Not all of your cases are going to be things you agree with.
Lawyers have to do the job they're given. It's part of the oath they swore when they passed the bar. And unfortunately, it's not always going to align with their values.
Sometimes, they're even rooting against their own cases. And when they lose, it's a relief.
Here were some of those answers.
Not me but a senior lawyer I met at a law school event. Before he went into civil litigation, he used to be a prosecutor. He told me of a case where an accused was facing murder charges. He was the prosecutor responsible for handling the file. He was convinced of the accused's guilt and had substantial evidence pointing in the accused's direction. The senior lawyer fought hard to secure a conviction but the accused had excellent counsel who created doubt and identified defects in the evidence.
The accused was acquitted. The senior lawyer was pissed. Many years later, however, new evidence emerged showing decisively that the accused definitely did not commit the crime and, in fact, it was another person. The senior lawyer said that he was happy he lost the case because, if he prevailed, an innocent man could have spent years in prison.
Comes With The Territory
I remember being in a reporting class and shadowing a court reporter at a trial. The accused was this guy in his late 30s who, along with a few other guys, had broken into this house and terrorized a family they mistakenly believed had a stash of drugs. While no one was killed, some of the details were pretty repulsive. There was enough physical evidence against the others that they all took plea deals, but there was apparently no physical/DNA evidence against the man a day of whose trial we attended.
During a recess, the reporter met with the lawyers. The public defender told him, "I just hope nobody hates me for defending this guy."
Insurance Companies Are Scum
I used to work for a law firm specializing in subrogation cases on behalf of insurance companies. Basically, if you file an insurance claim for something that wasn't your fault, your insurance company will pay you, but then go after the person whose fault it was to recover their money.
My lowest point as a lawyer involved a customer who made a claim for a car accident. The accident happened because a dog ran out into the street and the car didn't have enough time to stop.
Unfortunately, the dog was killed in the impact. There was also some damage to the car, which the insurance company paid to the car owner, but it turned out there was an ordinance in the accident location requiring dogs to be on a leash in public areas at all times. Meaning, technically the dog owner was at fault in the accident.
So my job was to write a demand letter to the owner of the dog who just died, demanding that he pay for the damage that was caused to the car during the accident THAT KILLED HIS DOG. The dog owner never responded, and luckily the insurance company decided it wasn't worth additional legal fees of pursuing it further. It just about killed me to write that letter. Luckily I don't work there anymore and haven't done any subrogation work since.
I presented a domestic violence case for civil protection order for a parent who had custody of two kids. Got lots of evidence of defendant showing up and screaming at my client, past history of abuse, corroborating testimony from family members of my client.
The night before trial, our client finally gives us two + years of instagram, phone, and facebook messaging. Our client and defendant's new partner taunt each other, sending photos as defendant goes back and forth between them. Defendant is focused only on getting visitation with the children, repeatedly asks too see them - sets up a date, and my client misses the hand-off and taunts defendant. Defendant shows up to Court and will clearly be AMAZING on the stand, my client is...not.
We negotiated a settlement that included specific visitation, and helped our client finally begin divorce proceedings which would, as part of them, have a judge make a determination on the best interest of the children which would be way more shared visitation than these two could work out between themselves. Our client wanted to use the Court to avoid sharing custody out of spite, but what our client and the children needed was stability - not more drama.
I might be in the minority, but I'm not happy when I lose any case. I hate losing, and if I'm going to trial on a case, I'm never playing to lose. Once a case reaches trial, there is no point in doing anything else, except whatever you can to win.
I've defended some people accused of some pretty nasty things (my caseload these days consists of a number of murders and serious rapes). I've tried quite a few of them. I've won several, and lost a couple - and I hate every loss. Those stick with you, and can really eat away at you if you're not careful.
I don't do this job to lose.
Did some of my clients probably deserve the prison sentence they got? According to the judge, yes they did. Maybe even according to the law they did. But I was still upset when I lost the argument to keep them out of prison.
Trial psychosis is real, and it's how I do my job. If you don't believe you can win - and should win - you can't be a great trial lawyer.
Keep Him In
I was appointed to do a review hearing for a guy that had been deemed a sexually violent predator. After serving 20 years in prison for two abduction rapes, he had been committed to a state hospital under the SVP statute. He got an annual review to see if he should continue to be held which is what I was handling.
I fundamentally disagree with this law but am glad I lost that one. All of the discovery materials from his old cases were provided to me. Raped one woman while holding her boyfriend at gunpoint and shot the second one when she fought back. He was a suspect in a half dozen more where he wasn't prosecuted. Dude is a flat out serial rapist and it wouldn't surprise me if there were some murdered women in his wake as well. I hope he never gets out.