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Don't Freak Out About the Case You Can't Handle

Harold LaFlamme's very first case turned into a murder trial.

He didn't freak out, and his client was not executed. But LaFlamme, who passed away last year, was like that: a fearless courtroom champion.

Of course, his first career as an arms dealer probably had something to do with it. Everybody else, on the other hand, should be afraid of taking a case that is way over their head.

Bigger Than Life

Every lawyer knows Rule 1.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. It says we must provide competent representation -- the requisite legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation to serve clients.

But we're not talking about competence here. We're talking about nerve.

After all, there is a first time for everything -- even murder trials. It's about taking those cases that are bigger than life.

Navy Lt. Alaric Piette is a lawyer with one of those cases. According to the New York Times, "no lawyer with so little experience" has ever handled the case he is trying.

"Least Qualified Lawyer"

Piette is defending an accused terrorist in a death penalty case in Guantanamo Bay. He shouldn't be there alone, but the rest of the defense team quit.

Many court observers say he isn't qualified for the job. Piette knows it, too.

"But leaving the client without a lawyer to protect his rights could be even worse," he said. "I don't know if I've done the right thing, but I don't think I really had a choice."

He used to be a Navy SEAL, and that may have something to do with it. For the rest of us, there's always those ethics rules to back us up.

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