Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky

Archive for November, 2014

A Jack-of-All-Trades Lawyer is a Master of None
Friday, November 28th, 2014

By Morgan Solomon, Director at Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky Lawyers

28 November 2014

From time to time we hear horror stories of how badly lawyers let down their clients.  But few seem to be on the scale of a Kansas-based lawyer, Dennis Hawver, who the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled to disbar earlier this year.

By way of illustration, during a 2005 murder trial, attorney Dennis Hawver described his client as ‘an experienced and highly street-smart and intelligent criminal,’ as well as ‘a professional drug dealer,’ and ‘a shooter of people.’  He chose to run an argument that if his client had already killed two women in 2003, he would not have left the third alive to be the sole witness at the trial. With representation like that, who needs a prosecutor?

In closing arguments on the same case, Hawver tried using ‘reverse psychology’ and suggested the killer should be executed!

Hawver’s client was found guilty and sentenced to death.  Fortunately for his client, the murder conviction was subsequently overturned and a retrial ordered on the grounds that (unsurprisingly) Hawver had failed to represent his client properly.

It turned out that Hawver had never previously tried a capital murder case, was unfamiliar with court guidelines and, in essence, had no idea how best to represent his client.  At a subsequent disciplinary hearing seeking to disbar him, Hawver appeared in a white, powdered wig and costume dressed as Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father.  He had previously said the idea of losing his license to practise law left him untroubled as he had planned to grow vegetables in an aquaponics garden.

This is an extreme example, no doubt, but there is a moral to the tale:  when seeking legal advice, choose someone who specialises in the relevant practice area.  Before engaging a lawyer, make sure they have a track record in successfully representing clients.  And that they are currently active in the required practice area.  There are reasons why lawyers specialise – a jack of all trades, when it comes to the law, is a master of none.

For more about the Dennis Hawver story, click here:

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