How I Learned A Lesson In Life From A Shyster Lawyer


A few years ago, I accepted a legal malpractice case arising from a New York City lawyer’s botched handling of a medical malpractice lawsuit in Oswego, New York.

In the underlying medical malpractice lawsuit, the NYC lawyer representing the decedent’s Estate committed clear deviations from accepted legal standards by failing to serve discovery responses, bills of particulars and file a note of issue. It was a virtual comedy of errors with one screwup followed by another, as the underlying medical malpractice case was steadily torn apart at the seams by the mistakes of the NYC lawyer.

During the legal malpractice lawsuit, I discovered that the NYC lawyer had lied and committed fraud in attempting to conceal his mistakes from the client and the court. This was serious stuff–the type of things that can cost a lawyer his license to practice law. I had no respect for the NYC lawyer, who expended a lot more of his time trying to conceal his mistakes than working to advance the client’s case.

As the legal malpractice case moved closer to trial, I began to do my homework about the NYC lawyer. I researched other cases that the NYC lawyer had handled in the hope that I could find “the dirt” on him, i.e., other dishonest or fraudulent acts from other lawsuits. There was plenty of dirt, but I found something I didn’t expect.

The young 30-something NYC lawyer was successful. Not just a little successful, big-time successful. The young NYC lawyer was winning large plaintiffs’ verdicts throughout New York State, both upstate and in the New York metropolitan area. I couldn’t believe it. Intrigued, I got the trial transcripts from the NYC lawyer’s trials.

After reading the trial transcripts from the NYC lawyer’s trials, I could only reach one conclusion: he was completely incompetent! The young, brash NYC lawyer had little knowledge of the rules of evidence, his witnesses were poorly prepared and his opening statements and closing arguments left me with the impression that he was “winging it”. Yet, to his credit, the NYC lawyer was winning very difficult cases against excellent defense lawyers. This baffled me.

A Lesson in Life from a Shyster Lawyer

The NYC lawyer, with all of his flaws and poor preparation, was winning trials simply by “showing up”. With marginal cases that ninety percent of lawyers likely would have folded their tent and gone home, the NYC lawyer was making a killing. To his credit, the NYC lawyer refused to listen to others who certainly disparaged or critized him or his cases and went about the business of trying his cases in court.

I’m not suggesting that everyone model their lives after the shyster NYC lawyer. Far from it. But this NYC lawyer was able to overcome his general lack of knowledge of the law and poor preparation for trial, just by showing up and doing the best he could. And taking home a pretty nice check at the end of the day to show for it.

Woody Allen once said, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up”. Boy, was he right.

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