Lawyers are faced with upholding the law or challenging the law every working day of their lives.
Sometimes, the case challenges the lawyer's own moral code. Those challenges really define how those people practice law--and they possibly change it.
Here were some of those answers.
Family law attorney here. I've done plenty of divorces and custody dispute cases, that most stuff doesn't get to me. It's only when the kids are put in a bad situations between one or both of the parents being some type of addicts that really gets to me.
One that was especially hard for me was a divorce where I represented dad. Mom was a raging alcoholic that would bring random guys home many nights from the bar while the dad was working. I saw video and heard phones calls from their little boy calling the dad at work at like 2AM because he was tired, but couldn't go to sleep because mom was playing loud music and had "friends" over still partying.
I was on the right side of that one, but seeing and hearing that stuff with the little boy really got to me.
During my days of insurance defense, I spent one lovely afternoon bickering with counsel for a co-defendant over who would be responsible for paying the $5000 that was keeping us from settling. We did this while on-site at the plaintiff's home for a deposition. Plaintiff was hit by a semi-truck (i.e., the truck hit his actual body) on the interstate, and while it managed not to kill him, it tore off an arm and a leg, and shattered most of everything else. He was almost entirely immobile, confined to a power chair that he could barely operate, and confided to us that if he had function in his remaining hand, he'd shoot himself.
Oh, the $5000? It was based on an estimate to renovate his bathroom so that he could actually use it. He'd been using a bedpan in the living room.
I felt like a complete jerk sitting in front of him and arguing about such an insignificant sum.
My friend's dad is an attorney. He started out in criminal defense, and lucked out on one of his first cases. A friend he'd known for years' wife was horribly murdered while he was away, dismembered with an axe. Her body had been found by a fluke, and there was a tiny bit of circumstantial evidence pointing to the husband. He was an upstanding citizen, the two had never fought, it was a silly case. The lawyer got the husband acquitted, and while they were having celebratory drinks, the husband admitted he'd actually done it.
My friend's dad walked out of the bar and switched to corporate law.
Please don't ask for specifics.
Had a case where a guy shot and killed a security guard that slapped him across the face for selling drugs near a store.
I knew the guy had done it.
It was close to midnight, the crime scene had poor lighting and the shooter wore a hoodie. Only eye witness that showed up for the trial had told the police at the time of the crime that the suspect was black. The defendant wasn't caucasian but wasn't black either. That, IMO, was the argument that won the jury over. Defendant found not guilty.
He thanks me while in tears. His mother and grandmother bring me cake and a thank you note afterwards.
Less than a year later I'm watching the news and they're reporting a crime where a crew held up three families hostage while robbing their apartments. They beat up the janitor very bad. They tied the families up and locked them in one of the apartment's bathroom while threatening to thow a grenade inside if any of them decided to wisen up.
For a brief second one of the robbers looks right into an elevator camera before spray-painting it. Close-up on the guys face.
I think you can imagine whose face I was looking at.
In Spite Of
I represented a mom in a custody case. Both parents fighting for primary. Mom was admittedly a mess and suffering from some mental health issues. Dad took the kid and didn't bring them back for a few months in violation of the order. I got the kid back. Then met with mom and kid and realized kid was doing way better with dad and should be with him. Tried to reason with mom, she didn't listen. Ultimately the child protection office got involved and child was placed with dad. I last saw mom many years ago and she was still not in a super healthy place and child was still with dad. So best ending happened and not because of me.
Not my case, but at a previous firm, a partner sent out a firm-wide email congratulating his team on a great win. It detailed how their win meant that our client, Giant Fossil Fuel Company, wasn't liable for damage to the environment caused by leaks in their pipes. Instead, the tax payers would be covering the cost. The partner went on to say something to the effect of "this saves our client $x billion a year in environmental cleanup and pipe maintenance."
For some reason, even though it wasn't my case, that one has always stuck with me.
Did a bail hearing back in my second year of practice as duty counsel, think public defender type role. The guy had trapped his girlfriend in the cab of his pickup. Twisted one arm up behind her back to her shoulder and broke it. Then did the other side.
I had to run the bail hearing for him. While she and her family were sitting in the front row of the court. She had both arms in casts and in slings. Thankfully, his surety (the person posting his bail) melted down on the stand and we had to adjourn. By the time he was up for bail again he'd retained private counsel. Who put the same surety up on the stand even after I warned him not to. In front of the same Justice.
Upside? He got detained.
Open And At Large
I don't typically do family law but I have a case where we suspected the mother had munchausen by proxy, which if you've seen the Hulu movie "Gypsy" you know how messed up it is. The child was always fine with the dad. But mom would take the child to the doctor every other day. When they didn't give the answer mom wanted, she'd get a second, third (etc) opinion. Mom was oddly close to the nurses and doctors. Child had some type of cancer where child needed a colostomy bag and mom didn't clean it. It was infected so bad that child can't wear it anymore and child is getting more sick and dying. Mom (allegedly) pushed her child in the shower and it messed up their head. It's possible mom is feeding her drugs too because child puked blood from time to time. Now the child has seizures once a week from the shower incident. Mom spent $400,000 on medical bills in one year. Mom made a fraudulent GoFundMe and only used ~$200 of the thousands received on medical bills. The page has since been removed, and the case is still open until we can find more experts to testify.
Get Out (Leave) Right Now
MLMs are considered pyramid schemes in my country and both are banned in order to protect consumers. It's a crime to establish an MLM. Public prosecution here got wind of an MLM operating and shut it down, closing up the premises and everything.
My firm was hired by the MLM to defend their case and establish to the public prosecution that they should be able to continue to operate. I had to prep all the defences while absolutely DESPISING MLMs and thinking that they're run and operated by predatory pieces of shit.
We had several high up employees from the MLM's head office in the US fly halfway across the world to us multiple times for status update meetings (lasting 15-30 minutes or so) that could have literally been done over email or conference call. Nope; they just had so much money to burn off the backs of vulnerable people who have 0 chance of succeeding in "their business" that a gang of them would fly over every so often to ask "so how's it going?"
I thanked my lucky stars every time the public prosecution rejected one of our arguments and eventually the MLM gave up and cleared out of the country. Never been so happy that my arguments were unsuccessful.