Surprise! Even Lawyers Have Principles

The media are reporting in shocked tones that The Trumpster has been turned down by at least four law firms that he has tried to hire to serve as his private attorney. Lawyers have principles? Who knew?

WC assures his readers that lawyers to indeed have principles. Cynical principles, WC admits, but principles. Four of those principles are violated if you agree to represent Donald Trump:

#1. Always get paid. Trump is infamous for stiffing his attorneys. It’s not that he dislikes lawyers; he is famous for stiffing lots of creditors. But a lawyer who knowingly takes on a client who has screwed other lawyers out of their fees, even when winning the case, isn’t very smart.

#2. Don’t take a client who won’t follow your advice. Litigation is perilous; political litigation is doubly so. Non-lawyers simply do not understand the way that a client’s words can be used against them. It’s imperative that a client follow your advice. Trump, serial Tweeter and poster child for impulsive behavior, is uncontrollable. Not “difficult.” Uncontrollable.

#3. Don’t jeopardize the future of the firm. Representing a controversial client can give you a certain cachet. Think Johnny Cochrane or Melvin Belli. But some clients are so toxic they jeopardize future business. They can cause good, paying, existing clients to leave, and they can make it impossible to recruit young attorneys. Trump would be Exhibit A for that class of client.

#4. Don’t represent jerks. For a good lawyer, there’s no shortage of clients. You can pick and choose. Life is short, and a private law practice is already stressful. Don’t make it even more stressful by representing jerks. And The Trumpster is the quintessential jerk client.

Sure, there are the Rules of Professional Conduct and most states have Ethics Opinions. Those certainly embody principles, too. But you can strictly comply with those principles and still run your law practice onto the rocks. Those principles would, for example, allow you to ethically represent Donald Trump.

The four principles WC has laid out, in contrast, the four that keep a principled lawyer from representing the Donald Trumps of the world, will keep you ethical and both prosperous and healthy.

And you thought The Trumpster couldn’t do anything useful. See? He can serve as a horrible example.