November 28, 2019

Rudy Giuliani is an awful lawyer

First, do no harm. That’s a paraphrasing of the very first canon of the Hippocratic Oath, to which all doctors ascribe. It’s akin to the “campsite rule.” The campsite rule is to leave a site in better shape than it was in before you got there, but the Hippocratic Oath doesn’t even require that much. It just says “Don’t make things worse. Don’t turn a neutral situation into a bad one or a bad situation into a terrible one.” Lawyers would do well to observe similar rules, though I’m not aware of a lawyer equivalent to the Hippocratic Oath. That said, I think it’s what we all try to do.

And this brings me to Rudolph Giuliani. I’ve said before that I won’t get into politics on this blog, but when it comes to Giuliani, it’s not about politics, it’s about horribly, hellaciously bad lawyering. As a lawyer, you represent your client, and when your client is as high-profile as Giuliani’s, you practically are your client. Any stupid thing you do or say gets attributed to your client. Any slip of the tongue, misstatement, or contradiction is their slip of the tongue, misstatement, or contradiction. And this makes me wonder: How the hell does Rudy Giuliani have a job?

Because it’s not that Giuliani has been ineffective; it’s that he’s been so much worse. Giuliani is apparently the go-to guy if you want your traffic ticket ramped up to manslaughter. Now, admittedly, a lot of what Giuliani is doing is not “being a lawyer” in the traditional sense, but it is representing his client in public. And that means you consider every word before you say it, every thought before you express it, and you sure as hell don’t contradict yourself in the course of a minute and a half. And that’s hardly the only time. Giuliani appears to have adopted the “shoot from the hip” ethos of his client, but lawyers are supposed to maintain independence and do what the client needs, even if the short-run result isn’t what he wants. And they’re certainly supposed to take a more considered approach to situations than just lashing out. If your lawyer isn’t playing the long game, what’s he there for?

So, as high-profile as he is and despite the fact that Giuliani has undoubtedly made a lot more money than I’ll ever make in my legal career, I feel secure in saying a few things: (1) Rudy Giuliani is a terrible lawyer and (2) I’m better than him. Because none of my clients is going to wind up impeached based on what I’ve said.