Thursday, July 21, 2016

Taking Clients Seriously

A criminal defendant facing charges after a gun and drugs were found in his dorm room tells his attorney he was framed. The attorney was dubious -- sure you were -- but has the resources to check out his client's story. Turns out, the client was almost certainly right. After relaying this tale (taken from his own professional experience), Ken White writes the following:
Being an effective and responsible criminal defense attorney doesn't require believing everything a client says, exactly. The policy could be better described as "trust, but verify." The key isn't to build a defense on the premise that everything the client says is perfectly accurate. The key is to take what the client says seriously and follow up on it, rather than dismissing them out of hand. If you don't, you're not defending the client — you're defending your stereotype of the client.
I find it interesting that White's advice here parallels almost exactly my own advice vis-a-vis how we should respond to persons making discrimination claims.  And I don't think it is accidental that the claimants in either scenario -- minorities and marginalized persons, persons accused of crimes (these categories, of course, often intersect) -- are typically persons who tend to be given less credibility as a default; whom society tells it is okay to assume are not worth taking seriously.

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