Lawyers are not supposed to cry, no matter how bad things get. I am terrified of tornadoes, as every sane person should be. Whenever I imagine myself getting caught outside during a tornado, I am standing near something grounded and sturdy, like an iron water pump. With my incredibly strong arms, forged through hours of yoga and swelling with adrenaline, I am able to anchor myself to the ground while the vicious winds whip my body about, until the tornado inevitably passes. Lawyers are sort of like that sturdy water pump.
Lawyers are the sturdy water pump out on the prairie lands of the legal world. Within the courtroom walls, cyclones of emotion are constantly whipping about. A criminal defendant sheds tears as he realizes that his youth was wasted ingesting drugs that have left him shackled to one GPS anklet and two shrunken testicles. A woman weeps as her soon-to-be-ex-husband admits that after four years of marriage he began sitting on her crystal ornaments just to feel something. And ten days into a prosecution for embezzlement, the judge starts sincerely sobbing when the state calls its fourth expert in forensic accounting.
Within all of that tribulation, the lawyer must stand strong as a totem to placidity. Justice itself must have an anchor as the winds of human suffering lift cattle off their feet and send them careening into phone poles. We must not waver in our stone-faced quietude. We must cling to the rule of law and let lives be rearranged as they must. Whether it be the innocent sorrows of a child or the childlike sorrows of an innocent double-jointed triple-gendered prostitute, we must remain unflappable in our subjective objective. We are officers of the court. We are lighthouses of logic on shores of perturbation. We are sturdy iron water pumps.
With that being said, I have shed many tears in connection with this noble profession. I cried from sorrow when that fictional jury out of Maycomb Alabama convicted Tom Robinson of rape and I cried from joy when the U.S. Supreme Court abolished DOMA. I suspect that the spirit of Atticus Finch played a part in both of these moments of weakness. Damn him for his beautiful perfection.
I have faltered in my own career, as well. I cried the first time I drafted an opinion for a judge, upholding the decision to terminate a parent’s rights. I cried after I heard a little old man break down while explaining that he could never tell his family about his trumped up fraud charges because they would lose all of their admiration for him. I cried when I won my first jury trial and my client’s mother hugged me like I was Bob Barker and she had just won $50,000.00 at Plinko. And I sat down and cried on dusty steps during my first week of law school, when I couldn’t find the library.
Some may say that it is okay for lawyers to have their own emotions. They are wrong. What if George Zimmerman’s attorney were spied upon, in a weak moment, with a look of sadness as he observed demonstrations in remembrance of Trayvon Martin? People would certainly think that meant he believed his client was wrongfully acquitted. We do not have the luxury of feeling empathy for our opponents. That could lead to all sorts of apocalypse-inducing scenarios. And when the zombies invade during your bar association luncheon, you do not want to be the one with his heart on his sleeve. A zombie will rip right through that non-iron fabric like it were toilet paper.
Aside from the obvious life-saving implications, this simple message is designed to preserve the dignity and righteousness of the application of the law. LAWYERS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO CRY. If you must find a deeper place to bury your emotions, first try swallowing them, then follow by pouring a large quantity of alcohol on top of them. Case studies have shown that this method is 100% effective 9% of the time. If there is one thing that I have learned from imagined disasters, it is to always have a survival plan in place. Do what you must to keep our system intact.
(image via The Training Factor from Columbia Pictures’ A League of Their Own