Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Winning and... gulp... losing

I took my son to a party the other week. One of his friends held it at a bowling alley. My son, not yet five, had never bowled before but was doing a good job. A great job. In fact, I realized after a few minutes that the scoreboard was recording all the kids' scores as they bowled, and my boy was winning.

Ashamed, silently, I willed him to keep knocking down the pins. I smiled insincerely at other dads when their kids didn't do so well. "Hey, good job!" I'd say. And when my son knocked down one or two more than them I'd pat him gently on the back and whisper, "You're awesome. And you're winning."

I knew I was competitive, but this was getting silly.

And so it is in trial. I want to win. I work my cases hard, prepare diligently. I don't obsess, but I work hard. And I want to win. Did I mention that?

But it's not about me. And it's not about the defense lawyer. Sure, it's an adversarial system, and presents itself as one side winning and one side losing. And no one would say that a defendant can't legitimately look at a "Guilty" verdict as a loss. A loss of liberty, in many cases, certainly a hit to their future because they now have a criminal record, or a worse record.

But I think sometimes the lawyers get too wrapped up in the winning and losing mantra, make it too personal.

The reason I say all this is that I won a case recently and all I felt was relief. Relief that I won, that a guilty man (in my and the jury's view) was convicted, and relief that it was over.

But I also felt relief that I didn't lose. And I didn't like that, because if I lose (and I have, and I will again) it should show me that the system is working. Because if I can't convince a jury of my case beyond a reasonable doubt, then they should acquit. Must acquit. As I have said before, my job isn't to get convictions but to see that justice is done, so when I lose I should be glad that justice is being done.

And I am.

I just hate to lose.

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