Lawyers worth their weight in Barbri materials do their darnedest to give their clients the best representation they can. This includes but is not limited to: long hours, negotiations with prosecutors, and trips to Staples to put the finishing touches on an exhibit. And while it is completely fair game for an attorney to attend a few public speaking courses to do their job better, that’s about where they should leave the theatric flourishes. You get in trouble once you start dabbling in trompe-l’oeil and the like. This North Carolina lawyer found that out the hard way. From the ABA Journal:
[Nicolle T. Phair] told a disciplinary commission that she thought that substituting a litigant for her criminal client during an arraignment was “an acceptable strategy.”
Phair was representing a client in an alleged hit-and-run accident in Lee County, North Carolina…Shortly before the hearing began, Phair asked her client to leave the courtroom with her and to remain in the lobby. Phair then went to an adjacent courtroom and found a child-support litigant. Phair asked the litigant to do her a favor and to stand beside her in court to see whether someone could pick him out.
When the judge asked Phair and her “client” to approach the bench to discuss a possible plea agreement, Phair left the fake client at the defense table, the commission alleged. Phair said she didn’t want to discuss a plea because she did not think that the witnesses could identify her client, according to the complaint.
Phair wants the commission to dismiss the ethics complaint on account of her desire to “represent clients zealously.”
The bright side is that counsel fessed up quickly once her card got pulled — that may serve to mitigate some punishment. But if she tries to make any arguments about not knowing what she did was bad… check her Netflix history. Because this reads as a direct rip from an award-winning television show that happens to be very popular among lawyers and lawyer-kin:
And as clever as Mr. Goodman’s shenanigans were, it really would have benefitted Phair to listen to a criminal lawyer’s advice on a criminal lawyer doing “party tricks” at about 5:30:
Better luck next time. Rendering candor to the court isn’t only better for your clients in the long term — it’ll probably keep you out of a couple ATL articles to boot.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at email@example.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.