nerd critique.jpgA colleague of mine who has a thriving domestic practice tells me that, at the end of many divorce cases, two people often hate him – the ex-spouse and the client. He’s a great lawyer, so the ex-spouse part of that equation does not surprise me. As I think about the nature of domestic practice as I understand it, I think I understand the part about the client, too. It’s not the lawyer, it just that he’s there.

Criminal appellate practice is not quite as emotional but there are times when, no matter what you do, you aren’t the source of joy for many of the other players in the case. It’s not you, it’s just that you’re there. For the prosecutor, since he can’t talk to your client, you get to be the proxy. The same goes, sometimes, for an appellate panel at oral agument or for a trial judge. Unfortunately the critical stream flows in two directions. For the client and the client’s family, you often are the proxy for the State, the investigating officers, the judge, and the appellate panel. You are often the messenger. And the old adage about shooting when it comes to the messenger holds true. It only seems odd that you sometimes find yourself in a place where everyone is angry at you – the client for not “standing up” for him, the Court for taking too firm a line and asking for too much, and the DA for being too zealous. Take a closer look and you’ll see, it’s not necessarily you. But don’t ignore the criticism, particularly if it might help.

So, it was great to see Leo Barbauta’s post at Zen Habits titled The Art of Handling Criticism Gracefully. I would put the ability to handle criticism right up there with the ability to write a good brief, how to spot issues, and how to respond to questions at oral argument. If you are a lawyer who finds yourself in the middle of the triangle of criticism – between your client, opposing counsel, and the Court, head over to his post right now.

If you want to stay here, check out this synopsis of what I think his key points are.


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