helping people in times of need – that defines the professionals at Foster Graham Milstein & Calisher, LLP and separates us from our peers. Too often, attorneys can exude entitlement and ego over their clients and cases.  Many put themselves first and disregard the fact that representation of a client is a sacred trust in which the client’s interest, and only the client’s interest, comes first. Practicing with humility is a critical part of engendering the type of dialogue and sharing of ideas necessary to arrive at a desired result, and it is with that in mind that we seek to serve our clients’ needs. Rest assured, the attorneys at this firm are some of the most confident, fearless, and competent in the profession. Humility and weakness are not one in the same and should not be confused. Rather, we employ the best attorneys in the business who understand they are just as valuable — and just as flawed — as those they have the privilege to serve. As a partner at this firm, I thank you for your business. It is our pleasure and privilege to represent each and every one of you who walks through our door.

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