Of course the outcome of the trial was still important, both to the characters in the book, as well as to the readers who invested their time in reading it. However I hoped that a story which took a close, and often unflattering, look at the legal profession could be told in an entertaining manner. The natural tension of a high-stakes trial would serve as the vehicle through which I could take a close look at matters which I felt were often over-looked in popular fiction. By following my lead character’s thoughts as the trial unfolded I could lift the rock that is the façade of the legal profession, and look at all the ugly little bugs crawling around underneath.
This next little excerpt is from the same scene as my last posting. Bratt the senior lawyer is explaining to Peter Kouri, his young protégé, that even with all the idealism and best intentions in the world a lawyer could easily lose sight of the line between right and wrong. I’ll let him tell you in his own words:
Kouri leaned forward. His hands clasped together made him look like he was begging for the truth, although he didn’t look Bratt in the eye when he spoke.
“If you knew, really knew, that a client was innocent, would you do anything at all to save him?”
Bratt lay his head on the back of his chair, eyes still closed, and asked himself, Is he interviewing me for a newspaper exposé, or is he investigating me on behalf of the Bar? What a question! I never expected to be the one having to add salve to his conscience.
“Look, Pete. Every lawyer starts out trying to obey the law to the letter. Nobody graduates law school thinking I’m going to be dishonest, or lie in court. I’m sure that’s exactly how you are, too. Then comes the first day you’re pleading and you realize that you can say the exact same thing in two different ways. The first way sounds bad for your client. The other way, which is still pretty close to the truth, just makes him look a little better. Let’s call it a euphemism.
“So, you tell yourself, ‘hey, quick thinking.’ You’re all happy with yourself for coming up with a way to show your client in a better light. But the fact is there’s a world of difference between the truth and ‘pretty close to the truth.’ You may well be on your way to being a good lawyer. But you’re also on your way to learning how easy it is to bend the truth when it suits you. And each time you plead, you’ll bend it a bit more, and you’ll be amazed how far you can bend it and still think it isn’t broken. The truth, in the right hands, can be a very flexible tool.
“So, if you want to know how far I’d go to defend a client, guilty or not, I don’t have the answer. I’m not sure I’ve reached my limit yet. I’m a little worried about that, to be honest with you. Not knowing how far I’d go, I mean. Does that answer your question?”