Can We Provide Justice?
“Isaac, I just want justice.”
The number of times I have heard this statement (or something similar to it) from clients or potential clients is too many to count. Despite the stigma that some people attempt to assign to injured people seeking representation, my overwhelming experience has been that when clients walk in our doors, their goal is not to “get rich” or “game the system.” They, for the most part, simply feel they have been wronged and want the wrong to be made right. In other words, they want “justice.”
But what does it mean for “justice” to be achieved? What do we as attorneys look to when assessing whether a particular result is “just?” Is it the expectations of the client who suffered the injury (i.e., moral justice), or is it the law which dictates what (if anything) we can do on the client’s behalf as a result of their injury (i.e., legal justice)?
In some instances, these types of questions do not appear in a case because a client’s notion of “justice” and the scope of potential results available under the law are in close alignment. In other words, there is no tension between the concepts of moral justice and legal justice in the case. For example, someone who suffers a minor injury in a car accident may view “justice” as a fair payment for the consequences of the accident (i.e., payment that fairly compensates them for their medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering)—a result also permitted by existing law.
However, “justice” can prove much more elusive in cases where the injuries at play in the case are deep and permanent in nature. How does an attorney provide “justice” to the working father who is now a paraplegic through no wrongdoing of his own? How does an attorney provide “justice” to the family who lost a loved one all too soon because of another person’s recklessness? Certainly, moral justice would dictate in such circumstances that the quadriplegic father make a full recovery or the lost loved one be returned to their family. Yet, those are results we cannot achieve for our clients, no matter how much we wish we could.
This is where a client’s definition of “justice” and the law’s definition of “justice” can (and often do) depart sharply. When confronted with injuries of such depth and the tremendous physical, emotional, and mental fallout that comes with them, I know before the case ever begins that I cannot provide the client justice—at least the justice they are seeking. I can make every effort to get clients every possible remedy available under the law—i.e., the maximum amount of compensation for their injuries. Under the law, such a result is justice. Yet, for some clients, we have obtained extraordinary financial results only to find they feel no more vindicated by the result than they did when the case began. Is it because they are greedy? No, it is because the justice they are looking for cannot be captured in the form of dollars and cents.
At the Halperin Law Center, we take our roles as your attorneys seriously. We will fight for you to achieve the best possible case result for you and we take great pride in our track record of doing so for other clients. However, we are also committed to seeing each of our clients as living, breathing human beings who have experienced real pain and who want real closure. We know our clients have needs beyond the bottom line and we try our best to understand those needs, even if we ultimately cannot meet them. We do this because we believe that sometimes the only moral justice we can achieve for a client is seeing their struggles and sharing in those struggles if only for a season. It may be that achieving this small moral justice provides as much healing (or perhaps even more) than whatever legal justice we can obtain.