In honor of shark week, let's take a look at how you can figure out if your lawyer is a shark:
Lawyers Should Be Zealous, Not Vicious
Melville's reference actually turns the lawyers-as-sharks pejorative around: "There is the ordinary Brown Shark, or sea attorney, so called by sailors; a grasping, rapacious varlet, that in spite of the hard knocks received from it, often snapped viciously at our steering oar." Now "grasping" and "rapacious" are not complimentary words, but pursuing an end "in spite of the hard knocks received," is nearly mandatory for attorneys.
The Model Rules of Professional Conduct lay out the multiple roles of attorneys and how they should perform those roles: "As advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client's position under the rules of the adversary system." Therefore, attorneys are ethically obligated to be dedicated, passionate, and borderline fanatical in their representation. Like James Woods here:
Predator or Protector?
Is your attorney zealously asserting your position? Is she seeking an advantageous result? Is she diligent? So often the adjectives we use to describe sharks -- single-minded, efficient, relentless -- are desirable assets in a competent lawyer fighting on our side. And in an adversarial system, smelling your foe's blood in the water, and going for the kill, can help rather than hurt your case.
If an attorney gets overly zealous, that rapacity falls not on their clients, but on opposing counsel. This may not be good for other lawyers, but it's all for the service of the client. As long as your attorney is not fighting you but fighting for you, you may have a shark on your hands. And that could be a good thing if you find yourself in troubled waters.
If you need a shark on your side, you can consult with an experienced and zealous attorney near you.