Oregon State Bar Bulletin — APRIL 2009

Not a Pretty Picture
The Parting Thoughts piece, "My Son, and the Practice of Law" (January 2009), by Ronald Talney was excellent. He puts the finger on one of the most misunderstood problems of being a trial attorney. In fact, he may be identifying one of the most onerous conflicts facing any practicing attorney from time to time. About 15 years ago, I attended a CLE called "Ethics Beyond Ethics." The speaker asked all those in attendance to consider how they could go beyond the minimum requirements of the bar’s rules and policies in their daily practice.

I almost quit the practice of law. In order to ethically represent a client, there were many times I had a duty not to disclose facts unknown to my opponent which hurt my case. I was constrained not to breach a confidential communication. There were many times I emphasized to the jury or the opposing party only those facts which put my case in the best light, ignoring all the points that hurt my client’s case. In view of the speaker’s admonitions, I had to ask myself if a lawsuit was a search for the truth or simply a contest to see who could win by emphasizing only certain facts and ignoring others. It was not a pretty picture and I anguished over my future.

In the end, I decided to continue practicing law but with a new yardstick. I would try each and every day to do the right thing. If I could not do so and look myself in the mirror, I would not take the case. In a world of stiff competition among a plethora of lawyers, it is often very hard to turn down a case. Having just retired after 30 years, I am very glad I made that decision. I want to commend Mr. Talney for putting a spotlight on this very difficult and important issue.

Stephen Lawrence
The Dalles

On Point
Judge Baldwin’s article on professionalism ("Shooting Ourselves in the Foot," October 2008) was right on point. Not only are personal attacks on opposing counsel unprofessional, they typically do not serve your client. The best and most persuasive lawyers have personal integrity. They are skilled advocates who resist resorting to outrageous and obnoxious behavior. Thank you for printing this piece.

Jonathan Benson

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