I have tried a bunch of cases, and pled more. Win or lose, clients whose cases I’ve tried have almost universally been happy afterwards. Clients whose cases I’ve pled are often unhappy afterwards.
The client who pleaded guilty has chosen a plea over a trial, and has agreed to the result; he should be happy. The client who went to trial may have been forced to trial (the system’s default condition) by the lack of a meaningful plea offer, and—if he loses—didn’t get the result he hoped for.
So why is the trial client happier than the plea client?
I think it’s because most people have never seen someone fighting for them. The trial client has seen it, and that’s a new experience to him, he likes it. It is liberating.
Even the career criminal has probably never seen someone fighting for him. Most cases plead and most lawyers, most of the time, just don’t fight. Not, at least, in any way that the client can see.
But this thing for which our clients thank us, win or lose—showing them that there is someone who will fight for them when they cannot fight for themselves—is more than just our job; it is a sacred duty. Do it not just for your client, and not for yourself. Do it for freedom.[Update: Pope Francis has reminded me that part of this sacred duty—and surely a reason that the client is grateful for the fight—is that we fight for those who have done wrong.]