Politicians and Litigators: More similar than you may think

This morning I listened to a fascinating podcast about types of politicians:

Those who are substance over form, or

Those who are form over substance.

Yes, while I realize it is always dangerous to categorize, and even more so to claim there are only two types of any kind of person, it isn’t hard to look at today’s election cycle and find a group of politicians who care more about delivery than policy, and those who were not selected because their form or presentation was lacking in ire, or anger, or form.

Need some recent examples of Form over Substance? Build a wall. Lock her Up. Free College for Everyone. $20 minimum wage!

The speaker herself was a Japanese American Republican representing Hawaii, and she said she had recently been chastised by constituents for not yelling enough or vocally condemning various democrats. She wasn’t chastised for her own policies, or for getting reasonable bills passed, simply that she hadn’t been an aggressive attack dog and publicly scolded the other side. She had refused to spend her time attacking, and yet, her record reflected how successful and thoughtful she had been in representing her district, getting problems solved and reasonable and helpful legislation passed.

I smiled listening as she admitted she was unwilling to change her style or become an anger driven, talking point person who appealed only to those wanting rhetoric, and not action. 

I smiled because I get it, I can relate. 

I am and will never be the kind of attorney who hurls insults or raises my voice to win a point. I will not and cannot become someone who attracts clients by promising results or insulting the other side, while spending little time on the merits of the case, and or needs of the client. I am, I hope, more substance than form. I am I believe, have been successful with this approach. 

Are there women attorneys who act as attack dogs in the court room? Yes. 

Do judges, other attorneys and clients respect them for an approach that is loud but shallow? I don’t think so, no. 

Are there clients that expect and want this kind of approach to their business case? (You sue them first! You threaten to turn them into the IRS! You tell them we are going to expose them and take their customers!). Yes. There are. And often times I will explain to these clients that my approach is different, and they should perhaps find a new attorney if they want and expect a bull dog. Yes, I fire clients. Yes, sometimes they fire me.  

And while this particular congresswoman cannot fire a constituent, I respect her for resisting the urge to be a sound bite politician. I appreciate her desire to listen, serve, solve problems and fight with dignity. I will do my best to follow the same example in service of my clients. I will take each and every case, which often involves disagreement, evidence and requires a thick skin – knowing that good law and good clients win cases, not slogans and attacks. 

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.